Leading a senior living organization is a special calling, one that’s both personally and professionally rewarding. It’s also challenging, even on the quietest of days. When a crisis happens, the entire organization is on alert; staff, residents and family members are impacted in a variety of ways.
A crisis doesn’t have to be an explosion, an evacuation, or a loss of life. A crisis can begin as a bad habit, an unresolved problem, or poor leadership; it can quietly simmer until it overflows into something bigger, something that over time can impact an organization’s ability to fulfill its purpose and mission. Once that suffers, so does an organization’s bottom line.
The only way to manage and survive a crisis – whether it’s immediate and life-threatening or ongoing and behind the scenes – is by following the Boy Scout mantra, Be Prepared.
Develop a Crisis Communications Plan
It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway. You need a crisis plan, one that doesn’t collect dust on the bookshelf or is lost on your company’s hard drive.
The plan doesn’t have to be a 300-page, five-pound document. It needs to be simple; a roadmap that your crisis team can follow while emotions are high and adrenaline is at its peak. With the right crisis training and preparation, the crisis team can respond almost on autopilot because they’ve practiced, practiced, practiced.
Get Your Reputation in Pique Condition
Warren Buffet said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
You’ll do things differently. Everyday things. Things that represent the culture of your community, the fiber of your organization, and the spirit of the people who live and work there. These things fill your organization’s goodwill well and during a crisis, you want that well overflowing.
Organizations have a million opportunities every day to fill the goodwill well. These opportunities come from:
Relationships. How do leaders and staff interact with residents, families, community partners, online followers, and government officials. Are they honest and transparent? Responsive and respectful? Friendly, polite, and patient?
Media relationships, in particular, need to be handled with care. Invite members of the media to your community for events or programming so they can get to know your wonderful residents and staff. Always meet their deadlines; be a good resource for them, even if you aren’t part of the story, and never lie or mislead them. Share your good news often.
Behavior. How do staff behave when no one is looking. Do they do the right thing even if no one is there to see or appreciate the goodwill? Think about your community driver’s interaction with the general public while he waits for residents to return to the van from a grocery store outing. Every smile, pleasantry, and polite conversation he has with a passerby or store manager is an investment in your goodwill well.
Communication. Is everyone open, honest, responsive and respectful? Do residents and staff feel heard? Can they feel safe and comfortable sharing concerns or problems with leadership?
Attitude. Is everyone welcoming, positive, patient, helpful, respectful? Does your staff follow through on promises and go above and beyond in their service and care?
Community presence. Is your organization a good neighbor? Are residents and staff generous with their time and talent? Does your organization open its doors to the community and share its resources and expertise? Does your organization partner with schools and universities?
Earning the Benefit of the Doubt
It’s in our nature to want to give people and organizations the benefit of the doubt. It’s also in our nature to look for the bad and expect the worst, especially in senior care.
If your goodwill well is full when a crisis unfolds, people are willing to give you more grace. They’re willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and listen with an open mind as you acknowledge, explain and fix the situation. People who like and trust you (your brand) and consider you a good neighbor (employer, partner, senior living community) will stand by you.
Do you have questions or can we help? Call (561) 251-3151 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hollywood stars and sought after sports legends may get away with a love/hate relationship with the press, but for everyone else, a prickly rapport with the media and influencers is bad business. Your relationship with local and national reporters are as important to the health and well-being of your community as your occupancy numbers, hospital readmission rates, or even the results of resident and employee satisfaction surveys.
Sounds extreme, you say? It’s not.
Your relationship with reporters impacts nearly every aspect of your marketing/sales and public relations efforts. And the only way to create and nurture mutually beneficial and trusted relationships with reporters is through a sustained, long-term media relations campaign.
Done right, media relations campaigns can:
1. Make You Credible and Trusted
Inundated with “fake news” and sponsored content on social media platforms, consumers view marketing content with a critical eye. News stories reported by reputable journalists and trusted news sources, however, offer a credible third-party endorsement.
A 2014 study by Neilson reports:
Expert content—credible, third-party articles (earned media)—is the most effective source
of information for affecting consumers along all stages of the purchase process
across product categories.
