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Going the Distance: Marketing and Communicating in the Shadow of COVID-19



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COVID-19 is a challenge that every business in every industry will have to navigate in its own unique way.

The Creating Results team partnered with AKCG – Public Relations Counselors to present practical recommendations for senior living communities as they continue their marketing and communications efforts in the midst of a global concern. During this webinar, you’ll learn how to:
• Respond to an immediate crisis, both internally and externally
• Prepare for reputational risks posed by the COVID-19 concern
• Adapt your messaging to prospects, where to advertise to them and how to connect with prospects during this period of “social distancing”
• Make adjustments to service line allocations to better meet business needs

Chris Lukach, President, AKCG - Public Relations Counselors
Kimberly Hulett, President, Creating Results
Melissa Caravella, Vice President, Client Services, Creating Results

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Going the Distance: Marketing and Communicating in the Shadow of COVID-19

  1. 1. The webinar will begin shortly.
  2. 2. Kimberly Hulett President Creating Results Melissa Caravella VP, Client Services Creating Results Chris Lukach President AKCG – Public Relations Counselors
  3. 3. Today’s Session • Communications: – Responding to immediate crisis – Reputational risks in coming weeks – Internal communications – Thought leadership • Marketing: – Assessing and pivoting marketing strategies – Highlighting the benefits of community living – Other considerations • Q&A
  4. 4. Communications
  5. 5. Managing the moment • Continued expectation of COVID-19 notifications • Look to your Department of Health for guidance • Focus on action you’re taking OR asking of the audience • You’ve got a confirmed case … so what are you doing about it? • Commit to a culture of transparency • In this particular moment, it is nearly impossible to over communicate • Commit to communicating, even when we have very little to say
  6. 6. Reputational risk: the next round • What reputational risks might we face in the coming weeks? • Allegations of negligence • Allegations of lack of transparency • Allegations of putting employees/residents in undue risk • Restricting access to families in end-of-life moments • Lack of preparedness (e.g., insufficient supplies, improper quarantine/triage measures) • How can we plan for these scenarios?
  7. 7. Don’t forget your internal audiences • Remember: Your front-line and direct-care workers are your most effective ambassadors or most powerful detractors • Communicate regularly and transparently with your staff to reduce uncertainty and rumors – Communicate policy changes – Communicate plans to help reduce sense of exhaustion and isolation • Be sympathetic and compassionate; show humanity – Find ways to more personal ways to connect than just via letter • Be mindful any internal messaging may end up in the media
  8. 8. Keep the thought leadership flame lit • Media are distracted, so what can you do? • Focus on longer-lead opportunities – Op/eds and bylined articles do not over-tax a flooded media – Focus on how you are living and embodying your values, even in crisis – Focus on how you are continuing to provide a rich, high-touch experience, even when embattled by outside factors – Media will tell us when it’s time to go back to normal … be ready
  9. 9. Marketing
  10. 10. Assessing Current Marketing • Pull complete inventory of all ads in market – Print, digital, broadcast/outdoor, etc. – Any automated marketing materials (e.g., email drip or triggered emails) – Website, including calls to action and thank you pages • Review service line/product, viability of placement and relevance of message
  11. 11. Assessing Current Marketing 1. Service line allocations 2. Marketing placements 3. Messaging BEFORE AFTER
  12. 12. Meeting People Where They Are • Digital, digital, digital: – Organic social media – Email – Display
  13. 13. Meeting People Where They Are • Traditional placements: – TV/OTT (streaming) – Radio/music streaming services (e.g., Pandora)
  14. 14. Meeting People Where They Are • Messaging/content: – Changing calls to action • Offering virtual meetings/events • Live streaming activities/Q&As – Addressing financial concerns/benefits: • EFs/refundability • Locking in current market rates • Gaining access to equity while real estate market is good/interest rates are low
  15. 15. Meeting People Where They Are • Messaging/content: – Demonstrate empathy/concern – Highlighting benefits of community living: • Accessibility of activities even in current situation • Availability of food/supplies without leaving community • Onsite/immediate access to health care providers and other staff who can help
  16. 16. Other Considerations • Depositor/waitlist retention • Future move-ins • Online application and deposit capabilities • Re-qualifying applications
  17. 17. Additional Help • Free strategy/marketing review session Sign up online: • To schedule a free consultation, email
  18. 18. Questions?
  19. 19. Thank you for joining us! Send any follow-up questions to: Melissa Caravella Chris Lukach


