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Marketing During a Pandemic: How to Adjust Your Community’s Messaging

[Editor’s note: The following content was inspired by discussions during our senior living marketing webinar about the pandemic, which you can access for free here.]

Due to COVID-19 and the 24/7 news cycle, all eyes are on senior living communities, for better or worse.

In a recent article, we talked about how your community can use Facebook Live to help combat negative perceptions. Now, let’s have a deeper conversation about marketing during a pandemic.

In particular, let’s discuss how the senior living marketing team should re-frame your messaging during these unprecedented times.

1. Go longer and deeper with your messaging when marketing during a pandemic.

When it comes to effective content marketing for senior living communities, we usually advocate succinct, punchy copy. Right now, however, most people are stuck at home (whether they’re working or not), so you’re going to have a captive audience like never before. This means you can go longer and more in depth because people 1) are craving detailed info and 2) they have the time to read, watch, listen.

So what do we mean by going deeper? Don’t forget, you live and breathe the senior living industry every day, so everything is second nature to you, right? But for those on the outside looking in, they don’t know all the details. And thanks to the current media spotlight, people are curious. So educate them. Get into the fine details, the inner workings, the “inside baseball” stories, as we like to say.

Inside baseball is a metaphor for the minutiae—the detailed inner workings of a system that are usually only interesting to insiders and aficionados. Right now, many people are interested in the inner workings of senior living communities, such as how cleaning/disinfecting is done and who determines the daily menus.

Your content could be a series of “How We Do X” blog posts:

  • How We Clean During a Pandemic
  • How We Handle Social Distancing in Our Community
  • What Goes Into Creating a Daily Menu
  • How We Source Local Ingredients

You get the idea.

2. Talk about those “boring” topics you never would normally discuss in senior living marketing materials.

For example, who ever thought a topic like “senior living community supply chains” would be a must-read topic, yet here we are!

Right now, everybody’s focused on their own personal supply chain management. If you can show the differences between institutional supply chain management and your personal household management around toilet paper, eggs, and sanitizer, that will be a GREAT service to people.

How to accomplish this? Well, do something educational and reassuring by taking people “behind the scenes” via a Facebook Live video and bring them into the kitchen and supply closets and show an abundance of food and supplies like toilet paper—it’s not a direct sales message, but it certainly is a comforting one. People can “see” for themselves and think, “Mom will be OK. They have supplies, they have folks who are cleaning, and they have the infrastructure already built right in.”

No, this isn’t something that you would ever put in a marketing brochure—”Hey, when you choose our senior living community, you’ll always have toilet paper!” But right now, this is something that’s top of mind for people.

Bottom line: there are some interesting opportunities for creative storytelling around things that you never thought you would tell a story about.

3. Show your community’s commitment to—and expertise with—supporting older adults.

One example would be instead of simply saying you provide a safe environment, walk people through the exact procedures and protocols that you put in place to ensure safety every day.

And not just from a health perspective—yes, that’s the main concern on everyone’s mind right now, thanks to COVID-19—but also physical safety. For instance, how many lay people understand what the term “elopement” means when it comes to older adults? This is a great opportunity to educate about an industry-specific topic and to demonstrate your community’s specific approach.

4. Share the spotlight.

Again, this is a great opportunity to take people deep inside your daily operations. People love to understand how things work, so take advantage of that. You have talented people working in your communities. Make them the stars of these stories.

For example, bring forward your dining room supervisor, your chef, the person who’s running activities, or your head of healthcare. Make them the focus of your content and let them talk about what it is that goes into delivering the kinds of services that make up your community.

Hint: these make great topics for Facebook Live events (and then you can repurpose the content into blog posts and other written content).

5. Show your city/town spirit.

So many people are hunkering down right now and taking a keen interest in their local communities, particularly small businesses. Demonstrate how your senior living community supports and celebrates the businesses in your local town/city.

For example, talk about local businesses that you buy from/rely on. Keep a section of your COVID-19 website page dedicated to information that older adults (and their families) would find helpful, such as grocery store hours for older adults, pharmacy drive-thrus/deliveries, restaurants still offering takeout, and so forth.

Again, you’re celebrating your local town and city while also making your senior living community website a destination for responsible and accurate information as it pertains to seniors.

