How to Adapt Marketing and Communications of Senior Living and Care in Congregate Settings during COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the mindset of how senior living and care is viewed. Yet, there is a way forward for senior living and care providers to restore confidence and win back trust. During these uncertain times of COVID-19, marketing and communications remain critical. Now is not the time to wait. It is the time to take the lead.

Marketing and Communications Agility

Business is not as usual in the senior living and care sector, so your marketing and communications should not be as usual. Marketing and communication strategies and tactics for senior living and care require agility and positivity. Finding new and creative ways to communicate and market to people during this pandemic is still possible.

As you adapt your marketing and communications strategies and tactics to address the needs of today’s audience during the COVID-19 pandemic, recognize that transparent communication and digital engagement are essential to fostering connection during these times of social distancing. Adjusting your messaging and maintaining visibility are more important than they have ever been.

Maintaining Momentum

Despite today’s COVID-19 fear and uncertainty that many have of senior living and care in congregate settings, it is important to keep initiatives going in a thoughtful and compassionate way. Well-run communities provide the procedures, care and tools for their residents and staff to remain safe and healthy. Marketing is critical in communicating  your initiatives, operations and protocols.

Current residents, prospective residents and their respective families are all looking to senior living and care communities for timely information, guidance, and reassurance during this period of uncertainty.  This makes senior living and care marketing and communications not just essential, but imperative!

Doing this right now will build and secure the foundation to earning the trust and confidence that residents, prospects, and their families will have in your senior living and care community now and going forward. So, what are you to do now? There are several things…

Gaining the Market Pulse

If it has been awhile since you gathered market intelligence and insights from your customers, prospective customers, and your competition, now is a great time to do this.  Many have reported “aha” and “WOW” findings by devoting the time and effort to discover new insights.  In turn, they have used these learnings to inform and refresh their strategies and plans.

In our September blog, the topic of market intelligence and insights was covered in more detail as it is one of the four key areas or ‘vanes’ of marketing for success.

Aligning Your Brand and Branding

When is the last time you reviewed and refreshed your brand and branding to stay relevant to the current market?  If you have not devoted time recently to the discipline of brand and branding, now is also the ideal time to ensure your brand is differentiated, compelling, timely and relevant to the market.

In our October blog, the topic of brand and branding was covered as it is also one of the four key areas or ‘vanes’ of marketing for success.

Once you are equipped with timely market insights that have informed your strategy and plans, and a brand and branding refreshed and aligned to the current market, you stand ready to move forward with your marketing and communications.  So, let’s get started…

Updating Audience Personas

Do you have audience personas?  If no, now is the time to create them. If yes, when is the last time they were reviewed and/or updated?  Do they reflect the current needs, pain points, considerations and emotions of your audience(s)?  If not, now is the time to either create your personas for the first time, or review and update your existing ones.

Doing this requires that you know what you ‘need to know’ to create and update these personas. If you do not know how your personas should be created or updated, then you must ask the right questions to gain the insights you need to inform this process.  Once your personas align to the current market, you are ready to move forward.

Refreshing Content

Now is not the time to focus on lead-generating content. Rather your content and messaging must adjust to address today’s climate, and shift to educational and experience-related content. With this, one place to start is by educating the public on the distinction between the different forms of senior living from independent living, assisted living, CCRCs and others focused on a desirable lifestyle, hospitality, socialization and safety. Explain how these are different from skilled nursing and alternatives providing greater acute care.

Reframing Messages

Right now, many people are interested in the more inner workings of senior living communities, such as how your cleaning and disinfecting are being done, who and how the daily menus are determined, how residents are maintaining some forms of safe, acceptable communications and interaction versus isolation, and more about daily life in your environment.

Your content should be as straightforward as “How We…” stories conveyed through your newsletter and blogs, or other posts. This is your opportunity to think creatively and share stories that would not normally be on your radar.

Examining Marketing and Communications Assets

Look at the assets you already have in place. Which ones are able to be repurposed for usage in a socially distanced environment?  Do you have printed collateral that is normally  a handout? Which materials are transferrable to a digital format to share them now?

Examining these materials will identify gaps in your content that require creation or modification to perform well across new channels. While this will require some initial time and investment, it is important to ensuring that you continue to attract and nurture current and prospective patients and their respective families who cannot meet you due to COVI9-19 restrictions.

Creating Virtual Experiences

Now is the time to get creative and offer more virtual and digital ways to communicate and engage with prospects and their families. For example, are you using video messages and updates that can be posted regularly on your website and social media? Start (or continue) substantive postings on social media and via blogs on an ongoing basis. Consider creating or maintaining communications via an eNewsletter or through short, timely text messages.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into some other opportunities for marketing and communications to be doing now.

