“Be more human” is something we hear time and again in the protection market. But what on earth does it mean in this context?
The term reminds me of a TV programme from several years back, where a young Poldark played a vampire desperately trying shake off his blood-sucking ways and live like a normal human being. He worked as a hospital porter and shared a house with a ghost and a werewolf, another couple of monsters similarly striving to embrace their humanity.
Being Human was a fine black comedy and gave Aidan Turner plenty of opportunities to bare his chest many years before he even thought of riding on horseback across the cliffs of Cornwall.
But vampires, ghosts and werewolves do not run financial services companies, so why all this talk of needing to be more human?
Perhaps the reality is that, while we live in a world where instant communication is possible on any mobile device, people still enjoy interacting with other people.
Big corporates and big brands can become nameless and faceless, lurking behind telephone interactive voice response systems, email auto-responders and, now, AI bots.
They hide behind complex language, impenetrable jargon, management speak mumbo-jumbo and legalese-ridden marketing copy. They sometimes seem to care more about lofty, often ludicrous brand ambitions rather than how their customers feel about their products and service.
Some of the most successful communicators in financial services today are advisers using technology to create video and audio content which answers questions asked by clients.
They do not produce these videos and audios with gigantic budgets. They do not hire in BBC-style production units with giant cameras, lighting rigs, best boys, key grips and miles of wires, speakers and microphones. Quite often they are using a mobile phone (and most can record in 4K definition, which is miles better than standard broadcast TV quality, do not forget) or another type of hand-held recording device.
But the videos have one thing in common: they are engaging. You get to see the real person face-to-face, often with a little vulnerability. These are the true, more human communicators of financial services.
Look at Cura Financial Services managing director Kathryn Knowles. Every week she sits on her sofa at home with a cup of tea, sticks her iPhone on a tripod and starts talking about protection issues. Sometimes she answers a client question. Sometimes she talks about a specific ailment that might lead to a provider treating a client as an impaired life. She comes across as approachable and has incredible empathy.
Compare that to the overproduced corporate videos where executives stand seemingly dazzled in spotlights, rooted to the spot like cardboard cut-outs. The producer tells them not to move for fear creating a jump in the edit.
Jacksons Wealth Management managing director Pete Matthew’s Meaningful Money TV is another example of an adviser who uses this media well to answer questions. It creates a relationship with the client before they even meet. When they do get together, it is as if they have already known each other for years.
My own experience with producing videos and audio is the same. It allows someone to get to know you, like you and trust you enough to do business with you. I love it when someone comes up to me at an industry event and introduces themselves because they recognise me from it.
Being more human just means being yourself. Nothing fake. No mask. No hiding behind impenetrable corporate language, passive sentences and lengthy paragraphs nobody can understand. Perhaps it just means having proper conversations.
These “more human” advisers are leading the way by producing engaging marketing material without deep pockets and big budgets. And they are getting results.
Roger Edwards is managing director of Roger Edwards Marketing and marketing director of Protection Review