Cost-effective and time-efficient strategies to leverage the value of public relations for your community.
December 8, 2021
Public relations is a fantastic way for senior living communities to raise their awareness in the market through the credibility that comes through the press. At the same time, tight marketing budgets and already stretched staff bandwidth can make a potential public relations campaign seem out-of-reach.
However, there are several ways senior living communities can embark on an affordable and easy-to-implement public relations plan to help generate local and regional visibility — and, most importantly, drive occupancy. We’ll dive deeper into a few of them below.
1) Develop a simple process
While there are many routes a PR campaign can take, the best strategy for a team with limited resources to take is to keep it simple. Know from the beginning what you can and can’t do — how much time you can devote to public relations (you’ll find out that it’s harder than you think) and how much you can budget towards this type of work. That will help you formulate a manageable plan, which is the most important step to success in PR.
2) Think local, local, local
Much has been stated about the decline of regional and local news media. However, there is still a vibrant audience for this type of news — and it’s an audience filled with potential prospects interested in finding a senior living community to eventually call home.
According to Pew Research Center, an estimated 35.6 million Americans had either a print or digital subscription to a daily newspaper in 2020. A separate survey found that 24 percent of people above the age of 65 and 38 percent of those between the ages of 50-64 said they followed “local news” very closely. These findings are a good indication that local news is still alive and well and likely your greatest asset.
3) Contacting local news
It does take effort to reach out to local news outlets. While there are services that can help you quickly find contact information for reporters, the cheapest and most effective way is to scour the names of reporters at local newspapers and TV affiliates. Most newspapers (like the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) have an easy-to-access online list of reporters, what they report about, along with their contact information. Local TV stations (like WCCO-TV in the Minneapolis/St. Paul market) also have the same kind of contact information.
Where to find contact information for local publications online:
- Staff lists
- Reporter bios (often hyperlinked in articles)
- Media or advertising kits
- Newsroom general contact (this contact is often the hub for disseminating information to the appropriate reporter or writer)
- Tag news outlets or specific reporters in your social posts of local happenings at the community
However, it’s also important that you know who covers what. Research what reporters have covered the types of stories you’d like to appear in — reaching out to a sports reporter about the opening of a new community is simply wasting your time.
4) What’s a good story?
Local news outlets want news that focuses on people first. Keep that in mind when approaching reporters about a new community opening or a big happening in your community.
It’s very possible to pitch a specific news event that impacts the lives of your residents. For example, a Raleigh TV station did a quick piece about seniors at The Cardinal at North Hills receiving 150 free Amazon Echo Dots that included video of residents opening these gifts — plus a mention of how it became the first voice-enabled senior community in the country.
Another way to attract local news is by inviting the local press to an event — like this article about a Halloween visit to an equestrian center planned by a California senior community and this segment about a tea party held at Georgia community during this past Mother’s Day.
Examples of newsworthy community happenings:
- Community grand openings or campus expansions
- Promote your seasonal or unique programming; bonus if the local community can join to experience it! (new fitness programs, celebrated chef joining the dining team with a local inspired menu)
- Tech implementations impacting resident life (how residents are using tech to create new friendships, engage in new experiences)
- Leverage holidays to tell unique resident stories (Celebrate a resident veteran on Veterans Day, a former bakery owner on National Cookie Day)
5) Leverage Any Press Coverage
Getting coverage – placed articles or news segments – from your PR outreach is great. But what’s even better is knowing how to leverage your media coverage to drive interest in your community.
It’s certainly possible that someone might read an article or watch a local news segment about your community and decide to check it out. But it’s more likely that you’ll have to use your own efforts to translate a media appearance into occupancy.
The best way to do so is to make sure you have an “In The News” area located on your website that’s easy to find. (While this might seem simple, you’d be surprised how often this is not the case.) Those articles and segments will give visitors to your site a good idea of what to expect at your community — and if they like what they see, they may take the next step and ask you for more information about a possible move.
Also, including these appearances in any email blasts or newsletters you send out to prospects and potential residents can also have them click on a call-to-action. Newspaper articles and TV segments are almost always kept on an outlet’s website permanently, meaning you can always recycle any stories about your facility over time.