Effective Crisis Communications for the Seniors Housing Industry

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We’re in the midst of an unprecedented, global crisis and the impact COVID-19 is having on all our lives changes daily.

Were you prepared?

 

How are you handling your crisis communications?

 

What are others doing (effectively)?

These are all questions we’ve fielded from clients over the past few weeks and, odds are, you’ve asked yourself or been asked the same questions. Our team has been vigorously monitoring the marketing landscape, keeping a close eye on industry predictions, and working collaboratively with clients to help navigate their messaging and crisis communication strategies behind the situation. And, as a result of this, we have compiled these recommendations for the CCRC industry.

1: Member Communications and Planning

Clients and other CCRCs alike have implemented a number of precautionary operational measures throughout their communities – including the following communication tactics:

  • Weekly operational updates to members and members’ families via email
  • Onsite video stations to facilitate regular face-to-face communication between members and their loved ones. Implement an Activity Director to help organize and assist with scheduling these virtual visits.
  • Finessed messaging on all mediums, including website, email and social media, to exhibit awareness and transparency throughout this pandemic
  • Daily correspondence via emails and printed newsletters to members that include a variety of activities to keep them occupied, uplifted and inspired – also falls under the new responsibilities of the Activity Director.

2: Crisis Communication: Pre-Planning

A general principle when dealing with a matter of public health and safety is to be proactive. You never want a situation where potential harm could have been avoided. Some best practices in crisis communication pre-planning are as follows:

  • Develop relevant messaging now for both internal and external audiences pre-crisis and templates for post-crisis
  • Identify your crisis team(s) and specific assignments and roles so that you’re ready to act in a timely manner when the time comes
  • Compile a list of contacts, both internally and externally, and share/post them across all relevant personnel, stations, and common areas for quick reference
  • Outline a digital communications plan comprehensive of best practices and guidelines – making it available to all members, staff and families
  • Make sure your team has the facts and is properly educated on COVID-19, and stays current on changing information as new developments break. Assign team leaders to this task and encourage frequent information sharing across crisis team(s).
  • Stand together in a united front. Make sure the entire team is on the same page with frequent communications and regroups to put forward a united front regarding what you are doing, what the backup plans are and what your processes are, etc.
  • Communicate openly and frequently. Keep members and families updated frequently with honest, relevant, authentic and consistent communications.
  • Consistently convey key points:
    -Your communities are the right place to be at this time. Members are isolated from the general population and are SAFE.
    -You are open for business and operating as normal to ensure they are cared for.
    -Everyone is united to get through this together.
  • Connectivity is a continued priority. You are focused on connecting members and families throughout this crisis through virtual applications, opportunities and other technologies (FaceTime, Zoom, etc.)
  • Be seen as a trusted resource. Make sure members and families see you as a trusted resource and that you are a neighbor to them – here to help where you can. Share the details to further enhance their confidence in you for their continued health and wellbeing.
  • Spread positivity daily. Let members, families and prospects know about the positive work you are doing every day and the impact it has on seniors. The work is important and so are the workers who continuously go above and beyond to make sure residents are cared for.

3: Crisis Communication: Illness Confirmation

Several CCRCs are taking the following stance when cases are confirmed:

  • Communicate quickly and transparently. Time is not on your side in controlling information and the narrative. Therefore, a timely disclosure of facts to members, families, staff and the public is critical for your reputation.
  • Prioritize internal communication. Communicate to members, families and staff first – nothing undermines your communication strategy more than when your inner community learns things from an external source. Ensure that there is a seamless and immediate way for these groups to receive information.
  • Develop a cooperative rapport with media. Designate one media spokesperson, respect deadlines, prepare strict speaking points that allow you to control the narrative and reiterate the message you want to convey. “No comment” is not a good comment!
  • Assume everything is public. Know that any internal memo to staff or members can, and likely will, get into the hands of the media. Treat all information as though it were public and be consistent and constant with your messaging across internal and external audiences.
  • Plan for ongoing communications. Consistent and frequent updates will be expected and this simple act, while it requires discipline, goes a long way in garnering trust and quelling panic
  • Respond to ALL inquiries on social media. While time-consuming, it is crucial to dispel misinformation and show that your organization is responsive and transparent.

Although these tips do not represent an exhaustive list, we hope that they help lay the foundation for a proactive crisis communication strategy and that you can implement them in the support and management of your community’s reputation during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Stay safe, stay healthy…and remember, we’re #InThisTogether.

If you would like a copy of this presentation to share with your team, please complete the form below to access a PDF of these tactics.

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Still have questions or want to know more? Set up a quick chat with Vince Vitti here and he’ll be happy to speak to you directly.

 

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