The operational component of a senior living community’s brand, everything that happens inside the walls, is just as important as the external expression – their identity and communications. You often notice it when you walk through the doors. From the security guard and front desk receptionist to the dining room servers and maintenance crew – it’s attentive, it’s consistent, it’s palpable. You feel good there and it’s natural, not forced. That’s what a well-executed culture feels like.
A connection between communications and experience ensures authenticity and leads to trust between your community and consumers. Just as there is an internal and external component to your brand, there are also benefits internally and externally.
A strong brand will enhance the experience for residents, staff and family members inside the community, and a strong communications plan will spread that message to future residents who will feel it when they interact with you.
Happy residents bring referrals, and so goes the marketing cycle. There’s also a benefit to your leadership and staff. A well-defined brand and strong culture enhances employee satisfaction. Increased employee satisfaction leads to higher retention. As we all see the impending labor shortage, increased satisfaction and retention are no small feats. And beyond impacting your current staff, it can be a powerful hiring tool.
For example, if your community celebrates individuality, that should be expressed and experienced in recruiting and hiring efforts. Just as seniors and family members search for the right community, future employees search for the right employer. Today’s job market gives prospective employees more options. A community with a strong brand and culture will be an employee benefit. It’s not just about job responsibilities, benefits and salary. Share your mission, vision, values and brand – who you are as organization, what you believe in and what you work for. These intangibles make a difference in daily job satisfaction and will give you a leg up when battling for the right people.
Define and Align
Where to start takes us back to an age-old question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? In this case, which comes first – a strong brand or a strong culture? The good news is that regardless of where you start, you can end up with a strong brand experience. To make this a reality, it’s important to ensure all internal and external parts of your brand are defined and aligned.
Document your brand, so you have it for reference and can share it within your organization. This will be a good exercise to make sure your brand isn’t too broad, and it will ensure alignment and consistency. Don’t let this document gather dust in a drawer somewhere or simply exist in a frame in the lobby. Communicate it. Live it. Refer to it often in leadership and staff meetings.
From day one, a new employee should learn to understand the brand and what it means for their role. Empower your directors to translate that community brand into what it means for their department. The goal is to have it so well integrated into the pulse of the community that it’s seamless. You can do this by developing ideas and special touches that make your brand goals reality in every aspect of community life.
For example, if a community has a brand that focuses on celebrating individuality, it must be more than just a banner in the lobby that reads “We celebrate individuality.” It goes deeper. It might be that staff members get to decorate their name badges to express their individuality. It might also mean that everyone is expected to learn residents’ names and one fact about each of them.
Measure Brand Pillars
Once you have the plan in place and are training staff on your brand, it’s important to measure its success. Many communities implement resident and employee satisfaction surveys; you can also use a survey as a tool to measure your brand. Include questions that provide feedback on your specific initiatives. Add questions that measure your brand pillars.
Your brand should be seamlessly integrated into all aspects of your community. It’s at the core of who you are and what you do. Define it, communicate it, live it so that every interaction people have with you reinforces that idea. Attracting and retaining the right employees who enhance the resident life that people experience when they walk through the door delivers on the promise of the communications that attracted them. Once in place, your brand will work like a well-oiled machine to drive occupancy, enhance your community experience and set your community apart from competitors.
Learn about R.E.D. branding, our approach to brand strategy development here.