– A.I.G. Is Now Worried About Bad P.R. — for Policyholders (New York Times, Oct. 11, 2011):
Insurance providers are constantly coming up with new products to sell to policyholders. But the American International Group has hit upon one of the more unusual new services we’ve heard of in some time: reputation insurance.
Chartis, A.I.G.’s property and casualty insurance arm, said Tuesday that it would begin selling something called ReputationGuard. Created by Chartis’s executive liability team, it would give policyholders access to “a select panel” of experts at the public relations firms Burson-Marsteller and Porter Novelli to protect against negative publicity.
A.I.G. knows a little bit about crisis communications, of course. After its initial $65 billion bailout by the government, the insurer became a target of widespread scorn, its very name a shorthand for the excesses that led to the financial crisis. (Here’s a take from “Saturday Night Live” in 2009.)
In fact, Chartis’s own name sprang from a rebranding effort aimed at distancing the business — which was not responsible for the losses that led to its government bailout — from the then-tainted A.I.G. name. And Burson-Marsteller was part of the army of public relations firms the insurer hired in the wake of receiving its government lifeline.
“In today’s world, one person’s negative opinion can quickly become adverse publicity on a global scale,” Tracie Grella, the president of Chartis’s professional liability unit, said in a statement. “Public perception of the response to an event can have a lasting impact on an organization’s reputation. ReputationGuard is a unique solution to this exposure.”
A.I.G. has since begun significant repayments of its bailout. And the company has even started using its own name again in advertising its “A.I.G. Direct” life insurance platform.