No news is good news. We’ve all heard that expression, uttered it ourselves, and relied on it to ease our own or others’ worries.
But if there is one place this old adage does NOT belong, it’s the senior living arena during the time of COVID-19.
Not being completely forthcoming about the virus in your community is a recipe for trouble. Transparency must extend to staff, residents, their families, prospects, stakeholders, the surrounding community, and the media.
What isn’t said in any given situation is often more telling than what is, and this is particularly true of cases and deaths from coronavirus. Reporting to the CDC is mandated and numbers are easily discovered, often with a quick Google search of a community’s name.
Even if you wanted to keep things quiet, you can’t.
But you really don’t want to.
Here are five reasons why:
- Transparency builds trust in your community. Communicating honestly and regularly (daily or weekly at least) builds bridges among all interested parties. Authentic, empathic and truthful information should include:
- Protective measures being taken and how often
- Potential risk factors (i.e., an essential medical worker tested positive)
- Number of residents or staff who have tested positive or passed away
- Expressions of comfort, condolence, compassion, and offers of counseling, if available
- Opportunities to interact with you and others affected, ask questions, provide feedback
- Actions taken to keep residents engaged physically, emotionally and socially
- Transparency eliminates panic and false assumptions. Leading with 100 percent transparency removes conjecture about how COVID-19 is affecting your community. Most stakeholders understand it’s nearly impossible for senior communities to be completely free of risk for the new virus that has claimed over 100,000 lives in the U.S. alone, as of this writing. They also understand that information is stabilizing and empowering, while being left in the dark breeds fear, doubt, mistrust and potentially unwise impulses, such as removing a loved one from senior living into a less safe environment.
- Transparency lets you share your good news. Paradoxically, the spotlight COVID-19 is shining on senior living has also presented ample opportunities for communities to showcase their positive stories. Countless communities have risen to the unparalleled occasion, creating novel, innovative ways to keep residents engaged in activities and socialization with staff, one another and their families. Technology has been a huge asset to senior living, but the human resources behind it are telling some of the most heartfelt, compelling stories of current times. When reporters and media outlets come looking for news about senior living, communities can capitalize on the opportunity to share the many good things that are happening.
- Transparency educates and builds relationships with the media. Most reporters are woefully uneducated about the differences among independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing. As such, they miss the critical nuances of various living environments and care models and tend to lump them all together, painting a picture of mass infection in senior housing in general. Candid, respectful exchanges with media professionals allow communities not only to educate them about these crucial differences, but also to build relationships with them that will bode well for future coverage.
- Transparency builds your brand. It seems counterintuitive that a pandemic largely affecting senior citizens could ultimately strengthen a retirement community’s brand. But, consider the discourse COVID-19 is generating and, thus, the opportunity it presents for quality content. Senior communities can no longer afford to remain lax or sporadic on social media, blogs, marketing collateral, press releases, feature stories, outreach to prospects. With so many platforms from which to communicate, you can develop content and conversation that will associate you with hope, encouragement and thought leadership. Multiple channels of content on a topic that is (fortunately or not) going to remain relevant for quite some time also facilitate the growth of brand consistency.
IVY Marketing Group has nearly 30 years of experience in marketing and public relations for clients in senior housing. Like them, we have never seen times like this. However, we believe that the care, commitment and incredible ingenuity our friends and partners have demonstrated these past few months will bring them into a new and even better era of senior living.
We’d like to be part of that by sharing your wonderful stories and, should crisis come your way, helping you craft responsible, effective communications.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
We at IVY understand that you are heavily burdened with concern for your senior community or senior services business during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that you are worried about the health and well-being of your residents, staff, and the future of your prospects going forward.
We realize that you’re working tirelessly to keep your operations as safe, secure and “normal” as possible – not only in a physical sense, but emotionally, psychologically and spiritually as well. We’re working hard to do the same.
We know, too, that even amidst grave fear and uncertainty, you still have great stories to tell, moments big and small that make you proud of your community and grateful to all who make you who you are, who you’ve always been, and who you’ll continue to be for years to come.
Even as we are being bombarded by dizzying messages from news and social media, government agencies, politicians, even our friends and family, we must remember to stop. And breathe. And believe that our happy stories will outlive and outlast these challenging times.
Sharing good news will also positively impact your sales now and in the future. Show and tell about your fabulous community, your joyful residents and staff. Convey the innovative ways you’re keeping your seniors virtually and emotionally close, while practicing safe social distancing and sheltering in place. These accounts will engage and inspire prospects and foster trust in your community.
