Blair Burney headshot
Blair Burney
Blair Burney headshot
Blair Burney

As a veteran in the senior living industry since 2015, I have come to understand the ebb and flow of its challenges and triumphs. From navigating the uncharted waters of COVID-19-related crises to orchestrating public relations campaigns for mid-level national senior living operators, I have honed a deep understanding of the critical role that crisis communication plays in maintaining the delicate balance between chaos and calm.

The senior living sector, prone to unpredictable crises, requires adept crisis communication experts who can transform panic into poise while safeguarding the trust that older adults and their families place in those communities.

Much like life itself, senior living is a tapestry woven with unpredictability. From natural disasters and power outages to issues such as wandering residents and disgruntled employees, crises can emerge from unexpected corners, leaving operators grappling for stability. A well-crafted crisis communication plan becomes essential when a situation escalates.

Even the most unforeseen circumstances can be managed when guided by a crisis communications expert. They bring the ability to assess the situation objectively while safeguarding the brand reputation that older adults and their families rely on.

Delegation of duties to a well-prepared team is the bedrock of effective crisis communication. Each member knows his or her role, from disseminating information to internal stakeholders to liaising with media outlets. This thorough process ensures a unified front and consistent messaging, an imperative in times of uncertainty. A comprehensive strategy outlines the steps to respond to the crisis. This strategy encompasses the immediate actions and the roadmap to recovery. What needs to be temporarily shut down, such as digital ads or social media posts, and when can operations be resumed? Having a clear plan minimizes confusion and instills confidence.

In addition, written pieces may be needed, such as press statements, announcement letters, talking points or social media posts.

The crisis communication expert becomes the compass that steers the ship through tumultuous waters. This person evaluates the situation, determines the appropriate messaging and guides the operator’s actions while aligning them with the brand’s core values.

A crisis can be a catalyst for transformation, an opportunity to showcase the resilience of the senior living community and its dedication to the well-being of its residents. By communicating openly, transparently and empathetically, operators actually can improve their brand’s reputation, building stronger relationships with both current and potential residents.

Having witnessed the effects of effective crisis communication firsthand, a seasoned crisis public relations expert is an essential asset for any senior living operator. This person is the shield against misinformation and panic and the strategic mind that crafts a path toward stability. With the guidance this person provides, operators can move beyond survival mode and embrace a proactive approach to crises. A senior living community that can weather the storm with grace earns not only the trust of its residents and their families but also the respect of the industry at large.

Senior living is a realm that thrives on trust and connection. As a sector that faces its fair share of unexpected challenges, the importance of having a crisis communication plan cannot be overstated. With the right expert, operators can navigate crises while enhancing their reputation and solidifying the trust they’ve worked hard to build. From panic to poise, crisis communication isn’t just a strategy — it’s a testament to senior living communities’ resilience and commitment to the well-being of those they serve.

Blair Burney is communications director for Craft & Communicate, a digital marketing and public relations senior living agency.

The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living guest column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.

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