If we could have foreseen what was coming in 2020, we might not have believed our eyes.
But, as hindsight is 20/20, we have a long and clear view of a year like no other – and we can use that perspective to enter 2021 focused on what needs to happen in senior living.
But first, let’s take a look back at the remarkable achievements in senior communities across the country.
Professionals in senior living have created countless ways to keep residents active and engaged. They’ve adapted to restrictions and limitations with novelty and inspiration. They’ve learned to utilize technology in far-reaching ways and proven that not only is necessity the mother of invention, it is the springboard for programming that doesn’t stagnate in the face of sudden change; it flourishes.
Staff in senior communities were unsung heroes long before that became the standard praise. They have continued to come to work, day and night, keeping residents safe, entertained, cared for, and loved. They’ve rolled up their sleeves and taken on roles and responsibilities unique to this unprecedented time.
So, what does informed retrospection mean for your community in 2021?
- Your good news needs to be shared.
The media have not been kind to the senior living industry during the pandemic. Negative stories and statistics have flooded the news, reflecting senior living in an unflattering light, largely unfairly. The good happening in senior communities far outweighs the bad, and that message needs to shine for all to see.Change the narrative by telling your positive stories! Share your news of ever-vigilant safety measures, security and healthcare…of continued high quality of life amidst an unfathomable turn of events, intense scrutiny and epic challenges…of connections made and kept strong.Content marketing comes with a fully stocked toolbox of print and digital communications. By definition, this type of marketing does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services. Whether you’re targeting a hand-picked group of just a few or the broadest of audiences, quality content marketing can reach your prospects with impact and personal relevance.
The tools of the content marketing trade run the gamut from social media, press releases, feature stories and videos to blogs, podcasts, webinars, e-blasts, print and electronic newsletters, infographics, direct mail, ads, white papers, case studies, and more.
Leveraging the various channels of content marketing will counteract the steady stream of negativity surrounding senior living and put your good news in the spotlight.
- Your staff needs to feel valued and appreciated.
Staff longevity is a key criterion for prospective residents and their families looking for a senior living community. Happy staff members stay, and happy staff members are those who feel heard, respected, engaged, recognized, and cherished.The pandemic has presented unparalleled opportunities for stress and burnout. Letting your team know that you truly value them requires more than a smile or a passing word of thanks (though that’s certainly a good start). Intentional employee communications programs boost all-important staff retention, especially if they’re tailored to your unique community, culture and common causes. Regular incentives, initiatives and department/individual recognition tactics created specifically for your human resources will improve your bottom line by honoring your top employees.Because past and current staff members sometimes turn to employee websites to air grievances in the workplace, it is paramount to monitor those sites to stay apprised and ahead of potential conflict.
- Reputational damage must be mitigated.
“All the world’s a stage” is a line from a Shakespearean play, but it could also describe the endless opportunities social media affords anyone, anywhere, to speak their mind. Often, these words are not particularly praiseful. COVID-19 presents an even greater reputational risk to senior living communities, and appropriate response to reviews or comments on employee sites or social media is crucial to mitigating reluctance to move in or a drop in census.An even greater risk is actual crisis of any kind in a senior community, such as fire, contagion, cyberattack, etc., or a smoldering crisis (the most common), such as neglect, mismanagement, scandal, and the like.Regardless of the severity of onsite crisis or online reputational harm, negative attention on your community requires trained communication with all stakeholders. Crisis response is an art that cannot be ad-libbed or issued extemporaneously, lest even further damage be inflicted.
2021 is just around the corner. With 20/20 vision looking forward and 30 years of experience behind us, IVY Marketing Group can tell your great stories, inspire your teams, and provide trained response to – and monitoring of – reputational risk.
Let us start changing the sightlines of your community today! And watch for our new video about our 20/20 vision for 2021!
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
Many words have been used to describe the year 2020: Unprecedented. Challenging. Difficult. Uncharted. Bizarre. (And a whole host of epithets not fit for publication.)
Blessed is not one of those words. It’s a pretty safe bet that this year isn’t going down in the history books as one for which to be particularly grateful. Yet, as Thanksgiving approaches, we find ourselves thinking about our blessings, those things we name around the harvest table. Even in 2020.
Senior living has had a tougher time than most industries navigating the strange new world of COVID-19. Countless negative stories in senior communities have fed reporters a steady diet of bad news for months, as well as some unscrupulous lawyers an opportunity for exploitation of the worst kind.
What good could possibly come from senior living in 2020? Plenty, if we really take a look.
