Marketing teams often focus their communication efforts on external promotion. The emphasis is on activities that will yield measurable results such as scheduled tours and hospital referrals, or checking-in with hot leads and monitoring marketing ROI. However, there is another important type of communication that is often overlooked until it is too late: crisis communication.
The senior living industry is unique. Team members must juggle working in a highly emotional environment, with the ever-changing laws and regulations, and the responsibility to provide the highest quality of care. Issues requiring crisis communications are sure to arise, and it is essential every team member is aware of their responsibilities.
Examples of issues could include:
- One of your residents contacted the ombudsman, who will be visiting the community to interview team members and determine if an investigation is necessary
- There is a Norovirus outbreak
- Availability was over-communicated and two prospects are vying for one opening
- A negative review of your organization pops up online
These types of crises have the ability to impact the organization, current residents, the care team, hospital case managers, community liaisons, and prospective residents and their families. It is important to understand who needs to be communicated with, and in what form. For example, if you overpromised availability, the issue needs to be resolved one-on-one, in person. However, responding to a negative review should happen publically, online.
In a major crisis, there needs to be a specific process for which to communicate effectively. A chain of command must be established, and all team members must be aware of what steps they need to take next.
In mid- and small-scale crises, it is more beneficial to use a mix of external, internal and crisis communications. Continue your direct and internal marketing initiatives and use crisis communications as needed.
Ideally, when these scenarios arise, the marketing or operations team has a plan in place and a strategy for communicating with the effected parties. Work with your team to brainstorm possible crises and then create strategies for resolving them.
When might this occur?
Who would be involved?
What would be the immediate consequence?
What would be our first action-step?
What will this look like when it’s resolved?
Crisis communication requires a high level of preparedness; the effort put into preparation will allow your team to spend more time executing the strategy, keeping your organization’s reputation secure, and most importantly, keeping residents happy.