  • MC Welcome, housekeeping, Q&A Intro topic Intro speakers
  • MC
  • CL
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  • MC
    From a marketing perspective, the first thing we recommend doing is making sure you have a good handle on all your assets in market. This means collecting and taking a look at all ads – social, display, print, radio, TV, billboards, any direct mails in process and so on as well as the landing pages they might point to. Depending on your community you may have just some of these channels or all of them. Don’t forget about non-ad pieces like email or that are automatically triggered like drip emails or any marketing automation you have set up, as well as your website. The next step will be to review what you’re advertising, the placement or where you’re advertising as well as the messaging on it.
  • MC
    Service lines: Are there products or services currently not accepting new residents/admissions? For example, some of our clients aren’t accepting adult day or outpatient rehab, so we may want to allocate budget to other services for the time being, or adjust the messaging. We’ve seen for some clients that there may be increased demand for AL/PC/EL because of people who may have been relying on those services as a bridge, or who need increased support during this time.
    Placement: When we talk about the placement, we’re talking about where do your ads physically appear? If they are somewhere that people are unlikely to be (like a train station or sporting arena), are you able to negotiate pausing them or changing the run dates, or adding to your run? Is it some sort of event-related or cultural venue (like the symphony or theater)? If so, that event might not be running and you should reach out to your rep or ask your agency to if they haven’t already.
    Messaging: What are your calls to action and do they need to change? For example, if you’re asking people to request a tour, you might want to change the creative to request a virtual tour, or download some sort of content. What materials are you offering as downloads? If you can adjust to something of topical relevance – like financial benefits of your community or activities to do at home while isolated at home – you may have better results. Kimberly’s going to discuss this in more detail in a few slides.

  • MC
    As we all know, most people are home and that means they are on their phones, on their computers – they are looking at Facebook, they are googling, they are on news websites, they are checking email, they’re listening to music. When we look at the performance from the first half of March compared to the first half of February, we see that there is a big opportunity for organic social media – organic meaning the posts that your organization makes that aren’t ads. Clicks through to your website from organic social are up 156%, and they are looking at more pages than usual each visit and staying on your website almost 50% longer. When you’re considering what to post, remember what Chris said and choose to highlight topic information. How are you enhancing residents’ lives? How are you serving the wider community? Those things are going to be received much better than purely promotional content, or announcements about awards or things that have a promotional tone.

    From email, it’s an almost 300% increase in sessions to your site – meaning people clicking through to visit your site. While on a percentage basis the pages/session and session duration is lower, on an absolute basis it’s a much higher volume. From a paid perspective, we see people are engaging with display ads – those that appear on websites around the web. 41% more people seeing the ads (impressions) and 55% more clicks, which equates to 10% increase in CTR – of the people who are seeing the ads, 10% more are engaging with them. The benchmark CTR for this tactic is .46% -- and right now performance is close to double.
  • MC
    While there isn’t yet a lot of data on the increase in TV/radio/music, we know from historical information that during crisis events, be it snowstorms, hurricanes or a global pandemic, media users ramp up their media consumption to stay informed, kill time, find solace and stay in touch with others. Here’s some information about TV use during 2 such events -- Nielsen analyzed total TV usage data during a major snowstorm in January 2016 and Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Not surprisingly, total TV usage increased significantly during both occasions. 
    Comparing the Saturday of the snow event to the prior Saturday in the New York market, TUT usage was 45% higher.

    For Hurricane Harvey a Nielsen analysis of that market found a 56% increase of TUT use compared with the preceding period and 40% higher than the period following the storm.

    So for placements – look at not only traditional TV, but also streaming services like YouTube or Hulu, particularly for younger Boomers or adult children. Similarly, radio and music streaming – we see more older adults using Pandora vs. Spotify.
  • KH

    So, Melissa talked about where to focus your marketing, I’ll now focus on messaging content.