COVID has brought forth abundant blessings from the wellspring of necessity, invention, and human goodness. This time of year, we at IVY would like to share some of our clients’ most hopeful stories from 2020.
Never before have essential workers faced more challenges and, at the same time, proven more heroic. Faithful staff and healthcare professionals in senior living have gone above and beyond anything previously imagined to keep residents physically, mentally and emotionally healthy – even during a pandemic.
Three Hundred Thirty-Five Years and Counting (Eastcastle Place in Milwaukee, WI)
Longtime Nursing Staff Is Family to Residents (The Danish Home of Chicago, IL)
Monticello West Senior Living Community Turns Things Around During COVID-19 (Monticello West in Dallas, TX)
Inspiration, ingenuity and resourcefulness have taken center stage during the pandemic, as both staff and residents have thought far outside the box for most of this year. They have conceived numerous novel ways to stay connected, engaged, and stimulated – all at safe social distances.
Fashion and Benevolence Go Hand in Hand (Monarch Landing in Naperville, IL)
GreenFields’ Own Lollapaloosa Event (GreenFields of Geneva, IL)
On a Hawaiian Cruise (Monarch Landing)
Hugs, One Cross Stitch at a Time (Friendship Village in Schaumburg, IL)
Creativity and Ingenuity (Eastcastle Place)
2020 has been an epically trying time, testing the limits of our patience, fortitude and hope for the future. Yet, the new decade has also inspired countless acts and expressions of human kindness. For all the strife in our world today, the present hard times have shown that most people are caring, helpful and inherently benevolent. The heartwarming stories that have come out of senior living this year, including an entire kindness campaign at one community, restore hope and faith.
Campaign of Kindness (Eastcastle Place)
Kindness Rocks (Monarch Landing)
Sharing the Love: Residents’ Grandchildren Bring Good Cheer (GreenFields)
Without virtual technology, we might all be at a very real loss during the time of coronavirus. Videoconferencing, webinars and online programming have enabled our work, school, social events, celebrations, healthcare, and more. Senior communities (and the residents living in them!) have embraced technology to an unparalleled degree. Virtual tours have allowed prospective residents and their families to safely explore senior communities, and online events and programs have proven to be successful alternatives to in-person experiences.
Bridging Generations Through Technology (Monarch Landing)
Touring Senior Living Communities During COVID (Friendship Village)
Danish Home Bonds Shine Through Second Virtual Event of the Year (The Danish Home)
Staying Active During Social Distancing (Friendship Senior Options)
Fabulous Food Service
In accordance with state and federal health guidelines, residents in senior living have needed to dine in their apartments instead of the outstanding restaurants and dining areas in their communities. While they have greatly missed eating with friends, they have received “room service” fit for a king or queen from friendly dining staff members delivering the same delicious, fresh cuisine they know and love. Even some local food establishments have brought meals to residents!
Friendship Village Steps Up to Serve Residents (Friendship Village)
McDonald’s Brings “Happy Meals” to Residents (Lexington Square of Lombard, IL)
GreenFields Steps Up to Serve Residents (GreenFields)
One of the greatest benefits of community senior living is the opportunity to make new friends, mitigating loneliness and isolation. COVID-19 has ushered in yet another avenue to new friendships: pen pal programs! Seniors and people of all ages, including teens, have been exchanging physical notes, cards and letters. In the process, they are making new friends through good, old-fashioned mail.
Old-Fashioned Pen Pal Letters Striking a Chord with Teens
Pony Express Pen Pal Program Still Going Strong
New Friends Can Make Your Retirement Years Golden
Loving Family and Friends
“Window” and “drive-up” visits have become part of our COVID lexicon. Family, friends and neighbors have found new ways to spend time with people in senior living. Special occasions like birthdays and holidays have not been foregone; they have been re-invented! And when outside visitation opportunities opened in some communities during the summer and early fall, spirits were lifted by safe social calls from loved ones in the fresh outdoors.
Close Encounters of the Loving Kind (GreenFields)
Outdoor Visits Bring Danish Home Loved Ones and Residents Together Again (The Danish Home)
Yes, We’ll Be Your Neighbor! (Friendship Senior Options)
Senior citizens have the unique advantage of a long view of life. They have seen a lot, experienced a lot, endured a lot. Unlike younger people, seniors can more easily put difficult times in perspective and realize that “this too shall pass,” and what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger!
Milwaukee Man Explains How He Stays Positive at the Age of 100 (Eastcastle Place)
Across the Ages: Why Intergenerational Relationships Mean So Much (Friendship Senior Options)
Studies have shown that sheer thankfulness is beneficial to overall health and well-being. While 2020 has brought with it many unanticipated concerns, there is comfort and healing in literally counting our blessings.
