Can even PR put a positive spin on black boxes?

News emerged this week that the motor insurance industry is considering making in-car data recording ‘black boxes’ compulsory. This came hot on the heels of an EU announcement that all new cars will be required to be fitted with them from 2015.

These devices were introduced a decade ago as an incentive for young drivers to cut their premiums by letting their insurer install one to monitor their driving. The ‘better’ the driver, the lower the premium. There were those who muttered that this was the thin end of the wedge. So were they right?

Insurance industry leaders are quoted as saying that, within 10 years, we’ll all have to opt out of having a black box fitted, not opt in. If we say we don’t want one, it may be assumed there’s a questionable motive behind it and we’ll face paying more for our insurance.

So what are the potential implications of this? The worst case scenario is pretty grim. Essentially our every move on the road could be monitored remotely and used against us. Crept up to 31 in a 30? An automated three points and a £100 fine could be heading your way. Used full throttle away from the lights? Sounds a bit reckless – your premium had better increase to reflect the risk. And God forbid you should just go for a drive for the sake of it – you sound uninsurable!

But this assumes that the technology would be used as all ‘stick’ and no ‘carrot’. The only way the insurance industry can generate some positive PR for these proposals is to show that black boxes won’t be used purely as an excuse to rinse more cash out of motorists. So how about marketing the suggestion using ideas like rewards for drivers who observe urban speed limits, or cashback for those who make it to renewal without claiming?

Insurers don’t generally enjoy the best reputation so for them to convince a sceptical driving public and media about black boxes will take a great deal of time and effort. They need to get cracking with some long-term public relations and engagement campaigns as soon as they can – but even then there’s no guarantee that a positive spin will stick.

Our strategic PR activities enable our clients to monitor their coverage and track the PR success we achieve on their behalf. If you’d like to benefit from the same premium service please contact us at Red Marlin.

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