When it comes to highlighting senior living communities, using a resident’s milestone as a springboard – such as celebrating the 99-turning-100-year-old – can be an easy way to insert an organization’s name in the news. But, is media relations really that simple? It shouldn’t be. Media relations is about more than “getting your name out there,” it should help achieve an organization’s strategic business objectives.
How to Avoid a Common “PR Trap”
When marketing department heads discuss media-relations efforts with their staff, they should want the work to help achieve the organization’s larger goals. Question everything. Will the media coverage contribute to sales inquiries? Boost occupancy? Attract a different mix of residents? Constantly ask whether media-outreach activities, once carried out, will achieve the goals laid out in your strategic plan. If it doesn’t, then the department’s efforts may fall into a sadly common PR trap: Getting stuck in a cycle of executing public-relations outreach for their own sake.
Just because you can secure media coverage doesn’t mean you should spend your time doing it. It is not a communicator’s job to tell every resident story, but to focus on those that are most aligned with business priorities. Leaders, after all, don’t (or shouldn’t) want their employees staying busy – they should want results.
Move the Dial
The real dial moves when media coverage influences an organization’s target audiences during the decision-making process. If a caregiver child is determining the best way to care for their aging parent, they may choose a senior living community based on their perception of an organization’s reputation. Over time, an organization’s presence in the media can help pave the road for your key audiences to act in a desired way. For example, if an organization has a well-established resident program – such as one that is experiential, facilitating resident volunteer efforts or supporting residents’ social events, clubs and committees – it may be best to focus efforts on securing media coverage about these types of programs to attract a certain type of prospective resident.
However, it is important to recognize media-relations efforts contribute to the decision-making process. Media relations alone does not increase occupancy; it is part of the marketing mix. The marketing mix – such as an online presence, media coverage and advertisements – is a combination of factors that help influence consumers to purchase products or to use a service. Therefore, communication or media-relations efforts should help influence your prospects to say, “I want my loved one to be part of that culture.”
Be Prepared With a Plan
Marketing department leaders often may find themselves being asked, “why haven’t we increased resident occupancy this quarter?” Leadership invariably will ask; be prepared to answer. When armed with a public relations plan, the department head can show executive leadership how the department’s efforts work toward a communications goal and, ultimately, support the larger organizational goals.
Let’s say a senior living community’s organizational goal is to increase referrals by 15 percent in one year. The communications team should look at previous-year data to determine the next steps. If the organization tends to predominantly secure referrals from online resources, identify ways to increase referrals from other sources, such as case managers, social workers or physicians.
To help accomplish this goal, develop a strategy that looks to increase the organization’s presence in the places where these other referral sources gather or in media outlets they consume. This could include spotlighting an organization’s experts on key topics of interest that connect with those sources. Or, identify and submit award nominations to target publications and organizations to demonstrate a leadership position and recognition in the marketplace.
Think creatively about how the right kind of coverage can help achieve the broader organizational goals through smart, purposeful work. Flashy coverage is fun, but results that propel an organization’s business goals are better. A key objective of anyone responsible for communicating for an organization is to ensure that the efforts are aligned with the business strategy.
Avoid the PR trap. Don’t get caught up in doing public-relations activities just for the sake of media coverage. Focus on the bottom line.