The Healing Power of Gratitude (Eastcastle Place)
Nothing pleases our IVY team more than bearing good news. Now more than ever, let us help your community be part of the larger – and true – story of joy and thanksgiving in senior living.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
What Has Changed?
In the age of coronavirus, what hasn’t changed? The senior living industry has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19. Re-evaluating and adjusting your annual marketing spend to the changes brought about by the pandemic is necessary, and ultimately fruitful.
Live and Online
COVID-19 has imposed tremendous limitations on your ability to showcase your community in person and host such events as onsite tours, luncheons, educational seminars, and all manner of face-to-face occasions. As a result, technology has taken center stage, allowing for live, online events, virtual tours, webinars, and more. Investment in the technology and production expertise required to facilitate successful remote experiences should account for a considerable portion of your budget for 2021, and very likely beyond.
PR is Paramount
Whoever said PR is dead hasn’t seen 2020. The press has had a feeding frenzy over stories of illness and death in senior communities due to the virus. The resultant negative narrative has damaged reputation and overshadowed the creativity, ingenuity and heroism that have made life in many senior communities not just tolerable, but enjoyable and fulfilling. Your good news is not only worth sharing, it’s your lifeline to recovery, and PR should occupy a greater portion of your marketing budget than ever before.
How much? PR should ideally account for 50 percent of your marketing budget, including webinars/podcasts (15%), online events (10%), blogs/reviews/feature stories (15%), online videos (5%), and Search Engine Optimization (5%). The other half should be devoted to direct consumer outreach (40%) and online and print advertising (10%).
Contact IVY Marketing Group today to discuss your 2021 budget, and learn how our team of specialists can help you make the most of your marketing dollars.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
The media has covered COVID-19 ad nauseum for the past several months, perpetuating a negative narrative and obscuring the good that is happening in many senior communities.
As such, public relations has never been more important to senior living and should be a critical component of marketing budgets for 2021.
While some companies in other arenas have cut back their PR budgets during the pandemic, reasoning that it strikes a deaf tone, stories about safeguarding, uplifting and re-energizing humanity during a worldwide pandemic have the singular ability to hit all the right notes. What’s more, maintaining and/or restoring reputation in the face of a virus that disproportionately affects seniors is paramount.
But damage control is far from the whole story.
People are hungry for good news about essential employees and everyday heroes. They want to know what companies on the front lines are doing to better society, improve or save lives, respond to needs on a daily basis. Senior living is in the unique position to show them by leveraging PR across multiple media.
PR can do more now than show the world how you’re creating new ways to preserve residents’ health and safety, their personal engagement, socialization, and overall happiness and well-being (as if that weren’t enough!).
Like no other communications tactic in these unimaginable times, public relations highlights, celebrates and generates programs and incentives to reinvigorate weary nursing staff, burned out physicians, over-taxed discharge planners and case workers, hindered activities directors.
Even more powerful, PR is the social distance tool that can unite residents, staff, families, prospects, and others in a time when traditional means of connection are no longer possible. The synergistic effect of good news and good will upon your internal and external stakeholders is extraordinary.
From a disciplinary standpoint, the strengths of public relations are tailor-made for the situation in which we currently find ourselves. PR is a natural fit before, during and after crisis. Here are some reasons why:
- PR is purpose-driven, not profit-driven. Long before “content marketing” entered the communications lexicon, public relations meant sharing information of value and meaning to audiences on its face, without a sales agenda.
- PR focuses on community, not consumerism. “More than ever right now, brands have the opportunity to win hearts and minds by earning a place in people’s lives,” remarked the founder of an award-winning PR agency. Indeed, people are looking to businesses to inform, advise and display more concern for their well-being than their expenditures. The need for truth, transparency and authenticity is paramount, and PR organically meets that need.
- PR can be delivered quickly. Social media and digital news platforms allow relevant messages to be conveyed almost immediately. What’s more, they can be updated and adjusted just as readily as circumstances and attitudes change.
- PR is bound to a code of ethics. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), of which IVY Marketing Group is a long-standing member, requires PR professionals to uphold such core values as advocacy, honesty, loyalty and objectivity.
- PR reflects culture, not corporations. PR has a finger on the pulse of the current zeitgeist at all times. Good PR observes, listens, reports and responds to the concerns of everyday people, not the unseen, unrelatable figures in ivory towers.