    First you’ll want to make sure, as Chris already discussed, that your messaging is realistic to the situation. Hiding from it, continuing a hard push, not acknowledging it will not resonate. Second, people ARE at home. There is no time like the present to connect your call-outs and be resource, share the benefits our field and what you are doing for your residents, re-install confidence in their decision.

    Messaging: aligning CTA’s with what is being allowed/offered at your community; virtual consultations/meetings, video tours, webinars. Google hang-out, zoom, other meeting places, GoTo meeting, Facebook Live, etc. When doing this, leverage your website, videos, photo montages, the resources your community is providing their residents, resident testimonials.

    Regarding financial concerns, we can leverage lessons from past economic, albeit simpler, crisis: (2008) those who leaned into the issue and didn’t shy away from it came out least unscathed.

    People are going to be scared of what’s going on with their investments and you can help them understand the value and stability your community offers. We can’t promise improved returns, but we can offer stability, value for their dollar and protecting their assets and having their money work for them, planning for the future (if this were ever seasonal….). EF communities have an advantage, especially if their EF’s have refundability. That will protect their assets and go back to estate or family, while ensuring and protecting for market rates (for Type A and Type B contracts) for future care. Community, supplies, healthcare.

    Also leverage the ability to access equity in the real estate market today.
  • KH

    This is an opportunity to further develop personal connections, show interest and support AND to overcome reputational/media risk. We knew even before this crisis that regardless of our industry nomenclature, the general public still affiliates our CCRC’s, IL, AL with nursing homes only. All of us know that in today’s day and age every care level offers more than the public perception.

    Leverage your current communal efforts to highlight the benefits of being in a community AND be a resource to the greater community and in your marketing efforts:

    Focus on the benefits existing residents are getting of going through an experience like this with others. Bring some of that reassurance forward to your prospect, depositor community when able.
    If activities being provided virtually, use those in links
    Share the activities that your lifestyle leaders are delivering to your residents with your prospects/depositors
    Remind others of the communal access and provision for food and supplies
    Leverage how the community is still providing and encouraging alternative social connection
    And the close proximity to help and known healthcare support

    Leverage testimonials that you are hearing from residents and families.
    Be a resource, through your marketing, to the general public
  • KH

    Regarding the messaging, don’t forget about existing depositors – both depositors who already have scheduled move-ins and pre-sales depositors. Current or near-term move-ins may not be able to happen, how do you retain these depositors – can you create community with them, just like we discussed for leads with virtual opportunities?

    Don’t forget that during this time of social distancing, we are seeing phone calls answered at least double the usual rate. Engage in those opportunities, going back to basics, reminding your depositors why they originally decided to call, addressing their concerns, sharing the stability of an investment in your community.

    There are also considerations to address that we can’t solve through communications, marketing or sales alone, but we will point them out here:

    What do delays in move-ins mean for contractual obligations, realized revenue?

    How long are your applications valid? Many IL’s or CCRC’s have contracts that stipulate move-in within 60-90 days of application or contract signing. In today’s times, that time period is long and could have big impact on assets reflected in original application. What is the shelf-life of your prospects application? How often do existing residents update their financials, especially in the not-for-profit world where many of us have benevolent funds and need to understand the liability we have with our populations? What is the financial impact on the community’s liability obligation with the recent financial turn of events?

    The bottom line message is that we may need to change how we are marketing, but there is a large opportunity to nurture and most importantly support those who have turned to us, enhance the reputation and perceived value of community living and leverage the value in such an investment. We have a captive audience sitting in homes and there is no better time to connect with them to position all for the future when we come out of these circumstances.

    As we wrap up in the next few minutes, I would be remiss in not acknowledging and thanking all of you for the passion and dedication with which you are serving through these difficult times. You are each doing acts of heroics every day and are field is indebted to you.
  • KH

    To that end, we want to offer some complimentary support during this time. Creating Results is offering a one-hour complimentary strategy/marketing review session. You can access and schedule your community’s session by visiting bitly slash schedulewithCR.

    Chris …
  • MC
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