Senior living communities and businesses face a number of inherent challenges when it comes to PR. Although mindsets are shifting, many still see “senior living” as the same thing as “nursing homes” and have deeply ingrained stereotypes about retirement communities, whether they are independent living, assisted living, or memory. Perception often creates reality and this is especially true in the senior living sector. It’s fairly common for a community’s executive director or sales and marketing director to hear how surprised someone is after a tour; he or she had no idea what senior living communities are really like. Shifting that perception and highlighting the value of senior living communities is a task that nicely aligns with a PR campaign. But how do you break through? With so many senior living communities in existence and in the pipeline, what makes you different?
The first place to start is with your residents. They have incredible stories to tell and many of those stories will be of interest to media outlets, especially local newspapers and TV stations. Leveraging human-interest stories can create a great deal of positive press for your senior living community. It also has two additional benefits. First, it showcases your community in a positive way without appearing to be boastful or something the community paid for (such as sponsored content). Second, by focusing on residents, you’re highlighting the incredible people who call your community home. Potential residents and their loved ones will notice this and want to be around other seniors who are active and fun. Here are three ways to get results with human-interest stories from senior living communities:
- Make It Unique: Story ideas and pitches that grab a reporter’s attention have a unique angle to them. There is something interesting and newsworthy to share. Residents in senior living communities have lived through some incredible events and many of them have spectacular life experiences. Focus on the most unique ones. For example, a senior living community in Virginia has two residents who fought on opposite sides of World War II in the same theater. Now, seven decades later, their friends! That’s a unique story and it’s been covered on TV and in the paper.
- Make It Relatable: Stories that you can relate to are important because they highlight someone “ordinary” who is doing something special. Do any residents still volunteer? Perhaps you have a note artist in your community or someone who recently won a national competition? Did a resident recently fulfill a dream? These types of stories abound and are often covered by news outlets, especially on TV (think of the “Making a Difference” series).
- Make It Emotional: The news adage that “if it bleeds, it leads” isn’t always the case. In fact, pulling on the heart strings can be an effective way to generate interest in a story. People, including journalists, love an emotional story. Don’t be afraid to share milestone birthdays and anniversaries or reunions of long-lost friends. We all like to see a happy ending! In fact, two South Carolina seniors made local and national news last week for recreating their honeymoon 68 years later.
Utilizing one of these three approaches will help you identify the best stories you have and position them for coverage. Of course, as with all media relations campaigns, finding the story is only the first step. You need to ensure that you’ve done your research and contact the right reporter, editor, or producer. For additional PR tips, check out our blog posts on effective PR plans and conducting PR outreach.
Finally, it’s important to note that senior living communities must be careful not to exploit their residents in any manner. Residents are often in a vulnerable position and you must ensure that their story is accurate and you have permission from them or a loved one to share that story. Taking care of their well being is always the top priority.