6. Continue to create responsible COVID-19 resources.

No one wants to be creating this content, but here’s the thing: YOU are uniquely positioned to discuss COVID-19 from a senior living perspective because YOU WORK IN THE INDUSTRY. Don’t let the uninformed or misinformed take control of your community’s story or narrative.

Instead, continue to create responsible COVID-19 resources that will truly help your residents, their families, prospects, staff, and the media.

Some ideas:

  • X Underreported Things Everyone Over 60 Should Know About COVID-19
  • Step-by-Step Guide to Skype and Facetime
  • X Ways to Keep in Touch with Your Senior Loved Ones During Lockdowns
  • Keep the Body Moving: X Great Alternatives to Daily Group Walks
  • X SMART Strategies for Helping Seniors Stay Safe during a Pandemic

Need more topics? People are searching on topics in Google all the time. Conduct a search on your own, such as “keeping seniors safe during COVID,” and scroll to the bottom for “People Also Search On” for additional ideas.

7. Share positive stories and messages, too.

People are rightly concerned about this pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you should forget to share happy news. Perhaps it’s a picture of a resident celebrating a birthday with their family members looking on through the window. Or it could be something as simple as sharing a pic of daffodils blooming in front of your building or outside a resident’s window.

8. Reconsider print advertising and direct mail.

With so many people stuck at home, now might be a great time to run some local newspaper ads and/or do some direct mail campaigns. You don’t need to “sell” either—it could simply be an alert regarding some strategies about how you’re keeping seniors in your communities safe. The call to action could be to set up a virtual tour or to join the next Facebook Live event. Psst: we make designing print pieces extremely turnkey—check out SMARTbrand.

Need help marketing during a pandemic?

We’re always happy to help senior living communities with their marketing during a pandemic or other crisis. Don’t hesitate to get in touch. And be sure to check out our COVID-19 resource library—everything is free to download.

How Facebook Live Can Change COVID-19 Perception Issues in Your Senior Living Community

How Facebook Live Can Change COVID-19 Perception Issues in Your Senior Living Community

[Editor’s note: The following content was inspired by discussions during our COVID-19 Webinar, which you can access for free here.]

COVID-19 has forced everyone to rethink how they communicate with their customers and prospects—and this is especially true for senior living communities.

Anyone who’s worked for any length of time in our industry has had to face troubling perception issues, such as “old folks’ homes” and the like. Given the recent pandemic, however, these problematic perceptions have increased exponentially, thanks in large part to the media breathlessly reminding viewers/readers that senior living communities serve as ground zero for the coronavirus.

How’s a community supposed to combat THAT sort of image?

Here’s one idea: Facebook Live.

What is Facebook Live?

HubSpot shares this solid definition: “Facebook Live is a feature of the Facebook social network that uses the camera on a computer or mobile device to broadcast real-time video to Facebook. Live broadcasters can decide who on Facebook can see their video and use this content to engage their audience during the moments and events that are important to them.”

You’ve likely encountered Facebook Live videos and not even realized it. Reporters use them in the field all the time. And even “regular” people will use Facebook Live to chronicle aspects of their day-to-day lives.

Could Facebook Live really make a difference when it comes to challenging people’s perceptions of senior living communities during this pandemic?

We think so. Regular, reasonable communication can have a huge—and positive—effect on people.

Consider this current example: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s midday news conferences have become legendary the last few weeks. His briefings are highly anticipated (they occur at roughly the same time each day). They’re also highly informative, but down to earth and accessible by lay people. And—most important—they are calming and rational. He doesn’t sugarcoat what’s happening in his state, but at the same time, he responsibly shares info and even finds opportunity for levity and humor.

The result? People are tuning in. Why? Because people crave reliable info, and they want to know what’s going on. (Plus, they’re a captive audience right now!)

Now, granted, Cuomo’s press briefings are broadcast via good old-fashioned television, but the concept is the same as Facebook Live: regular, real-time communication with an audience during these unprecedented times can be an excellent way to combat misinformation and troubling perceptions.

But don’t take our word for it. One of our clients, Vitality Senior Living, has been doing regular Facebook Live events with the CEO and President, Chris Guay—to great effect. You can see one here.

How do Facebook Live events work?

