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.
The holidays is a natural time to take stock of our relationships. While horror stories and jokes abound regarding tension and awkwardness around the extended family table, by and large this is a time for counting our blessings—people first among them.
Consider, for example, the release of the movie “Wonder,” starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, on November 17, a week before Thanksgiving. The film highlights human compassion and acceptance and is already proving to be a great cinematic choice for the entire family.
Good relationships are popular themes this time of year, when good will is at the forefront of our minds and hearts. Good relationships are also a lot like good public relations.
While the practice of public relations has significantly evolved since its emergence in the early 1900s, its basic principles remain the same. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) holds its members to these core values:
- Advocacy: acting as responsible advocates for the people and organizations PR professionals represent
- Honesty: adhering to the highest standards of accuracy and truth
- Expertise: continuing professional development, research and education
- Independence: providing objective counsel to those represented, while being accountable for one’s actions
- Loyalty: being faithful to those represented
- Fairness: respecting all opinions and supporting the right of free expression
We don’t have to look too hard to see that each of these values closely parallels the attributes of healthy personal relationships.
Good friends and family will always go to bat for loved ones, and true friends will tell us the truth, whether we like it or not (family seems to be especially good at it!).
On the surface, expertise is not immediately relateable to human relationships, but consider how parents are continually studying up on how best to raise their children; spouses sometimes go to marriage counseling or on couples’ retreats, and if someone we care for has a problem or concern, we often find ourselves on the Internet looking for information and answers to help them out.
Providing objective counsel to friends and, particularly, family can be difficult, as so much of ourselves is invested in these relationships. But there is tremendous value in stepping back and taking one’s self out of the equation. When this isn’t possible, the best approach can be to encourage a loved one to seek neutral counsel from an outside party or offer to search reputable resources or advice on their behalf.
Loyalty is a no-brainer in maintaining healthy personal relationships, as are fairness and support of our friends’ and family’s feelings and opinions.
Let’s also consider this statement from the website of the Museum of Public Relations in New York City: “Words cannot be unsaid.” No truer words were ever written. The site’s blurb is referring to William Henry Vanderbilt, who infamously said “The public be damned” to a reporter who confronted Vanderbilt with the people’s resentment of his railroad monopoly. Oops.
Few of us haven’t said something we wish we could shove back into our mouths, never to have been uttered. How many relationships have been damaged by such words? And what amount of effort and energy has been expended in repairing the damage? Sometimes, the effort isn’t made, or not properly made, and the relationship crumbles for good.
This, too, can happen in public relations, if not carefully and ethically implemented.
Not long after Vanderbilt’s verbal offense, public relations expert and “The Father of Modern Public Relations” Ivy Lee declared to city newspaper editors that “The public shall be informed.” Lee also helped John D. Rockefeller’s public image change from a “vilified oil baron” to a beloved philanthropist. Ah, the power of good PR.
Today, PR is primarily about engaging audiences, rather than simply informing them. Again, the parallels to human relationships are unmistakable. No real relationship can be sustained without engagement from all involved. It’s interesting to note here that the word “engagement” is most commonly used to convey a couple’s intention to spend the rest of their lives together.
The more public relations professionals look at relationships with their audiences or clients like treasured friends and family, the more all parties will gain from the interpersonal connections.
Let our team of experts show you how combining the values of ethical PR with the hallmarks of good personal relationships amounts to meaningful communications worth knowing about and engaging in.
A very Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
If ever there was a time when trust in the media has eroded, it is now. “Fake news” is everywhere, and people are more aware than ever that what they’re reading or hearing may not actually be true. According to a September 2016 Gallup poll, Americans’ trust in mass media’s ability to accurately report the news has dropped to its lowest level in history.
So, where does that leave PR, the industry charged with creating positive public image?
According to media expert Sarah Clark, PR is “becoming more effective than it’s ever been. What most people fail to understand is that the internet has opened new ways for organizations to engage with people authentically and directly.”
Has it ever. PR professionals have multiple channels and means through which to establish and maintain brand and reputation: websites, content marketing, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), white papers, case studies, email campaigns, blog posts, slide shows, videos, infographics, interactive marketing, data analysis, and the list goes on.
