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You may think we are an insurance magazine.
If the content isn't enough of a clue, then perhaps the name -- Business Insurance -- might give it away.
Yet, despite that, we are constantly deluged with press releases, sample publications and information materials that appear to have absolutely no relationship with the world of insurance.
I'm sure most businesses receive daily fax updates on wholesale auto auctions, but being a news-gathering company, we don't immediately direct such items to the circular files. We read everything. . .just in case. You can rest assured that if we didn't have sensory overload from all the misdirected materials sent our way, we'd be giving more ink to your appropriately targeted releases.
I have racked my brain in an attempt to understand why we have been selected by some of these companies. Maybe writing about a few of these creative marketers will help me sort out the insurance implications and find an angle for us to cover. Here are some that have me stumped:
* The World Pumpkin Confederation. I may be out of my gourd, but I'm having a hard time figuring out why I am the lucky recipient of a postcard from this organization.
The card has a glossy color photo of a crowd of semi-normal-looking people whooping it up beside a prize-winning orange and lumpy freak of nature weighing 1,061 pounds. The World Pumpkin Confederation announcement says it is upping the ante and offering a $50,000 bounty to whoever can present a pumpkin that breaks the 1,500-pound barrier on Oct. 3 in Clarence, N.Y.
One risk management angle I can figure out is that the confederation must carry a hefty liability insurance policy. This would cover the risk of contest entries rolling off the stage and crushing children or pets, or perhaps the risk of injury to bystanders in a seed-spitting contest.
Or maybe we can write a workers comp case study on the effectiveness of back belts at minimizing the risk of ruptured disks for United Parcel Service employees who truck this squash-on-steroids across the country.
* Ostriches On Line. This e-mail press release from an Internet marketer promotes the "exotic secrets" of using ostrich oil for skin care.
I don't know what to make of BI's angle on this one, as I can't recall ever writing about skin care products or elixirs, but maybe my head's in the sand.
According to their research -- and backed by historical references from Roman philosopher Pliny (whether it's Pliny the Younger or Pliny the Elder is not clear) -- ostrich oil allegedly makes skin feel smoother and look better while alleviating minor aches and pains, the press release claims.
This may be a stretch, but perhaps Ostriches On Line's miracle product is the answer to soaring group health care costs. Rather than pay for costly prescription drug benefits, which, as everyone knows, is a key driver of medical inflation, employers instead could offer employees tubs of all-natural ostrich oil (though I suspect the process for extracting this oil is anything but natural). I can see the alternative medicine HMOs flocking to add this to their formularies.
* Callaway Golf Co. OK, golf and insurance; I can see a slight connection.
This release, which came on our fax, extols the virtues of the new Big Bertha Stainless Steel Metal Woods and, more specifically, how they are helping Annika Sorenstam outdrive the competition on the LPGA Tour. Frankly, I think she'd outdrive the competition using even my crummy clubs, but I digress.
I may be missing the green for the trees here, but the risk management or employee benefits news angle is eluding me.
The more I think about it, though, perhaps what we have here is a new exposure to rival the Year 2000 problem for making insurers quake in their shoes. If these clubs are as effective as promised, the risk of payouts on hole-in-one policies could rise exponentially. I'm not sure if it's enough to turn the market, but it certainly could put a damper on the fortunes of some surplus lines underwriters.
It's clear to me now that everything sent our way has a purpose, and we just have to try a little harder to sniff out the BI angle for our readers. Just wait until I get the next press release from the North American League of Tuber Enthusiasts.
Editor Paul D. Winston and Publisher and Editorial Director Kathryn J. McIntyre publish columns on alternate weeks.