Here’s the good news: they’re easy to do! If you have a smartphone, you can conduct Facebook Live events for any Facebook page where you’re an admin or editor. You can also go live from a desktop equipped with a web cam (and, again, for pages you’re an admin or editor).

From there, it’s a matter of simply hitting the “go live” or “start live video” buttons/prompts. But we recommend doing a couple of private videos first, just to get comfortable.

Note: we know being “on camera” can be nerve racking for people. No one is expecting Meryl Streep or Brad Pitt. What we all want right now is a real person speaking real, unvarnished truths. If you stumble or um or ah at times—IT’S OK.

Need further guidance on how to get going? Check out the following resources:

We’ll wait here while you check ’em out. Then, come back for tips on what YOU should be talking about regarding your senior living community and COVID-19.

Who should do Facebook Live events?

Executive directors are a good choice. And yes, we get the executive directors might not WANT to do it, but it makes sense for them to be the “face” of your community. But it doesn’t need to simply be the EDs. You could also have your Wellness Director, Facilities Director, Activities Director, and so forth host their own Facebook Live videos and talk about the specifics related to their role/department.

For example, here’s Vitality’s Regional Vice President of Wellness. This video currently has over 2000 views and 25 shares—that’s excellent engagement!

How often should you do them?

The pandemic is changing daily, sometimes hourly. Right now, it might make sense to do regular “briefings” (ideally at the same time every day—don’t forget, most of us are stuck at home, so you’ll have a captive audience).

But as the situation improves, you could move to a few times a week. Here’s the thing: because Facebook Live is such a great way to connect with people and communicate about your brand, you might discover that you want to continue doing these events long after the pandemic is over.

What should you talk about?

Use this “all eyes on you” opportunity to reframe some of the scarier messages that are out there about COVID-19 and senior living communities. Yes, older people are vulnerable to COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean every senior living community on the planet has become a death trap.

Instead, educate viewers regarding the following items…

  • The current status in your community; be transparent about any cases and how your community is responding; if you DON’T have any cases, LEAD WITH THIS.
  • How your community handles social distancing.
  • How residents are still living full lives during these unprecedented times
  • What you know, what you don’t know (no one knows everything about this situation, and it’s OK to say that—honesty is paramount here)
  • Protocols in place for cleaning/disinfecting.
  • Walk-throughs of certain areas—show that you’re well-stocked with toilet paper and food; people like seeing these visual reassurances.
  • Happy, positive stories, such as milestone birthdays, anniversaries, and so forth.
  • The measures your community takes every day to create a place that supports older adults in living rich, purposeful lives in a healthy, safe environment.
  • When appropriate (and with permission, of course!) include an occasional live event with a senior and let them talk about how they’re dealing with things; for example, if your community is encouraging residents to Skype their loved ones, you could do a Facebook Live that shows a resident doing Skyping in the background.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. No doubt, as you continue to get comfortable and do more videos, you’ll come up with other topics. Not to mention, people will post questions during your videos. Be sure to address them—either during the live event itself or in a future Facebook Live video.

What else can you do with the Facebook Live videos?

 Here’s the real beauty of these broadcasts—you do them live, but then they’re saved on your Facebook page (in the Videos tab) so people can watch them on demand.

Here’s what you can do with the videos:

  • Send out a daily/weekly email with a link to the video and a reminder about when you’ll be broadcasting next.
  • Share the video link on other social media channels, like Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • Keep a “library” of video links on your COVID-19 page/section on your site. (You have one, right?)

Need help getting started with Facebook Live?

We’re always happy to help you shine! You can test drive some videos on us and/or ask us for talking points if you’re feeling nervous. Don’t hesitate to get in touch.

And be sure to check out our COVID-19 resource library—everything is free to download.

Website Pet Peeves

Website Pet Peeves

87% of those looking into senior living options start their search by visiting community websites and 37% of those prospects will eliminate a community from consideration purely based on the quality of the website. When prospects visit your website, they are looking for answer to four key questions:

Price – “Can I Afford It?”