- PR is more affordable than advertising. Unlike ad campaigns that can take months and even more dollars to develop, public relations campaigns – or even a single press release – are economical and flexible. Stories can be used on various platforms, including websites, social media, digital and print media outlets. Eyeballs come across them because they’re naturally drawn to them – unlike many ads.
- PR can help you weather the next storm. Once your brand has been established as benevolent and trustworthy through good PR (as defined by the criteria above), you’re in a much better position going forward, even if another crisis comes along.
The time for public relations is now, when its all-encompassing impact has never been greater. PR is no longer an “add-on” consideration – it’s a vital essential.
As you’re planning your marketing budget for 2021 and making important financial decisions, be sure to include public relations delivered by our award-winning, PRSA-certified team of specialists for 30 years.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
Blog. It sounds like something that the cat coughed up, but it’s actually a shortening of the term “weblog.” The first of its kind was an online diary written by a fellow named Justin Hall back in 1994.
To know the origin of the blog doesn’t answer the greater question, however: why are blogs important to marketing your senior community? Or marketing in general?
Some content marketers (and even more of their clients) don’t completely understand the benefit of blogging or the difference between news and blogs.
Do you, dear reader, believe that blogs are necessary to successful content marketing? Do you question whether a blog should still be included in your budget, what with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and many more online platforms clamoring for consumers’ attention?
Whatever your opinion, know this: the blog as a marketing tool is alive and well – and here to stay.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
- More than 152 million blogs exist on the Internet
- A new blog is published every 0.5 seconds
- 77% of web users regularly read blogs
- Companies that blog receive 97% more links to their websites
- A quarter of all websites are blogs
- 55% of marketers say blogging is their top inbound marketing priority
- The COVID pandemic is changing readers’ behavior, and online consumption of written material (as well as products and services) is dramatically increasing
Stats are great, but they don’t tell the whole story of why blogs are so important to sales and marketing.
Here’s what a well-researched, well-written blog that lives on your site can do. But first, “lives on your site” is key. Countless social media platforms attempt to drive traffic to your site, but a blog is owned content consumers can access directly from your URL – and you can be sure it will keep them there longer than a Snapchat ad.
The Almighty SEO
Search engine optimization is the name of the game, and blogs do it best. That’s because content-rich blogs contain keywords and phrases people organically use to search various topics on the web. Search engines (e.g., Google) “crawl” the Internet and rank sites by how well their blogs naturally incorporate these words and phrases and, more importantly, how well they engage their readers and address their needs. The higher the ranking, the more prominent place a site will have on the search engine results page (SERP), and the more likely people will click on that site over another. Blogs also provide ample link-building opportunities, a critical factor of SEO.
A word to the wise, however: search engine algorithms are getting smarter all the time, increasingly able to identify and weed out content that crams in keywords, tags and other metadata solely for the sake of manipulating SEO.
What will never change is the importance of quality content that matters personally to your target audience. That’s what matters to the search engines, too, and that’s what’s going to get eyeballs on your website more than anything else.
Other Powers of Blog
Builds trust in your brand. Whether your blog informs, advocates, educates, supports, entertains, inspires…if it’s relevant to your consumers and has a positive effect on them, they will not only spend more time on your site, they will begin to trust you as a capable answer to their needs.
Establishes you as a thought leader. A well-researched, well-written blog establishes you as an expert in your field. During this time of pandemic disproportionately affecting senior citizens, senior living is particularly in need of an authoritative voice in the move forward during and after COVID-19. Indeed, online media caters to the tiny attention span of most humans, but people reading a blog want a more comprehensive exploration of a subject that interests them. They expect a deeper dive, and they’re likely to come back for more time and again. To that point, timely, regular blogging is key.
Many learn best by reading. There are four basic learning styles: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. While video has indisputable marketing benefits, many people learn best through the written word. According to one study, learning by reading is the second most common of the four main types.
Blogs Sell, Especially Now
Plain and simple, for all the reasons listed above and more, blogs increase traffic to your site considerably – even exponentially when they’re shared. Especially now during the coronavirus pandemic, people are doing business more and more online, from the safety of their homes. This includes virtual tours of your senior community and greater consumption of your site’s content.
There has never been a more opportune time to understand the importance of blogging to your marketing efforts and to invest in this powerful digital strategy.
Backed by 30 years of marketing and public relations experience in senior living and services, IVY’s team of writers, designers and digital strategists can help you leverage the unique power of blogging – especially now.
Contact us today to find out how blogging and our complete array of services can increase your visibility in the senior living space and PROP up your occupancy.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.