The World Health Organization has officially used the term “pandemic” in relation to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Senior living communities are especially vulnerable to this disease, so what your community does next matters. These crisis communication tips will help.
Effective and pro-active communication with residents, families, referral sources, and prospects should be a high priority. If you have a crisis communication policy, dust it off and start executing. If you don’t have something in place, follow these crisis communication tips ASAP.
Crisis Communication Tips: Be Open, Honest, & Transparent
Everyone wants reassurance that you have a plan in place to minimize risk and exposure to your residents and staff. Plan to communicate at least daily through a dedicated hotline number with a regularly updated recording. Or make a live central contact available to answer questions. Provide specifics on your protocols. In addition, reference the CDC recommendations for reducing risk and exposure to residents and staff.
Here are some links to include in your communication:
- 2019 Novel Coronavirus Situation Summary
- What you need to know about 2019 Novel Coronavirus Fact Sheet
- What to do if you are sick with 2019 Novel Coronavirus Fact Sheet
- Prevention & Treatment
Crisis Communication Tips: Address the Most Pressing Concerns
Some of the most pressing questions include the following. Make sure you have answers:
- Is my loved one safe right now? How will you ensure their safety throughout this crisis?
- Will you close the community to visitors? If so, how will you provide resident status updates?
- Are you stopping admissions, cancelling events and trips, serving residents on paper or delivering meals to apartments?
- Do you have enough staff and supplies?
- Are you increasing inventory of medical, food, and service supplies?
- Have you increased your cleaning/ disinfecting protocols?
- Are you retraining staff and hosting Town Hall meetings with residents?
- What will you do if the virus is detected in the community?
People want to know what steps you’re taking to minimize risk. In addition, they expect regular communication about it.
Crisis Communication Tips: Use Every Communication Channel
You don’t know how or where people will go to access info. So, use all communication channels to deliver a consistent message.
Website. Put a banner on your website with a link to your prepared statement.
Email. Send emails, as needed, to all residents, family members, and responsible parties. First, outline your resident safety protocols. Second, reassure fearful and anxious family members. Finally, provide the various ways people can get regular updates.
Phone. Have a dedicated hotline to provide regular communication. This can be a central person available at the corporate level, recordings at the community level, or a call center. The more proactively you push out information, the fewer burdens there will be in managing incoming calls.
Live Chat. Provide your live chat partner with your crisis communication plan and FAQs so they can engage appropriately with website visitors.
Automated messaging technologies. Communication platforms, such as Voicefriend, automate notifications to residents, families, and staff via recorded phone messages, text, and email.
SMS. Do a bulk text notification to all residents, family members, and responsible parties. Include links to your updated notification channels, such as your hotline and website.
Prepare a media statement. If reporters contact your community, your department heads need to have a prepared statement that they can provide. Here is an example from Brookdale.
Example to follow: Brookdale has done a great job communicating their plan. They even created a COVID-19 Toolkit. Check it out here.
As always, if you need help creating or setting up any of these items, we can help you effectively sell and market your community during the pandemic