2. Bolster Lead Generation
Great things can happen when marketing and PR work in tandem during the planning stages of a lead generation campaign. You can boost your lead-generation campaign by packaging content so it’s editorial-friendly and planning marketing events that have real news value. A local expert, author or celebrity chef, for example, creates opportunities for pre- and post-media outreach as well as engaging social media posts.
According to the PR analytics firm AirPR:
Media relations campaigns that complement marketing activities
can generate 10x to 50x the conversions of standard advertising campaigns.
3. Fill the Goodwill Well
In any business, it’s about relationships. During a time of crisis, the relationships you have with reporters will help you manage your message and control the situation. Negative stories are going to run, regardless, but reporters who understand your business and know your key people are in a better position to write accurate and fair stories and listen to your side with an open mind. If you made the mistake of flying under the radar or haven’t established a relationship yet, reporters will be less likely to go the extra mile to get the full story.
4. Position Your People as the Expert & Valued Resource
The best source for reporters is the one who puts the reporters’ needs before the organization’s wants. In other words, take time to provide the reporter with an informational interview or background on an industry issue even if your organization won’t be featured in the story.
Reporters appreciate those who help them do their jobs better (and meet pressing deadlines) and you’ll be top of mind next time they’re working on a story that could include your organization. They’ll also be more likely to consider a story pitch from you or share your good news.
5. Build Your Brand
Media relations complements nearly every aspect of a marketing and communications strategy, including the elevation of your brand. Media coverage builds awareness of your brand in a compelling, credible way. Done strategically, such stories can sell your products, services, and lifestyle better than an expensive ad campaign.
6. Honor Your Residents and Staff
If you want your staff and residents to feel loved and appreciated, then act a like a proud parent. Use media relations as an opportunity to recognize a job well done, a good deed, a community connection, or an accomplishment. They’ll feel proud and the recognition serves as positive reinforcement. In past media relations campaigns, we’ve even seen residents and staff proudly share their stories with families and other residents via Facebook and Twitter
A sustained media relations effort is the most effective way to build relationships with reporters. If it isn’t part of your existing communications strategy (or if it’s just a list of cookie-cutter tactics to share good news), then it’s time to revisit how you’re using your dollars.
By Wendy D'Alessandro
As published in McKnight's Senior Living
When the TV reporter set up for an onsite interview with a resident who was training for a marathon, her goal wasn’t to showcase the senior living community’s beautiful grounds and fitness center or talk about how the staff members partner with residents to achieve whole-person wellness. She was there to hear a story about a woman who, despite physical and medical challenges, was pushing herself beyond her limits to participate in a half-marathon and raise money for a personal cause.
The resident’s story had nothing to do with the community, except for the fact that she lived there. She took Tai chi classes and worked with the fitness coordinator on training and proper nutrition. Although her resident walking group provided friendship and support, the entire community, including staff members, were her biggest cheerleaders.
When the story aired, viewers saw a strong, inspiring woman’s story and, one hopes, were enticed to donate to her cause. Viewers also saw a community of people who loved her and supported her with programs, services, friendship and spiritual guidance. Perhaps, even, they saw themselves living in such a community one day.
The story was better than any advertisement, and cost less money, too.
Senior living residents, their families and team members are a treasure trove of authentic stories that showcase what it’s like to live and work in a community. Those able to tap into this resource not only breathe life into the communications program – media relations, specifically – they can create a team of brand ambassadors, foster goodwill within the community and leverage stories on social media to amplify coverage.
Finding and selecting authentic stories
We’ve all heard the phrase: Everyone has a story. That’s true. But not all stories are meant to be shared. When selecting stories to share, first ask yourself, “Why?”
Every compelling story you tell needs to support your organization’s messaging, serve a greater purpose or meet a specific objective. Do you want to increase attendance at marketing events? Establish your leaders as experts in dementia care? Showcase the resident-driven programming or the large number of military veterans living in your community? Serve as a resource for families navigating retirement? Introduce a new program or service?
Next, ask yourself, “Who cares?”
Reporters and influencers aren’t interested in corporate storytelling. They want to hear authentic stories their viewers, readers or listeners can relate to and want to share on social media — stories that use real people and real experiences to showcase products, services, programs and even a culture.
