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Thought Leadership at the 2018 LeadingAge Annual Meeting & Expo

The LeadingAge Annual Meeting & Expo provides several opportunities to share our insights and intelligence regarding trends within the senior living industry. The premier event allows attendees to come together to exchange ideas, explore new strategies and master the latest best practices. This year, three experts took part in education sessions and lead presentations on some popular topics that have significant influence when managing a community’s reputation and awareness.

Senior Living Crisis Communications
Senior living organizations work hard to establish a community that provides quality housing, services and care for older adults. However, in the world of senior living, just like in any other business, there will most likely come a time when an issue or crisis arises. These situations need to be understood and handled properly. To effectively and efficiently manage a crisis, such as a fire, earthquake, natural disaster, union strike or tax-exemption challenges, you need to have a well-thought-out action plan in place.

Director of Public Relations Steve Wujek provided perspectives on effective communication during a crisis and guided a panel that included experts from Covia, Seniority/SQLC, and Retirement Center Management. During the session, Steve and three panelists incorporated specific examples of crisis communication plans and natural disaster preparation performed during 2018’s Hurricane Harvey and California wildfires. The presentations emphasized the importance of having a strategy in place, as a crisis and its aftermath may significantly impact people and operations at a community, and explained that proactive plans will make your crisis more manageable and may even shorten the situation’s lifespan.

Marketing to the Next Generation
As a new generation of consumers become age-qualified for senior living options, what do they really think about what communities are selling and marketing? Indications are that the baby boomer cohort is “want-driven,” which runs counter to many in the industry who’ve focused on a “need-driven” approach, and this is supported by collected research.

Research Director Ralph Novak participated in a panel discussion whose aim was to help senior living providers understand what today’s consumers really want, as well as how to better communicate their offerings to appeal to this audience and achieve greater lead generation and conversions. The presentation pulled back the curtain through a “60 Minutes” type of anonymous panel interview tactic to show attendees how community residents and baby boomers really see the senior living industry. The format combined presentation of collected consumer preference data with video clips produced throughout the year using proven research methods, along with an interactive PowerPoint to show visual examples of marketing something people WANT versus marketing something people NEED to buy.

Why Social Media Matters in Senior Living
“Social media, in my opinion, is the best channel to truly humanize a brand. This is VERY powerful – and depending on how marketers choose to use it (or not to use it), social media can leave a positive or negative experience with a user. It’s also the least controlled channel – anything goes. But that’s what makes it so real.” That was one of the key messages Brandi Towns, director of inbound strategy, conveyed during her session on how to create and implement a social media strategy.

Alongside fellow panelists from ACTS Retirement Communities, Asbury, and LeadingAge, Brandi took part in a 90-minute session that explained how social media can add value to an organization and also shared best practices for social media communications and marketing messages. Brandi explained that while social media is an effective channel for increasing brand visibility and driving leads, there are important metrics of social that aren’t directly sales-related. She added the upside of social media is the ability to engage one-to-one, shape brand preference and influence consumer behavior. An advantage senior living communities have over some other brands is the already established community of supporters and advocates – your residents and their family members and team members. This loyal community can help organically tell a community’s story, validate and amplify its reputation, and help answer potential residents’ questions.

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