When news started to break of a novel new coronavirus early last year, none of us knew what the following months would bring. Sadly, as time progressed, it became clear that those most severely affected by COVID-19 were our elderly and vulnerable. In residential care homes and support facilities across the country, dedicated staff raced to provide the highest levels of daily care against the real and terrifying threat of introducing the virus from outside. So it’s no surprise that since the pandemic broke, worries about placing loved ones in care homes have affected confidence.
Forecast from Caterwood in December 2020, highlighted what they saw as the key challenges facing the social care sector as a result of the pandemic. Earlier predictions had been reassessed to reflect the ongoing developments in operating in a COVID-19 world. A fall in occupancy from a pre-pandemic average of 87.3% to a low point nationally of just over 79%.
But with vaccines bringing new hope, now is the time to begin the process of rebuilding confidence – and effective public relations (PR) is an important tool in doing so.
Edna Petzen, Director at Lynden Consulting explains how care providers can restore confidence in care in the aftermath of the pandemic.
What makes for good PR?
Successful PR gets your message across a range of media channels. It helps to reconstruct brand reputation and identity, which over time should convert to more clients. Prospective new residents, their families and loved ones, and stakeholders want to hear a positive message that underpins a brighter future.
PR is essentially about effective communication, and well worth doing properly. Some care facilities and developers choose to manage their PR function in-house, but many opt to work with an external agency like Lynden Consulting.
Rebuilding confidence is likely to take time, but staying connected with local communities and stakeholders, as well as the families of clients or residents is crucial. But how is this done in practice? Here are some ideas.
Engage with the media
Local media especially is a handy tool in building brand voice and recognition in the locations you operate. Your media tools may include the release of statements and good news stories, or sharing examples of what’s working well in your care facility to encourage journalists in report positive messages about it.
Social media is an effective tool to get your message directly to your prospective clients and stakeholders. Perhaps you’ve recently launched a new service at your care facility, won a prestigious award or achieved an outstanding outcome. Shout about it on your social media channels.
Alongside regular updates to social media, many care providers also print or email interested parties regular news either using newsletters, email or letters. Regular communication brings real value by reflecting the personal nature of your brand whilst strengthening your connection with your clients, their families and key stakeholders.
Print is not dead In a digital age it is easy to overlook the importance of printed collateral.
Printable materials or those that can be downloaded online are ideal for passing on detailed information about your services to prospective clients. Well-designed brochures or booklet can give customers confidence in your brand and encourage them to find out more.
On-site visits For some types of services there is still a need for site visits at premises. You can still run these safely by adhering to good infection prevention and control measures to give new clients and their families the chance to look around your facilities. Contact with staff in person can help put peoples’ mind at ease whilst providing the opportunity for more intimate discussions to be had.
Measurable outcomes Resist the temptation of only seeing PR as sending out press releases, there’s so much more to it than that. By measuring the outcome of your PR you can use the insights to make more accurate decisions about your marketing and communication efforts in future. You’ll know for certain what works and what doesn’t, to allow you to tweak your efforts to be more effective.
Measuring your PR successes (and failures) can be tricky, which is why many care providers choose to work with companies like Lynden Consulting. Not only will you end up with a more efficient PR strategy for the years to come, but you’ll arm yourself with the data you need to strengthen your brand as we adapt to a post-COVID world.