By Lola Rain

Face it, residents have embraced technology and want to go green by using less paper. But how, as an industry, do we adapt to residents’ preferences?

When it comes to communications, there are only a few ways to get notifications into residents’ hands and heads:

  1. Flyers, calendars, handouts, newsletters
  2. Apps
  3. In-community display boards and digital signage
  4. In-room television network
  5. Zoom
  6. Email
  7. Text messaging

If we eliminate paper altogether, we will isolate a portion of residents. Even if we increased paper usage and wallpapered a message throughout the hallways, there are still residents who just won’t see it. From low vision to cognitive issues affecting reading to they just don’t give a care, some residents will ask: “Why didn’t you tell me there is a statewide earthquake drill today at 10 a.m.?” (We told them a dozen times!)

Depending 100% on any one communication channel is a mistake.

Apps are fantastic. They offer one point of entry to manage your calendar of events — one place to go to see community updates, outings, menus, and so much more. Executives love apps! However, life enrichment directors and resident care coordinators may not feel as enthusiastic about them because apps are an additional workflow needing backup plans for when staff is out. Apps are not error-proof. Did you forget to delete the canceled outing, leaving poor Mrs. Smith waiting in the lobby to go to Walmart when the driver called in sick?

Thank goodness for the receptionist who monitors and responds to resident questions and concerns.

Digital signage is amazing! It’s right there. You cannot miss it. Sure, you may have to stand there for two to 10 minutes waiting for it to rotate through this month’s birthday photos, the menu, and upcoming special events before getting to the daily announcements. Extra points for communities who have more than one digital screen: one at reception, one next to the elevator, and one in the hallway on the way to the dining room. Bonus!

There is also nothing wrong with keeping a bulletin board in a well-trafficked area. If I had a choice between putting 100 fun photos rotating through the digital signage, or pinning those photos to a bulletin board, I’d definitely want to deck the halls with fun photos. Reminder: Flyers like “Resident Council Nominations Due Tuesday” also work well on a bulletin board. Something that is important needs to be communicated over and over and over again in different formats. Just make sure not to put the Mother’s Day brunch flyer over the earthquake drill announcement, or Mr. Anderson will have a meltdown.

Invest in your community’s TV network.

Here is an opportunity to up your communication game. Use your in-room TV network to its fullest. Luckily the pandemic taught us to share YouTube cooking videos and livestream chair exercise. Go one step further: Create video announcements for your in-room channel.

Depending on which resident engagement platform you use, your app, signage, and TV network may all be connected through one easy-to-use back-end platform. Jackpot! In this case, the announcements next to reception can be the same as the announcement on channel 99.

Expand your thinking. What else can I add to my channel?

  • A video message from the CEO
  • A special speaker on a hot topic
  • Fire drill and construction notifications: “We will be paving the driveway on Tuesday; please use the rear entrance.”

Your residents will appreciate this extra communication. And your satisfaction scores will improve.

Zoom has ups and downs.

Zoom became your best friend during the pandemic. Then you burnt out. You became exhausted of Zoom’s bipolar temperament. One week it worked great, and the next week, the default settings were all over the place, causing dozens of residents to call you wondering why they could not click once to join the call. You walked them through registering for a free account. It was more work than you thought, causing you to go home extra tired. I feel you. I’ve been there, more than once.

The good news is that Zoom and its peers (Google Meets, Microsoft Teams, FaceTime) are rather ubiquitous nowadays. Most people have experienced the video platform trauma. It’s like a self-serve lottery machine. I don’t want to use it, but it’s right there. It is easy enough to use.

At Sequoia Living, a community I work with, they offer a quarterly Zoom meeting for all staff and residents together. This gives everyone equal access to the CEO and other executives. It allows everyone to receive the same message at the same time and ask questions.

You can also offer residents monthly town halls on Zoom with the executive director. They can attend in-person in the auditorium or watch live from the comfort of their apartment. Choice. Isn’t that what we are all about?

Zoom also allows for guest speakers and experts who are not local. Remember, record those speakers, and rerun them on the in-room TV network.

You’ve got mail — if you remember the password.

Email sounds like the answer, right? Out of a thousand leads in one database, 700 have emails, but only 450 are valid and deliverable. And out of those 450, only 27% are opened. Not everyone has email, and not everyone checks their email. Be aware; do not depend 100% on email as the answer to your communication plan.

The future is text messaging.

If you have not considered texting your residents, think about it. How would that work? First, you need their cellphone numbers. You have those, right? Oh, you didn’t mark in the database whether the number is a cell or landline. I get it.

It will take a little bit of effort. Send someone around the building to update contact information, and make sure it is correct in your database. Then select a text platform that either 1) integrates with your CRM/EHR or 2) allows you to import monthly so that the numbers are up-to-date. Make sure everyone understands they are opting into text message, and select a text platform that is good for emergency notifications and regular communications.

Do not over-text your people. They will opt out, and that will defeat the purpose of all your efforts.

No matter what your communication plan is today, it’s time to re-evaluate and select the channels that make most sense for your community and your residents. You will need multiple channels in order to hit everyone, and print will most likely never make a complete exit from your building.

For more tips and best practices like this, attend Foresight’s Evolve 2023. Register today here, and use the discount code GotMail.