COVID-19 Best Practices for Senior Care Facility Communications Teams
Prompt, clear communication during the COVID-19 pandemic can help senior care facilities to maintain public trust, keep residents’ families up to date, and even keep all staff aware of developments. While great communications are always important for facilities, COVID-19 creates some unique challenges, and facilities need to be ready to quickly respond to changing situations. By implementing best practices, facilities can ensure that their communications responses are appropriate, timely, and helpful.
Prepare for the Unique Challenges of COVID-19
Facilities must be prepared for the most challenging aspects of communications and responding to inquiries during this time. “Be prepared to explore and answer tough questions,” states Courtney Malengo, founder of Spark + Buzz Communications.
Malengo, who oversaw marketing, PR, and communications for a multi-site senior living provider for over a decade, advises that facilities hire a communications professional to support them during this time. “That person can help guide you and analyze countless variables and possibilities, to narrow in on the necessary actions and appropriate messaging based on your unique circumstances.”
While appropriate planning is important and will allow a team to respond quickly as situations change, teams also need the freedom to retain some flexibility so that they can respond to situations appropriately. “Recognizing that situations are changing rapidly, there is no one-size-fits-all guidance on frequency,” states Malengo. “The best solution is to be consistent. That may mean providing daily updates but depending on the audience (employees vs. family members vs. residents) and how things unfold, you may need to conduct updates several times a day.”
Design Communications to Keep Everyone Updated
Facilities should take an active and comprehensive approach to communications to not only keep the public up to date, but to also update all staff and team members. Laura Gifford, Director of Marketing & Communications at Providence Place Senior Living, states that the Providence Place Senior Living team has established daily status video calls with all community Executive Directors. Outreach is sent to all team members to facilitate the communication of necessary information.
Additionally, Providence Place Senior Living also uses a public relations platform that allows staff to monitor news and information about the facility’s residents or communities. “This also allows us to distribute necessary press releases quickly and efficiently based on region of focus and industry,” explains Gifford. “Our CISION platform was also implemented in 2019 and has been utilized for proactive purposes, as well as crisis communications.”
Be Prepared to Act Quickly
Handling COVID-19-related communications needs to be done deliberately. “Always communicate to those affected by the crisis first,” advises Malengo. “Don’t let your inner circle find something out from an external source. And, ensure that your internal and external messaging are in sync. Assume everything is public and reinforce those messages across all mediums.
“Be prepared to communicate swiftly, transparently and how you are going above and beyond what’s required; if you don’t control your narrative, someone else will. That someone else could be an employee, a resident or even a family member. The more it looks like you are hiding something, the tougher time you will have weathering the storm.”
There will be challenging situations that arise during the pandemic, but Malengo notes that it’s important for facilities to be genuine in their messaging. “Finally, be human. Don’t get hung up on technical acronyms and industry jargon. Communicate in a way that is easy for everyone to understand and receive your message.”
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