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Crisis in senior living and subsequent reputational and/or financial harm has always been a possibility. Fire, flood, reports of neglect or abuse, natural disaster, widespread food poisoning, cyberattack, elopements, security failures, even an active shooting…these were the things we could imagine and hoped (and sometimes even believed) would never happen to us.

Enter 2020. Who could have foreseen that 42 percent of deaths from COVID-19 would occur in just 0.06 percent of the population – the elderly?

Who could’ve imagined that the sight of a lay person without a protective mask would be considered strange, alarming? That vacations, weddings, social events would be canceled or take place over a computer screen? That brick and mortar workplaces and venues would be shut down indefinitely, leaving many workers in desperate financial straits? That (as of this writing) over six million Americans would be afflicted with a virus for which there is currently no vaccine?

Could you have envisioned that your senior community’s dining room would be empty for weeks, that family and friends could only visit through windows and doors, that closed circuit TV would lead group activities, that staff and residents would need to adapt to a “new normal” almost daily?

These are previously unfathomable conditions. Virtually no one would have considered a global pandemic when planning their budget for 2020.

Yet, here we are. The time has come to put a pencil to expenditures for 2021, a year that is arguably more unpredictable than any we’ve ever known.

Among the many things the pandemic has shown us (some of them not all bad) is that we must have a strategic crisis communications plan for whatever may come…be it a continuation or another strain of the coronavirus, one of the “typical” crisis scenarios outlined above, or some other unimaginable event.

Even those senior communities with an existing resilience plan must re-evaluate how to move forward in a market that serves those most affected by COVID-19…that is disproportionately subject to media scrutiny, reputational damage and legal ramifications…that is sure to have sharp eyes on it for many months to come.

Along with robust public relations that can mitigate reputational injury and change the negative narrative about senior living, retirement communities must invest in preparedness with communications that reflect their ability to listen and respond.

In a world clamoring for information about a situation that is bound to affect people personally, or at least someone they know, professional crisis communications is essential.

(Just a Few) Characteristics of Effective Crisis Communications

  • Fact-based, truthful and transparent
  • Informed but not extemporaneous
  • Empathic but not emotional
  • Careful but not defensive
  • Intentional
  • Delivered by appropriate spokesperson(s)
  • Tailored to various internal stakeholders
  • Uniform across all external platforms
  • Unopinionated
  • Monitored on social media
  • Verifiable for documentation
  • HIPAA-compliant
  • Accessible and comprehensive on a single platform for internal stakeholders

Assuming it won’t happen to you, fumbling for essential information at the last minute, scrambling to reach stakeholders, winging unprepared statements and answers for inquiring residents, staff, families, stakeholders, media, etc. is so…

…last year.

Make sure to budget for crisis communications in 2021.

IVY Marketing Group is celebrating 30 years of experience in marketing, public relations and crisis communications. ResponderHub™ is our online crisis response solution designed specifically for senior housing providers.

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