But we must be oh-so-careful. While there is much room for growth in public relations, there is infinite room for doubt. Social media algorithms allow today’s consumers to self-select which news will best support their views. They can also read hundreds of reviews from real people willing and able to share their opinions. Even the casual browser can smell a spin from a mile away – and perpetuate one just as easily.
In whom can we trust? While that question is daunting, there is a silver lining for PR. What better time is there than now to stand out as ambassadors of truth amidst the clatter and clutter of fake news? The current atmosphere is rife with opportunity. We must take it!
But how? While it may seem easy – just tell the truth – getting people to recognize the truth is a lot more complicated these days. Here are some tips to help your PR shine above the muddy waters of fake news:
- Believe yourself. Let’s start with the seemingly obvious notion that marketers should believe their own messages. If you don’t wholeheartedly have faith, 100 percent in your soul, in what you’re telling others, nor will anyone else. Duh, you say? Consider the case of a popular cell phone’s claim that its next version was twice as fast and half the price, an assertion that even the company knew was inaccurate and, ultimately, landed them in court.
- Micro-target your audience. Complicated algorithms easily allow consumers to self-choose which messages they’re exposed to, creating a climate of “tribal persuasion.” It is more essential than ever to know your audience and speak to them directly and individually, sometimes creating several different messages for different groups. Your marketing team can help you leverage consumer data and demographics to identify like-minded people and create truthful messages that will resonate with them, based on their core values and frames of reference. You’re not “buying in” to their belief systems; you’re tapping in to them to reach and engage them more meaningfully.
- Know your audience, literally. Take every opportunity possible to personally meet and get to know the members of your community and their families. The more you know your current customer base, the more you can predict the needs and wants of clients in the future and how to communicate with them authentically and authoritatively. If possible, task your marketing team with face-to-face meetings, outings and interviews with the residents and staff of your community. These primary sources will add immeasurable credibility to your public relations.
- Don’t perpetuate fake news. Monitor your social media to make sure fake news is not making the rounds on your platforms, and inform your clients or associates of any bogus postings you suspect on theirs. Never allow open commenting on your platforms without administrative clearance, and block troublesome commenters or trolls.
- Check and cross check your facts and sources. Repeat. This is a fundamental principle of PR and journalism (a field which relies increasingly on PR amidst job cuts), but one that has gone woefully by the wayside in the haste to dash out “news” as quick as a click. When primary sources are not available, use reliable fact checking sites for secondary and tertiary stories or sources, or employ your marketing team to do the legwork for you.
Despite the damaging effects of fake news, PR is being consistently reinvigorated with new outlets and technology to communicate your brand and messages with dignity and truth. Your marketing team can help you explore all the possibilities.
Ivy Marketing. Come Grow With Us.
There used to be a stigma attached to PR that professionals in this arena simply “create buzz” and while that is true it’s not the sole existence of successful firms. In the past Public Relations used to be about big events, celebrity endorsements and reporter relationships. Now, it’s shifting to basing those strategic decisions on data. It was often compared with Advertising, but with its quick evolution, Ivy Marketing Group suggests that Public Relations has a major influence on many things from awareness, reputation and brand behavior, employee satisfaction, and (perhaps most importantly) driving the bottom line and building loyalty.
But how do we prove such a statement?
Measuring PR is more common in today’s business with various tracking tools for the following:
- Press Placement – Often thought of as the true ROI of Public Relations, every press placement has the ability to educate consumers and gain new sales. The impressions often result in web site visits and social media shares.
- Online Chatter – Does the company have great reviews on Yelp? Join the conversation and thank those reviewers. Are people commenting and sharing facebook posts? Be sure to actively engage and enlighten.
- Advertising Value Equivalency – These metrics help measure success and the value of a placement. It’s great for comparison purposes to show a public relations professional has covered the cost of the service and provided positive results
- Sales Leads – Did you host a great event that brought in new leads? Are the phones busy ringing the morning an article in the paper drops? On a site tour, does the potential client mention they first heard about you from a great word of mouth friend reference?
- Influencer Campaigns – Connect with industry influencers and reach out to them, in hopes of turning into brand loyalists. With these campaigns, monitor also how the influencers interact with competitors.
It’s important to utilize these to their fullest and provide results that speak to the brand’s strategic communications plans. It’s our daily mission to make Public Relations a strong force of all organizations.