The excessive negative coverage of care homes by mainstream media during COVID-19 has hit the sector hard.
The general public’s perception towards the safety of care homes is not as positive as it was in the past. In fact, a recent Vida Healthcare poll found that 76 percent of adults believed it was unsafe to put a loved one in a care home.
Specialist care sector digital marketing agency Smooth Digital brought together marketing, PR and video production experts to share the practical strategies care homes can use to help shift the public’s perception.
Following a recent discussion on the #TeaWithTobi care business growth and marketing podcast, Smooth Digital shares five ways care homes can counter negative public perception and reassure families searching for care.
- Use practical video tours to showcase the home and COVID-19 control measures
Care homes want to protect their current residents from unnecessary risk, but people don’t want to enter a premises if they don’t need to. This has affected how the families of people requiring care go about choosing a care home.
Care sector video expert York Woodford-Smith from Five on a Bike, suggests that in the past these families might look at between eight and 15 care homes online and then choose three to five to go visit. Today they are more likely to just visit only a couple.
“That’s why a video tour of a home can be a great asset to build confidence and give that distinctive differentiating factor that might be the reason a care home makes the visiting shortlist,” says Smith.
He says video helps the families for the following reasons:
- Shows the home and its amenities
- Gives a sense of space and layout
- Indicates what life is like
- Shows the appearance of staff and residents
- Showcases the homes strengths
“You can write as much text on the website as you like, but a video gives them that feeling and emotion,” he adds. “There’s an understanding that photos can be manipulated quite easily and video doesn’t have that same perception.”
- Create emotive case study videos of residents to reassure other families
One of the best ways to reassure families and demonstrate what life in a care home is really like is to hear it from the residents themselves.
This is where an emotive video is really powerful. It reassures families by telling the stories of some of the residents (and their families) through their own words and demonstrates how they feel.
We all love emotion and a good backstory, something reality TV shows make very good use of. Care homes can tap into this and it will really help stories from within the home, appeal to local journalists.
In terms of the video storyline, Smith recommends it’s kept at 80% about the person and 20% about living in the home, as he highlights that “people connect with people.”
Some care home leaders may worry that their residents might not want to volunteer to be filmed, but from Smith’s experience of interviewing more than 50 care home residents is he’s found the opposite to true.
Finally, York stresses that businesses don’t necessarily need a full production crew to achieve the desired effect. At the height of the UK’s lockdown, his team made a highly successful emotive video for The Orders of St John Care Trust using just Zoom.
Malcolm Bradbrook, communications manager at The Orders of St John Care Trust, says getting across the story and experience of the residents is vital to grow confidence in the work of its carers.”
“The video of one resident called Molly’s story achieved that and the thousands of views it has received are testament to its authenticity and production values. We have seen a marked increase in enquiries to our homes since Molly’s story was shared.”
Watch the video here (bottom of the page).
- Promote positive stories from within the care home to the public using local media
Care home leaders as a collective unit have got the power to easily overshadow the negative publicity from the mainstream media with positive stories from within their homes.
The way to do this is to produce content for local media, which the general public put far greater trust in than the national media outlets that have been predominantly responsible for the current public perception.
Former journalist turned care home PR and marketing expert, Adam James, advises that regional media should be the intended target for any single care home as this is what their target audience tends to read.
“Journalists are absolutely longing to hear about positive stories from care homes,” he says.
Journalists are interested in what is going on inside care homes with COVID-19. His advice is for care home leaders to befriend their local newspaper and broadcast journalists and supplying them with positive news stories from within care homes.
“It is perfectly reasonable for every single care home in the UK to secure 10 pieces of positive media exposure per home per year,” says James
Story ideas include:
- How birthdays are celebrated
- How staff provide physically stimulating activities when no one can enter
- The COVID-appropriate ways of communicating with families
- How care homes are enabling families to visit residents
“The focus doesn’t only need to be on the residents either. One thing the mainstream media has helped with, is the admiration and support of care workers across the country. Create positive stories that celebrate your workers, what they do and how they give care.”
Care homes also need to use digital marketing to promote theirpositive stories across social media.
- Make use of user generated video content for social media
User generated content is becoming more popular with 79% of people saying it highly impacts their purchasing decisions. With today’s technology it’s some of the easiest content to make in a care home.
Whether care homes are investing in professional video or not, they should be making their own user generated videos. Letting staff and residents talk to a camera phone and sharing what it’s like in the care home right now, before posting a one-minute clip on social media is simple yet hugely powerful.
Smith says one-minute videos can be posted inlocal Facebook groups where they can be picked up by local media.
- Put out as many testimonials as possible from current residents and their families
Testimonials are one of the most important online assets in reassuring people looking for care. Tobi Alli-Usman, founder of Smooth Digital says “double down on testimonials”.
In fact 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, so think about including powerful video testimonials.
“Whatever you do, if it’s authentic, it will go a long way in changing people’s perceptions of the care sector,” says Alli-Usman.