According to a “Social Silver Surfers” report by Creating Results, the #1 pet peeve of our prospects (The Silent Generation & The Older Boomer) is the lack of pricing transparency. They want to know how much it will cost, what’s included, and how senior living is funded. The problem is that most providers do not provide any pricing information on their website because they want to establish value before quoting price and they do not want their competitors to have that information. The reality is that competitors can get pricing with mystery shopping. The lack of transparency on pricing drives prospects off of your website and over to a paid referral agency/ lead generator online sources who will provide your pricing and the pricing of your competitors (who they may not have even been exploring) and your lead is now shared with 4 -6 competitors. Here are three solutions to keep your website visitors on your site:

  • Offer your starting at pricing for each apartment style as a downloadable pdf so you collect contact information needed to follow up and establish value.
  • Offer a downloadable cost comparison worksheet with everything included in your community completed and the same expenses for staying at home for the prospect to complete to establish value & collect contact information.
  • Offer a downloadable guide to funding solutions as an opt-in with information that provides an overview to the Veteran’s Aid & Attendance benefit, Life Insurance conversion, Long Term Care Insurance, Medicare & Medicaid. You provide a valuable guide and in exchange, collect contact information to convert a website visitor into a lead.

Housing – “Where Will I Live?”

According to the same study by Creating Results, the #2 pet peeve about senior living websites is that floor plans are either not available, are illegible or incomplete. According to Jayne Sallerson, COO of Sherpa, the majority of website visitors are in the “planning” or “thinking” stages and are not yet ready to take an action such as calling, completing an online form or scheduling a tour – but they do want a sneak peak before they are ready to tour. Here are three solutions to consider:

  • Create a gallery of images that are easy for prospects to sort through and explore on the website. Be sure to represent common areas and a variety of apartment styles.
  • Create a library of clear, legible floor plans and make them available to download.
  • My favorite solution is to create a virtual video tour that allows prospects to explore your community while collecting data and analytics and turning website visitors into prospects. (link to SMARTTour video on the SLS website)

Amenities – “What Will I Do?”

The “Social, Silver Surfers” survey reveals that the third pet peeve of senior living prospects is that the information on the website is outdated. Providing information about the community lifestyle is important but must be monitored, maintained and stay current. Posting pictures of residents and families enjoying special events, providing menu and activity calendar samples and posting upcoming events adds value to your website, keeps prospects on your site, reduces “bounce rate” and brings them back to the site as they move through their decision process.

Care – “Will I Be Cared For?”

For 18% of website visitors, care considerations are the primary interest. Any reassurance that you can provide about the quality of care, survey results, testimonials, staff training, security & safety specifics and any niche programs offered should be included in your website. One of our Senior Living SMART Members started using a hiring tool that measured job applicants against the attributes of their best performers in each department and scored them according to their “cultural fit” reducing turnover from 70% to 17%. This type of information is compelling and reassuring to families and prospects and should be included on the website!

Free Download

Members can access the ‘Website Pet Peeves’ survey report, or non-members may download the resource by filling out form below:


 

 

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Maximize Your Senior Living Resources: Information Management

Blog Provided By Joan Bachman, RN, HNA, RHIT, BSBA, FCN

Maximize Your Senior Living Resources

The Only Place You Find “Success” before “Work” is in the Dictionary. Survival and growth of an organization rely on the effective use of available assets.

Senior Living Resources: Information Management

A successful organization maintains accurate business records and promotes healthy communication.

Legal Documents

  • Describe legal documents and authority for access.
  • Maintain legal documents securely, whether hard copy or digitized.
  • Establish and implement policies for retention of records.
  • Comply with regulatory and insurance carrier suggestions for backup and audits.
  • Limit access to legal documents based on authority and responsibility.

Communication Systems

  • Communication may be spoken, written, computerized, or pictorial/graphic.
  • Establish and implement policies and responsibility for each segment of communication
  • (Business, Client, Public, and Advertisement/Promotion) based on regulatory requirements.
  • Communicate openly with staff. Secrets breed distrust; informed staff supports the Mission.
  • Describe confidentiality requirements.
  • Define how social media may be used for business and personal purposes.

Physical Messages

  • Maintain your capital assets to demonstrate self-respect and contribution to the community.
  • Expect clients and staff to be clean and neatly dressed.
  • Control noise levels within the building.
  • “What you are doing speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you are saying.”

Is there information that your community needs to improve on recording? Let’s Chat