Quiet Within a Maelstrom

Travel bans. School closings. Sports canceled.

From Disney to your local preschool, from the NBA to grade school soccer, nothing is exempt from the uncertainty surrounding the current response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re deluged with hourly updates, breaking news, social media disinformation, and opinions from people who shouldn’t be sharing them. And it’s all moving faster than we can adapt. One minute I was hearing a news anchor talk about the PGA canceling The Players Championship, scheduled for March 12-15. The next minute, ABC was running a TV commercial hyping that very golf event. What we think we know and what experts are telling us can be old news within minutes.

The week of March 9th has been a hard but clear lesson in how interconnected we are in a digital world. When one person panics on social media, the panic spreads to untold thousands, and ultimately, Amazon sells out of toilet paper, cleaning wipes, and bulk soup. In the midst of it all, many senior living communities feel like they are one case away from becoming the next life care center crisis.

Hurricanes? Coastal residents, including senior living communities, have a plan for those. Tornadoes and floods? Most people have a plan of action in mind. Blizzards, fires, or earthquakes? We’ve all lived through them to some degree or another. We keep moving forward, with grace and confidence.

But a novel virus that has become a global pandemic in less than two months? That’s something few have considered or prepared for. Consider the case of the U.S. federal global health team. It was led by a top White House official and in charge of the nation’s response to pandemics, but that official left the administration in 2018 and the entire team was subsequently dismantled. Their work was absorbed by other agencies. And, as we’re seeing with testing issues, even the CDC wasn’t ready with a plan to address this pandemic. If federal government agencies are not prepared, is it reasonable to expect senior living communities to be?

Society is being disrupted in ways and at a rate we’ve never seen. Caught in the middle are marketing teams facing uncharted territory. No doubt you’re reconsidering public events. Your team may need to prepare press releases as well as internal and external-facing updates for employees, residents, and their families. Social media still needs attention, and it’s important to avoid “tone-deaf” posts. In a fluid situation, what you write today you’ll more than likely be revising tomorrow.

Your current marketing strategy may be languishing at the bottom of an overloaded to-do list, lost in the face of daily challenges to keep communicating and maintaining transparency. Whether or not your senior living community is directly impacted by COVID-19, this crisis will pass. But what will be forfeited due to abandoned campaigns, reallocated budgets, and lost momentum? No one can accurately predict when this situation will be in our rear view mirror. But now is the time to develop a strategy for the duration and a messaging plan for the post-Coronavirus days.

Take a moment to breathe. Assess where you are in your marketing campaign and acknowledge you might not have all the answers. It’s fair to put some efforts on hold and make the best of a fluid situation by trying new ideas. It’s also wise to ask for help, whether for the short or long term.

Successfully moving past these next few months is going to take creative and innovative thinking. When you’re faced with the challenge of maintaining a pipeline of prospects, an external agency can provide fresh ideas, on-demand assistance, and new forms of content so that reaching your marketing goals doesn’t lag while you work on delivering trustworthy information to your residents, families, and employees.
Let’s face it, the usual way of doing business is on hold until further notice. This is the right time to think outside the box and explore the advantages of omnichannel marketing with a trusted expert.
In the meantime, wash your hands and stay three feet away from one another. Remain calm, avoid panic, and, together, we can forge a new path to success.

Maribeth Maribeth Jenkins is passionate about building long-term relationships and developing solutions for inbound and outbound marketing. With more than 10 years experience in the field, she understands the power of having the right information when you're making a decision. If you'd like to know more about how Sabal Group can help you and your team, please email her or connect with us on LinkedIn.