We encourage you to share these good things now – as they’re happening. Tell your positive news, show your fun pictures and videos. Because in the long run, and especially now when we need it most, good wins.
Backed by 30 years of experience in marketing, public relations and crisis communications in the senior housing and services arena, the IVY team is here for you. We can help you identify, create and earn multi-media coverage of your best stories. We can also help you respond effectively to actual or risk of crisis in your community with our new product, ResponderHub™, the first crisis communications solution designed specifically for the senior living and services industry.
Together, we can remind the world why you do what you do, and why it matters. Now more than ever.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
Our mothers’ advice to wash our hands has taken center stage in a way that we never dreamed – or wished – possible. In this unprecedented time of coronavirus, “wash your hands” is a key piece of advice from health departments across the globe. It is also the reason hand soaps and sanitizers are AWOL on most store shelves.
We’re all washing our hands, over and over, and over again. For at least 20 seconds. We know the importance of removing germs, not touching our faces, being cautious of the people and things with which we come into contact.
But we didn’t always.
The evolution of cleanliness and hand sanitizing is quite storied, beginning around 400 B.C., with various highs and lows throughout history. Quarantine of sick people was the norm in ancient Israel. In the first century, Romans treated wounds with natural antiseptics like vinegar and thyme oil. In ancient Babylon, those who were ill were laid out in the streets so that people could stop by and give them advice.
But as late as the 19th century, hygienic practices in hospital settings were abysmal. Medical students would go from dissecting a cadaver to delivering a baby – with no hand sanitizing or sterilization whatsoever!
Enter Hungarian doctor Ignaz Semmelweis, who was horrified by the rate at which expectant mothers at his Viennese hospital were dying from puerperal sepsis, or “childbed fever.”
Dr. Semmelweis’ “aha moment” came when he made the connection between handling dead and living tissue with no hand sanitizing beforehand. In response, he implemented a hand washing program at the hospital and insisted that anyone in contact with a pregnant woman use a chlorinated solution first.
The good doctor’s discovery saw impressive results: mortality rates went from 18.3 percent in April 1847 to 1.9 percent in August of that year.
However, despite compelling evidence, Dr. Semmelweis’s theory was not well received by his contemporaries. That seems astonishing given what we know today, but at the time, scientific opinion was that most illnesses were caused by an imbalance of the body’s basic humors. Thus, practices like leeching and bloodletting were common.
While Semmelweis spent 14 long years developing and lobbying for his ideas, he didn’t live to see popular acceptance of them. Fortunately for us, other medical and scientific forerunners (like Joseph Lister, Louis Pasteur and Florence Nightingale) came to the same conclusions about hand hygiene and sanitization. Dr. Semmelweis was posthumously regarded as a pioneer in the germ theory of disease.
So, here we are. Inundated by the “infodemic” of 24-hour news coverage of COVID-19, we find ourselves frightened…and confused…and inconvenienced.
As we navigate the ever-changing landscape of our current situation, washing our hands constantly as we go, let us be grateful for the advances made in sanitation and the ability to each do our own part in fighting this virus.
Let us also virtually join hands in love and support of one another. We’re all in this together, and together we’ll get through it.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US
The phenomenon known as the coronavirus has confirmed the importance of fast, effective, informed, and impactful crisis communications management.
Just one short month ago, none of us had ever heard of COVID-19, let alone thought, talked, and read about it endlessly. Now, it’s trending on our news feeds as we go to bed at night and when we wake up in the morning. It’s the top story on news programs on every network and streaming service, every hour of the day. It’s the top headline in newspapers and trending on social media.
The sheer power and speed of news and social media have taken a previously unknown malady and made it an international sensation.
Some of the information that is being shared is accurate, informative, and helpful, providing tips on how to decrease the likelihood of contracting the infection.
Much of the information is frightening and likely to cause unnecessary anxiety and even panic.
Never before has crisis communications management been more important.
It’s a delicate balance.
• When to communicate
o Too early and you may not have the facts
o Too early and you may create undue fear
o Too late and you won’t appear to be in charge
oToo late and damage may have been done
On time and you show that you’re informed, engaged, and transparent.
• What to communicate
o too little information and you won’t appear to be informed
o too much information and you might be more confusing and frightening than helpful
The right information shows that you are knowledgeable, confident, and have a handle on the situation.