Optimizing Your Website

Even prior to the onset of COVID-19, your website was likely the first encounter or touchpoint a person has with your senior living and care community. Now with the pandemic eliminating the ability to have people visit your community in person, everything that people would usually come to your community to experience must be available for them upon a “visit” to your website. And, like any visit, enable this to be interactive, user-friendly and inviting.

Creating an Interactive Website Experience

Some of the main ways to interact via your website include:

  • Live Chat. Real humans working safely from their homes to personally welcome your website visitors, start a conversation, answer questions, provide information, and generate interest and leads from these discussions.
  • Video Conferencing. Meeting “face-to-face” is still possible through virtual conferencing options such as Skype, Zoom, Facebook Live, Facetime and other free or low-cost options.
  • Online Information Sessions and Online Events. Offering these by members of your team, and on different topics presented by well-qualified speakers on and even outside your team.

And while the following may seem to be less dynamic and involve more one-way communication, they are proven to be very effective tools on your website to keep connecting with others and showcasing your senior living and care offerings.  They include:

  • Downloadable brochures (require contact information to gate these brochures so you can follow up)
  • Video Testimonials for Sharing Success Stories
  • Video Tours, Floor Plans, and Interactive Room Planners
  • Resources Section
    Blogs, guides, videos, guidelines show that you are well prepared, caring, and reassuring. Include content from curated resources like experts from the CDC, WHO, and industry associations to provide a comprehensive library of COVID-19 information and tools exclusively for those who seeking information related to senior living and care.

Once your website is ready for social distancing, let’s talk more about Social Media for marketing and communications during COVID-19 times.

Social Media

Now is the time to further integrate social media. How? By increasing relevant and engaging social media posts.

Not sure what content should be in these posts? Content that covers a wide spectrum. With permission, consider showing residents enjoying their daily life at your community. Share what you are doing to keep your staff and residents safe and healthy. Link to a video of special events being offered for residents of your community. Share residents and their families feedback via video testimonials.

Pinning informative and positive posts to your social media pages is a great way of making a favorable impression on visitors and to others searching for updates.

Going Live

Consider using Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Facetime and other digital live platforms to bring families and others into the activities that your residents are engaging in. Perhaps take them “behind the scenes’ via one of these video broadcasting channels to walk people through your operations, procedures and protocols for maintaining a safe and healthy living environment. Not only is this potential content for Go Live type of events, but often this content works well to repurpose for other media such as blogs, articles, and more.

eMarketing and eCommunications

While your website and social media are two important means of continuing to market and communicate with your audiences during the pandemic,  also consider communicating via automated email marketing and eNewsletters. This gives you the opportunity to provide more details and information, and to establish credibility as a subject matter expert and thought leader in senior living and care.

Advertising and Direct Mailing

These days with people staying at home more than ever, now is an opportune time to reach people in their homes.  How?  Consider direct mail and print advertising.  Using these channels to maintain brand awareness by informing readers how you are keeping your residents and staff safe during these times, and that you are there to help is very effective.  As with any advertising or mailing, always include a call to action whether it be to schedule an exploratory discussion, ask questions, take an online guided tour, or join you for an upcoming online event.

Google Business Listings

Update your Google business listings as they are factored into Google’s algorithms and leads to better visibility in searches.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Now is the time to get a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool if you do not already have one.  If you already have a CRM, now is the time to review, update and maintain the information resident in this valuable resource.

Turning Your Attention from Volume to Conversion and from Selling to Caring

During these times, lead volume may not be as abundant.  However, working the leads you already have in an authentic, caring manner can possibly convert more of them now and over time. Building strong relationships by engaging with leads by making a real connection and demonstrating genuine care and empathy will move leads closer to a favorable decision when the right time comes.

This Too Shall Pass…Going Forward

COVID-19 has forced all of us to alter our personal and professional lives. This is especially true for senior living and care marketing and communications professionals. It is not just essential, but imperative that you adapt and progress your marketing and communications during the COVID-19 pandemic. When this has finally passed, your prospects and their families will see you in a positive light. You will have created a much stronger and enduring bond than you ever could have done when you were in a ‘wait and see’ or constant selling mode.

Have your marketing and communications been adapted to address today’s market for senior living and care in congregate settings?

While this shares some overall suggestions on what to do now, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  Determining what is best varies by each business. Want some help? Should you need help identifying what to do first or want some help in any of these areas, please let us know.

Marketing Matters based in Stamford, CT in Fairfield County serves healthcare organizations including those providing in-home medical and personal care and other healthcare providers in CT, NY, NJ and throughout the US. We help you better strategize, plan and execute your marketing and communications to stay relevant and aligned to the dynamics, needs and realities of the market.  For questions or to learn more, contact us by phone at 203.329.7773 or online.