You know as well as anyone that your community, from the residents and their families to the staff, is chock full of great stories worth telling. You probably hear them nearly daily, in fact. From the resident who breaks records in his or her chosen sport and the family who donates generously to your annual holiday drive to the employee who goes above and beyond every single day without seeking any recognition, there’s a treasure trove of anecdotes you probably wish others could hear.
Thanks to this great field called public relations, sharing your story is possible! But there’s a difference between sharing your story and selling it. “The best story in the world won’t go anywhere if you don’t have a plan for sharing – and selling – it,” says Taigen Thorne, Director of Public Relations & Media at SageAge Strategies. “That’s why developing a smart strategy for getting the word out there is so crucial, and can mean the difference between a flop and a hit.”
It’s disheartening to go through the work of putting a story out there, only to not get any “bites.” Let’s look at ways to create a compelling story using the principles of public relations, and then how to sell that story in a way that benefits your community.
Asking Key Questions
We write about it a lot on this blog, but that’s because it bears repeating over and over again: knowing your audience is critical. That goes far beyond a generalized understanding of your audience being seniors in your geographic area. It means creating clear personas for the individuals who are seeking you out, in order to better understand their needs, motivations and barriers.
So, the first question to ask yourself is: Do I know my audience?
If so – truly and deeply, that is – well, great! You are well on your way to creating compelling stories for them. But if you are even a little bit unclear in this realm, invest the time and effort into getting it crystal clear. This investment will pay dividends in the long run.
Next, ask yourself: What is most important to my audience?
This could vary depending on the person you are focused on. But, generally speaking, you should be able to hone in on this question pretty quickly, because it will be borne out of a deep understanding of your true audience. Some things that are most important could be financial considerations, social offerings, lifestyle upgrades, safety and medical concerns, and more. Know what really matters.
Developing the Story
Stories can be “spun” (no negative connotation implied!) a million different ways. It all depends on the perspective you choose to take. Depending on how you angle your story, you’ll appeal to different publications. No media outlet wants the same pitch sent to a million different publications. That’s why tailoring your approach is important.
Imagine you have a story about a resident or staff member who partnered up with a local school to create a mentorship program at your community. That’s a great story! It’s especially great if your key audience is highly concerned with social and lifestyle opportunities. But knowing the perspective to take when “pitching” it to media will make all the difference in the level of interest you receive.
You could focus on the joy it brings residents to engage with young people. A senior living publication or general interest magazine may find that appealing. You could also focus on the kids and families who come to your community; an education reporter would probably bite. Or, if you want to get some coverage in a magazine that provides insight and best practices to senior living communities, you could focus on the logistics of getting such a program up and running. Ideally, you’d pitch all of these, and more! But just this simple illustration shows how angles and perspectives can make all the difference in the success of your pitch, because its “compellingness” will vary based on who you approach, and with what.
So you have a good story that will appeal to your key audience and you know how to pitch it to draw the interest of potential media outlets. Sorry, but you’re not done yet! Here are some other factors to consider:
Is it good timing? If your local media is buried under a mountain of work covering the local fair, graduations, a major disaster or some other big event, it might be good to give them some space and go back when they have ample time to consider your pitch. The exception to this is if your pitch is timely and related to current events; if that’s the case, get moving!
What’s the hook? No offense meant, but chances are your story has been told before – at least something similar. No news outlet wants to feel like they’re a copycat. So, consider what will make this story stand out, and use that in your pitch to draw their attention.
How will your community look? Try to think through all of the angles of this one. You may anticipate a negative outcome that you can mitigate or you might determine that this story isn’t the right one for the message and image you want to portray to the greater community. Also, consider if this story can be told without your community being mentioned at all – and if so, rethink how you make your pitch in order to include your community.
Give some thought to the action you want the reader to take. This last step is perhaps the most important. PR can be a bit of a “slow burn” process. Oftentimes, we seek to get in front of the consumer simply for a brief period of time, even if they aren’t thinking about senior living at the moment, because in doing so we will remain “top of mind.” They’ll think of us first when they finally do decide to look into senior living options.
Good public relations is far more nuanced than many believe, but that’s why we’re here to help. Get in touch today so we can help you discover the compelling stories worth telling at your community.