• How to communicate
If you’re sharing information to prevent, prepare, or respond to a crisis, it’s important. And you want to make sure you reach all stakeholders in an effective and efficient way that’s prompt, permits interaction and documentation if necessary and that’s HIPAA-compliant and cloud-based.
As leaders in the “when,” “what” and “how” of crisis communications management, IVY Marketing Group is proud to introduce ResponderHub™.
IVY Marketing Group has 30 years of experience in public relations in the senior living industry. ResponderHub™ reflects our unparalleled expertise, as it provides a step-by-step action plan for any incident, crisis, or negative news in a HIPAA-compliant, cloud-based platform.
Don’t wait for the next crisis. Contact IVY Marketing today, for more information on ResponderHub™. Visit www.ResponderHub.net, or call 630-790-2531.
ResponderHub™ is the first crisis communications solution designed specifically for the senior living and services industry. It is a product of IVY Marketing Group, a 30-year veteran in marketing and public relations, specializing in senior housing and services. IVY’s team of professionals also manage crisis response and are certified in content marketing and crisis communications by the Public Relations Society of America. In addition, they are media trained and educated in crisis communications by the Institute of Crisis Management. IVY has received multiple national awards for excellence in content marketing, web and print design.
Imagine the embers of a fire. They’re not a scorching blaze; they don’t make much noise. They can last for hours, placidly glowing along. Now imagine something catches one of those embers – maybe a gust of wind or a piece of cloth. What happens? Whoosh! Flames rage and, uncontained, threaten to burn the place down.
These embers are very like the warning signs of a smoldering business crisis. They’re likely to blow up if we don’t snuff them out.
Smoldering crises are fueled by such factors as impropriety, mismanagement, whistleblowing, negligence, scandal, and more. One real-life example of a smoldering crisis is when a faulty ignition switch caused engines in GM vehicles to turn off and prevented airbags from deploying. The defect resulted in four fatalities and the recall of nearly three million cars.
Sadly, the crisis and resulting blow to GM’s reputation and financial prospects could have been prevented. In 2001, eight years before GM filed for bankruptcy due to the crisis, the company detected the defect. Four years after that, GM rejected a proposal to fix it because it would take too long and cost too much.
Smoldering crises are typically internal to the organization and almost always the result of human behavior. Poor decision-making, bad or questionable actions, unclear communication, mixed messages, and a less than transparent office culture are all factors in the buildup of crisis. When they come to the public’s attention, smoldering crises can cause serious – sometimes irreparable – damage to an organization’s reputation, business operations, marketing efforts and financial viability.
Smoldering crises are also the most common kind; in fact, two-thirds of all business crises are this type. Unlike a natural disaster or terror attack for which a company could not reasonably be faulted, smoldering crises are largely avoidable. Therefore, they are subject to intense scrutiny and blame when they come to light.
We spoke earlier of warning signs of a smoldering crisis. Often, these signs are conditions of which employees are already aware but may be hesitant to mention to upper management. Here are some indications that your business may be the ideal breeding ground for crisis, provided by the Institute for Crisis Management (by whom the IVY team is certified in crisis communications and media training).
Fearful silence. Too often, management defaults to “shoot the messenger,” either overtly or inadvertently blaming those who bring potentially damaging issues to their attention. This creates a toxic culture of fear, rather than empowerment, among those who might otherwise be useful agents in preventing crisis.
Not my problem. It’s easy to defer and deflect responsibility, passing a problematic issue from desk to desk rather taking control of the situation once and for all.
Mixed messages. When a company creed doesn’t match its actions, messages throughout the organization become muddled and standards break down. For example, if “customers first” is the mantra but management doesn’t prioritize consumers’ needs or adequately address their pain points, the potential for crisis is great.
Groupthink. You’re in a staff meeting, and someone suggests an idea you think is a poor one – for valid reasons. But everyone else says it’s a good idea, either because they really believe it or they’re reluctant to disagree with the group mentality. Coined by a Yale researcher, that’s “Groupthink,” and it can create a culture of self-censorship and fear of ostracization. The unfortunate result is a squelching of concerns that could ultimately lead to crisis.
Scandal. Sexual harassment, embezzlement, misappropriation of funds, mistreatment…it’s the stuff of drama, but it’s also very real in the business realm. The juicy gossip that fuels social media is a giant leap on the path to crisis.
