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SAFETY FIRST


Communicating Safety


Prospective residents and employees alike have questions. Transparency, empathy, and clarity are some of the tools being used to build understanding.


BY SARA WILDBERGER P


re-COVID-19, safety didn’t have to be explicitly communicated to pro- spective residents or prospective em-


ployees—it was a given, not a differentiator. But the pandemic brought not only


legitimate concerns for health, but a swirl of changing information—and misinforma- tion in some cases—that left prospects and potential workers confused, overwhelmed, or even mistrustful. Now, letting prospects know that safety


is a core value and spelling out the specific action steps a community is taking is no longer optional. But the task of communi- cating that your community is a safe place to live and work is more difficult than offering a flexible schedule or an invitation to enjoy the chef ’s latest creation. How do you get the message across effectively? The most important way to communi-


cate safety—as with everything involving values—is through culture. “If it's just to check the box to meet a compliance standard, it’s not a real safety culture,” says Raj Shah, CEO of Care- Safely, which makes software for safety and quality management. “A safety culture starts at the top and is ingrained across the organization.” The question that every executive should


ask, is whether safety is the strategic priority that it needs to be in this new era.” “Communicating the wider benefits of


community living, of which health, safety, and security are hugely significant, was a hallmark of messaging long before the pandemic, and will be so long after it sub- sides,” writes Chris Egan, CEO of digital advertising company GlynnDevins, in an email interview. “However, the pandemic has undoubt-


edly amplified this and brought it top of mind to a greater audience.”


16 SENIOR LIVING EXECUTIVE MARCH/APRIL 2021


Transparency and trust CareSafely’s recent white paper, “Safety as a Competitive Advantage,” goes as far as to say that “COVID-19 has broken the trust that seniors and their families place with senior care organizations…” What can bring it back? Bringing safety


to the forefront, Shah says. “The more detailed information you can provide, the more comfort you give them.” Elevate safety to the status of operational


excellence or financial performance, start- ing with the leadership. For example, he recommends live video chats weekly. Thoughout the pandemic, these words


come up over and over, no matter who you talk to in senior living: Communication essentials are timeliness, transparency, honesty, and openness. “This openness gives people optimism the


community is taking appropriate measures and helps reassure them to make informed decisions,” Egan writes.


Photo courtesy Heritage Communities Getting specific


“Prior to the pandemic, Heritage Commu- nities didn’t often advertise or market safety protocols as a stand-alone topic,” writes Lacy Jungman,vice president of sales and marketing at Heritage Communities. The focus was on a social and engaging


lifestyle, privacy, and help if you needed it; the provider wanted to be sure it was dif- ferentiated from skilled nursing care. In 2019, Heritage launched its “Liv- ing Better” campaign. Every five weeks, the provider focused on a different value proposition—for example, Living Better with socialization, and Living Better for veterans. One of these was Living Better with safety. “This worked prior to the pandemic to ad-


dress safety concerns with prospects, without being over the top,” Jungman writes. “Now that we’re living through a world- wide pandemic, safety is top of mind for prospects. Our marketing has shifted to


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