By Susan Saldibar

If this pandemic is a “war”, then how are your fireside chats going? Because now, more than ever, is the time to be providing a good, steady stream of communication with residents, staff, and family members. Better yet, to broaden the net to include the greater community – future residents and families. Communicating, interacting, encouraging. That’s how you win this kind of war.

Debra Gawet, Social and Digital Content Strategist Supervisor for Sage Age Strategies (a Senior Living Foresight partner) has been putting a steady stream of communication out to their clients to encourage them to wake up and start connecting with residents, staff, families, and prospects. And it’s easier in today’s world because we have the tools right at our fingers to build an authentic conversation that reaches well beyond our doors to bring encouragement and hope.

It’s also important to note that people out there want to hear from you. Debra shared an interesting statistic with me. 40% of all consumers look to social media to stay up to date on news. And, it goes without saying, everything going on with coronavirus and how your brand handles it is news these days.

I asked Debra how senior living marketers can get their wheels turning after being virtually paralyzed by not knowing what to say and how to say it. Here are her suggestions:

  1. Stop sitting it out in denial. “There is a tendency to ‘hunker down’ and wait this out,” Debra says. “By going dark, you are leaving prospective residents and families to come to their own conclusions; either that you are overcome by coronavirus or that you don’t want any new business.”
  2. Communicate daily. And that doesn’t count communicating internally to staff. Debra urges communities to push their communications outward to include families of residents and, just as important, to the greater community. That means putting meaningful posts out there that educate, engage, and bring families of residents and prospects through your doors. And, use the “rule of thirds” to make sure you have a balanced mix of 1) internal content, 2) content from other sources, and 3) interactive content.
  3. Interact daily. And do it with authenticity and transparency. Review your social media channels at least a few times per day for comments and questions that may pop up by interested family members or prospective residents. “Posting regularly is important, but some fail to realize that once a post is live, the brand has an opportunity to demonstrate effective community management,” Debra says. “You must interact with that person once they comment on a post. Whether it’s a prospect, an individual from the community, a caregiver, or friend of the resident, you must reciprocate and engage in social listening. This is how social authenticity and trust is developed.”
  4. Grow your content library daily. Little of this is possible without building a healthy supply of content. Interviews with residents and staff, useful third-party content and regular updates as to what you’re doing at your community to keep residents and staff safe and still engaged; these are just some ideas as to content that builds engagement and trust.
  5. Build brand consistency, across all media channels. “Whether developing copy for a post or responding to a notification or message, it’s crucial to include a consistent tone across all social channels,” Debra says. “And, because the community represents a brand, it’s important to show empathy, understanding and ensure that authenticity is exhibited.”

Once you get your social machine going on all cylinders, you have to keep it going, long after we’ve kicked coronavirus to the curb. “My concern isn’t so much to get people posting daily,” Debra explains. “It’s that communities will slump back into their old ways of not posting, or just posting sporadically. The key is to keep this going.”

And, Debra believes, there is much to learn from these challenging times about the value of communication. “It’s important to evaluate your current social media tactics now more than ever,” she says. “As digital marketing efforts shift and the focus on social media becomes more heavily weighted, a senior living community’s presence will be even more closely evaluated by caregivers, prospects, and the local community. For this reason, it’s crucial to ensure that tactics and messaging accurately reflect the organization’s mission and values. Don’t distance yourself from your social media tactics during the time of social distancing. Stay connected and social.” Those who do will be rewarded with a stronger community and take more of a leadership role in the greater community.

For more information about Sage Age Strategies, please visit their website.