Senior housing is an industry that is particularly vulnerable to crisis. In fact, 75 percent of all crises in senior living communities are smoldering. What’s more, out-of-court lawsuits average $750,000; 95 percent of all crises are the result of human error; 75 percent of the industry is infected with Malware; one in 10 elders suffers from abuse; and 3.5 million more workers will be needed to serve the Baby Boom generation. Yikes!
The good news is, proper preparation and training can stop a building crisis in its tracks, and even if crisis does occur, reasonable response to it on the part of company spokespeople and others can do a lot to contain reputational and financial damage.
IVY Marketing Group has developed the first crisis communications solution designed specifically for senior housing. Called ResponderHub™, this cloud-based, HIPAA-compliant tool helps those employed in senior living and services prepare for, prevent, and respond to crisis.
Find out how our team of experts, trained and certified by the Public Relations Society of America and the Institute for Crisis Management, can help you snuff out those smoldering embers – before they explode.
Visit us today at Ivy Marketing Group and ResponderHub or call us at 630-790-2531.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
By 2020, customer service will override price and product as the key differentiating factor among brands, according to research from the end of last year.
Welcome to the here and now. At the dawn of this new decade, there are some very compelling statistics to substantiate the fact that consumers are more interested in great customer service and buyer experiences than low prices and high quality. Certainly, cost and quality are still important, but consider these ten truths about today’s American consumer:
Ten Truths about Today’s Consumer
- 90 percent consider customer service a key factor in doing business with a company.
- Almost half switched brands due to poor customer service.
- Nearly 75 percent stay loyal to a brand because of excellent customer service.
- 77 percent would recommend a brand because of a single positive experience, while 78 percent backed out of a purchase due to poor customer service.
- It takes 12 positive customer service experiences to make up for one bad one.
- 79 percent of American internet users are on Facebook. 35 percent of them post negative comments about a brand; 53 percent post positive comments.
- Half don’t believe their customer service feedback goes to anyone who can do anything about it.
- Increasing customer retention by just 5 percent can increase profits by as much as 95 percent.
- On average, customer service agents ask for customers’ names only 21 percent of the time.
- 90 percent consider a quick response to a question or issue very important.
While customer service is crucial in every industry, it’s even more so in the highly competitive, high-stakes arena of senior housing. With the Baby Boomers poised to move into senior housing in droves within the next ten years, the need for outstanding consumer experiences has never been greater. Three and a half million more workers will be needed to serve them. Even today, senior housing lawsuits average $750,000 – out of court! – and 95 percent of all crises are the result of human error. One in 10 elders suffers from abuse, and the risk of litigation stands only to increase.
Social media allows every citizen to comment however they please about their buyer experiences. That’s either good or bad news for a bubble gum brand; consider the influence such instantaneous feedback has on an industry as emotionally laden as care and housing of our beloved seniors!
A guide about customer service in senior housing outlines the benefits, among others, of exceptional customer service in senior housing:
- Maintains or improves community’s good reputation
- Increases resident census
- Decreases risk of lawsuits
- Improves employee retention and creates pride among staff
- Invites community contributions
- Inspires medical and other personnel to recommend community
- Builds confidence in loved ones and family members
There are just far too many choices for consumers in this space to give their business to any provider but the best. The quality of customer service is the entrée into the competition from the get-go.
Let’s look specifically at numbers 9 and 10 again on the list of ten truths about today’s consumer above. These factors are especially key in the senior housing arena. Case study evidence from call monitoring shows that far too often, incoming calls are not answered at all, much less responded to in a timely fashion. Furthermore, names of callers are sometimes not attained, or the needs of the caller are not adequately assessed at the time of inquiry.
The same can be said of queries and engagements that come through one’s website. A dynamic, responsive website is the gateway to the success of any brand. It is also where opportunities to connect, inform, intrigue, gather data, answer questions, and more are rife. Too often, however, these opportunities are not properly seized.
The time to engage a potential buyer of any product or service is from the very first point of contact. That’s when the journey begins, and we all know what they say about first impressions. They really are everything.
At IVY Marketing, our team of specialists in the senior housing industry are certified by the Public Relations Society of America in content marketing and crisis communications and media trained and educated in crisis communications by the Institute of Crisis Management. We are also developing the first crisis communications solution, Responderhub™, specifically for senior housing.
We understand the implications of customer service and how it can help – or harm – your brand. Let us help you put your best foot forward on the all-important consumer journey. After all, we’ve been practicing excellent customer service for nearly 30 years!
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.