Marketing in Uncertain Times: Tips for Senior Living Communities
In times of crisis, marketing is much more than finding residents who might want to live in your community. Marketing is truly about how you make people feel and the experience you provide. What you communicate and how you distribute the messages to inform, reassure, comfort and also encourage responses, helps maintain and grow trust.
As the COVID-19 crisis escalated, many communities released communications to keep their residents’ loved ones and others up-to-date. Beyond policy updates and related information, what more can communities do to provide value and get your unique stories out?
Here are some tactics you can implement today to share updates and positive news from your community.
Your Website is Your Communications Hub
Especially during a crisis, your communication should be clearly-written, easy to find, and updated frequently. Your message should be factual, up-to-date and relevant to the situation. Be sure that the tone is calm, positive, and reassuring to your audience.
Your website should communicate what you are doing to protect your communities and provide updates on how the community is being impacted by the crisis.
- Consider these options to communicate effectively:
- A prominent banner at the top of the homepage to call attention to important updates
- A dedicated content stripe in the middle of the homepage can replace calls-to-action and direct visitors to specific updates on your website
- Blogs are a forum where you can share a variety of updates, stories, or news from your community.
Content stripes and banners should link to a dedicated webpage that details policy changes, community information, and operation updates. Trilogy Health Services utilized both the sticky banner and the content stripe to communicate their response to COVID-19.
Prioritize Critical Information
During a crisis, especially when visits or in-person tours are limited, be sure to share how your community is responding to the situation, being as specific as possible such as adjustments to meal times and activities. If you’ve dedicated a page on your website to these updates, organize the page with date and time stamps so visitors are able to review the newest information upfront; but still access older updates as needed.
When it comes to direct communication with your community, consider streamlining the point of contact through one email address or phone number to respond to all inquiries from families, local media, and the wider community. Especially dealing with short-term crises. For long term issues like what we’re currently dealing with, it may be perfectly fine to direct people to each community. If things heat up at the community, you can always change the phone number posted online to redirect to your corporate “situation room.”
You may also choose to include a downloadable PDF with additional information, linked from the primary community updates page, that outlines your community’s sanitization procedures, new dining policies, visitor restrictions, etc. No matter what you decide to communicate, your approach should be thoughtful and strategic, focus on doing the right thing, not necessarily the fastest thing.
Harmony Senior Living has been communicating to their stakeholders through a dedicated webpage that provides time stamped updates and directs visitors to additional resources.
Sharing Good News and Reassuring People About Life in Senior Living
With so much uncertainty, many people look to senior living community leadership for reassurances. When you create and share a video in a time of crisis, there is no expectation of perfection — just clear and concise updates that show empathy. These messages should focus on accuracy, compassion and professionalism.
Tana Gall, President of Merrill Gardens, a G5 client, shared such a video on their website’s COVID-19 response page.
Get Creative with Video and Other Content
Although this current crisis can feel all encompassing, there is still room for keeping leads warm. Use video options like Facetime to connect with prospective residents and their families during this time. Seniors who haven’t yet moved into a community might be feeling isolated and a video call with them gives you the opportunity to show you care, brighten their day, and build trust.
It’s also important to share positive stories. Are your residents still participating in activities, but keeping their distance? Video platforms like OneDay and HeartLegacy make recording and sharing this type of content easy. Families will enjoy seeing that their relatives are being taken care of, while community members get an opportunity to demonstrate their creativity.
Even if you don’t choose to do video, get creative with other content. Encourage seniors and their families to sign up for your marketing newsletter or follow your community on social media. This post from Merrill Gardens shows how a marketing team can share positive news from communities.
Managing Your Google My Business Listing
Your Google My Business (GMB) listing communicates your community’s pertinent information on the search engine results page (SERP). Be sure to update your GMB listing when information about your community changes in response to a crisis. Here are some updates to consider:
- Update business hours to reflect any changes in office or visitor hours
- Update your business description to include any pertinent information
- Create a post to communicate any changes to your visitor policies
- Manage and respond to reviews or questions posed in the Q&A
Google is making frequent changes to support companies during this time, including temporarily pausing reviews. We recommend visiting the G5 COVID-19 Response page to learn about the most recent Google updates and how to respond.
Reputation Management and Social Media
Staying on top of reviews is crucial, especially in uncertain times. Your on-site team should respond to each review in a thoughtful and timely manner. It’s important to be honest and empathetic in your review responses. When necessary, take the conversation offline to address specific questions or concerns.
Content is critical right now and social media is a great way to distribute updates and important information. You can use your social media channels to:
Post policy updates and news
Include links to your website for updates
Post good news from your community
Digital Advertising Still Matters in a Crisis
Maintaining your online presence through digital advertising campaigns will help keep you ahead of your competition once the crisis subsides. Eliminating or completely stopping digital ad campaigns will stop any momentum that you’ve earned. It will also take time to rebuild to the same performance levels once you restart the campaigns.
Digital advertising can also be used by your HR teams to target career-seekers and promote jobs. While many industries are laying off employees, senior living communities have a growing need. Marketing and Human Resources can partner up to get the word out on open positions.
- In order to make the most of your digital advertising spend during this time, here are some steps that you can take:
- Update your negative keywords list to exclude terms related to the crisis. In today’s case, this list should include coronavirus, flu, influenza, pandemic, COVID-19, etc.
- Update advertising exclusion lists to prevent display ads from being shown on certain websites.
- Pause advertising on remarketing channels to avoid marketing to people who already visited your website and quite possibly are already in your CRM.
- Diversify your advertising mix to reach audiences on the Google display network and social media.
Slow is Smooth and Smooth is Fast
The United States Navy coined the phrase, “slow is smooth and smooth is fast,” and today it’s very fitting. As we all navigate through the current crisis, it’s important to slow down and do the right thing for our residents, their families, our staff, and our larger community. Provide empathy in your communications. Focus on clear and concise messages and distribute information across multiple channels. And when you can, provide levity and joy to those you are connected with. Putting people first today will build to your success tomorrow.
Learn more about marketing and communications during a crisis by downloading the G5 checklist, Marketing During a Crisis, and watching our webinar, Marketing in Uncertain Times, on the topic, presented by Jamison Gosselin, G5 Vice President of Senior Living Strategy.