Running a senior living community involves countless processes and pieces, all of them moving in tandem. Ensuring your dining is up to par is a huge task. So is creating quality programming and drawing in residents to attend. And don’t even get started on safety, health and wellness! All of these are critical pieces, and everything needs to operate like a well-oiled machine in order for the community to succeed.
“With so many moving parts, it’s easy to understand why things like marketing and public relations, often deemed ‘non-essential,’ might get pushed to the back burner,” says Taigen Thorne, Director of Public Relations & Media at SageAge. “Unfortunately, that doesn’t make these pieces any less critical to your community’s well-being and future.”
Like everything else, it’s easy to complicate marketing and PR. What both these disciplines really boil down to, though, is good, quality storytelling. Your community, like others, is full of good stories. Those stories and narratives can be the basis for your communication with the outside world, but to do that, you have to find them first!
Why Stories and Narratives Matter
Hand someone a brochure with a list of features, fancy jargon and beautiful pictures and they may be impressed. They may even want to learn more, and might eventually buy what you’re selling them. And brochures, pamphlets, folders and other collateral certainly have their useful place.
Introduce that same person to an individual who can speak to the true value of your product from a first-hand perspective, though, and you’ve made a powerful connection, one that goes beyond bulleted lists and brochures.
That’s what stories and narratives do, and that’s why they are so important. At our core, we want to relate to others. We are social creatures, after all. By sharing a story with a prospective customer, you are putting them in the shoes of the protagonist in the story. You are showing them what could be possible, not just for your protagonist, but for them, too. It’s the planting of a seed that hopefully eventually grows into a positive action — like becoming a resident of your community! But how can you do that?
Put Your Journalist Hat On
The key to seeking out good stories is to behave like a journalist. The one quality that defines any and all good journalists? Curiosity. A close second is an avoidance of assumptions. Quality storytellers know that they must often close their mouth, open their minds, and listen in order to get to the heart of a matter. So, if you want to find the hidden gem stories lurking in your own community, get curious! Here are some other tips for uncovering stories that can make an impact:
Keep Your Ears and Eyes Open
As mentioned, it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day operations of running a successful community, and all too easy to forget to stop and listen. Start cultivating a habit of joining in on resident activities, and avoid any tendency you may have to drive the conversation. Instead, listen to what others are talking about. Perhaps someone had a health-related breakthrough thanks to your wellness staff. Maybe someone decided at 80 years old to take up a new sport, and is excelling at it. Maybe two residents discovered some bit of shared obscure history, or perhaps you have a celebrity in your midst. Whatever the story, you have to listen in order to hear it!
Ask Open-Ended Questions
A common mistake when probing for a story is to ask ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. These types of questions stop a conversation flat in its tracks, and are a great way to leave your hidden gem of a story untouched. Instead, focus on asking residents open-ended questions that leave room for exploration and – this is important – avoid filling in awkward silences. Many of us have a tendency to fill pauses and silences, but if you just wait it out, often times your interview subject will keep talking, and may even reveal a nugget of a story that could be just what you are looking for.
Let Trends Guide You
If you’re looking for a story related to something timely in the news, it’s okay to steer the conversation a little bit. Perhaps you’d like to share something in your upcoming newsletter about the election. Asking around for some politically-minded residents who may be heavily involved in the political process, either now or in their past, could yield good results. Perhaps your local paper does a weekly feature on health and wellness and you know a resident who could be a great interview subject. As mentioned, keep your eyes and ears open for trends, and strike while the iron is hot to avoid missing an opportunity.
Use Data to Your Advantage
Get any large group of people together and you have an opportunity to gather some potentially interesting data about them. Exploring data is a great way to identify interesting story topics. You might discover that a large portion of your residents used to all work in the same field or profession. That could be a great way to create a new activity group, or it might be interesting to a local reporter looking to do a story on that profession. An aberration in the data can also lead to a story, like if you have just one resident with some unique talent. Others in your community – and outside it – might find that person’s talent to be a story worth hearing about.
Chances are, there are countless interesting stories lurking in the hallways and rooms of your community. After all, you have a population of people living there with their own unique experiences and history. There’s bound to be some gems to uncover. Follow these tips to find them, and then get in touch, because we’d love to help you use those stories to your full advantage!