Residents are your best PR
Take Don, an antique car enthusiast who had moved to our client’s community. He thought the community was a perfect spot to host a car show and pitched the idea to the sales director, who made it happen.
It turns out, Don was a great story, and he had some terrific photos and memorabilia to help tell it and highlight the car show. We landed Don’s story in the major daily newspaper, which included it in its daily e-blast to subscribers. The marketing team leveraged the coverage on social media.
The marketing/PR team’s efforts, which included a direct mail piece, resulted in more than 60 outside guests, a significant number for this small, suburban community. Don felt at home and, likely, a sense of purpose for helping to create a successful event.
Creating a team of storytellers
Strong public relations teams don’t exist in a bubble, and they aren’t made up entirely of PR pros. Life enrichment directors, activities coordinators, sales directors, chaplains, housekeepers, and even residents and family members, can be your most valued PR partners.
Each has a unique pulse on the community; they know the residents, their stories and the stories behind the stories. Get to know them, teach them about PR and what to look for in a story. Be accessible to them so they feel comfortable sharing ideas.
Authentic stories = trust and credibility
Winnie, 94, had been living independently at a continuing care retirement community, but health issues had required a hospital stay. She and her physical therapist, who worked at our client’s skilled nursing center, created a goal for Winnie’s 95th birthday: Get well enough to ride on the back of her grandson’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle and return to her home in residential living.
The pair accomplished the goal, and not long after Winnie’s 95th birthday, her story appeared in suburban Chicago’s largest daily newspaper along with a photo of Winnie on the back of her grandson’s Harley. She was wearing a leather jacket, a purple scarf and a big smile.
Nowhere in the article did it talk about the compassionate, quality, individualized care provided by the staff. It didn’t have to. Winnie, her daughter and her physical therapist communicated that beautifully through their quotes in the article.
When stories like Winnie’s run in print, on television or in social media channels, the community experiences a boost of trusted third-party credibility. Team members are inspired, and they begin to ask themselves, “What stories do I have?” Marketing and social media teams leverage the coverage to amplify their own efforts.
Everyone loves a good story, but people also love to be part of a good story. Create a solid PR team and identify your organization’s storytellers. Be strategic, creative and sustained in your media outreach. Package your stories using quality visuals that add to the story and work well for television, print or online mediums. Leverage your coverage via social media. Finally, thank the people who are willing to share their stories. Your work would be impossible without them.
BOCA RATON, Fla., -- Lynn Public Relations, Inc., a South Florida-based public relations firm, recently received the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Bronze Anvil Award of Commendation for its national media relations campaign for Skokie, Ill.-based Covenant Retirement Communities (CRC), the nation’s sixth largest nonprofit senior services provider.
PRSA recognizes and honors the very best public relations tactics executed each year. This year’s competition drew a total of 525 entries. Of those, only 82 organizations were selected by the Bronze Anvil judges as Bronze Anvil Award of Commendation winners. Lynn PR was one of three agencies selected “best of the best” in the media relations-consumer services category.
The awarded submission, “The Power of Storytelling in Senior Living” highlighted the results of a yearlong media relations campaign designed to increase visibility of CRC’s brand, services, programming and lifestyle at 12 communities located in Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, California, Washington, Colorado and Connecticut; increase website traffic to each community’s website; increase the number of phone inquiries at each community; and establish executive leadership as experts/resources for senior living and age-related issues.
CRC experienced a significant increase in both the amount of traffic to the communities’ websites and in the number of call inquiries to the communities during 2017. Combined, the communities and members of CRC’s leadership team were featured or mentioned in more than 1,500 pieces of print, online, and broadcast news stories.
“What the numbers don’t show is how we support our client’s overall mission to create joy for residents and their families,” said Wendy D’Alessandro, president of Lynn PR. “Every time a story makes a resident smile or creates a memory for families to cherish, that’s something to celebrate; that serves a higher purpose. These moments are why we choose to work in senior living.”
A complete list of winners is available here.
About the Bronze Anvil Award
PRSA is the nation’s largest professional organization serving the communications community. For more than 45 years, the Bronze Anvil Awards have celebrated the “best of the best” in public relations tactics. These tactics — whether a media relations program, website, annual report, podcast, blog or use of social media — are the hardworking parts of any successful public relations program.