For SNF Marketing Post-COVID, Transparency and Communication are Key

After more than a year of mostly bad press from the pandemic, the skilled nursing industry is looking to reframe the narrative through localized communication tactics and an open dialogue with area families.

Skilled Nursing News invited Villa Healthcare’s Linsey Cherveny and Janine Finck-Boyle, vice president of regulatory affairs at Leading Age to discuss the best marketing options for operators facing down the other side of the pandemic.

Cherveny, communications director for Villa, expects skilled nursing facilities will heavily rely on public relations coming out the other side of the pandemic — focused on a narrative of transparency and constant communication with the wider community.


She said the right PR team or individual can help shape the narrative in an authentic way by telling a local story rather than sending out a broad, commercialized narrative about a facility, pointing to Villa’s Valentine’s Day video as an example.

“The Notebook”-esque love story follows husband Rex, who visits dementia resident Ellie every day to help spark her memory of their relationship.

“This ended up being a great video,” said Cherveny. “It had almost 13,000 views on Facebook, and it received comments from Villa staff families, patients and our communities.”


Added Cherveny: “Public relations is a lot more than just sending out press releases. It is shaping public opinion of your staff and your patients, and the communities that you’re in, in a credible way that feels authentic, honest, and transparent.”

With home health and community-based services increasing, Finck-Boyle added that close ties to the immediate community through local newspapers and other organizations can help build trust (and increase referrals) after more than a year of primarily negative press coverage.

“Definitely do an environmental scan, seeing what types of services are in your community, who can you partner with, who can you collaborate with, or can you even start developing your own?” said Finck-Boyle.

Intergenerational programming helps build community relationships too for operators dipping into HCBS. A piano recital, holiday concert at a nursing home or school field day puts operators in front of the people making housing decisions about their aging family members.

“Do you have a school that’s near you, or maybe even in the same town that you could start working with? Remember, bringing children in, they usually have an adult (with them) and that adult can learn about your organization, maybe your administrator or director of nursing can take five or 10 minutes and just talk about your organization before that particular program,” explained Finck-Boyle.

Cherveny suggested operators educate staff on social media tactics too, or at least be aware of what message boards families go to when making a decision about a facility.

“Your future patients and their families are looking at Google reviews. Instead of giving a hospital social worker or a discharge planner a marketing brochure, post-COVID is going to be about having your (online) listings and reviews up to date, accessible, and accurate,” noted Cherveny.

Cherveny admitted privacy concerns butt up against a need for transparency and communication; she said the best way to make sure posts are in compliance is to work closely with a facility’s operations and nursing teams.

“This is something that we learned during COVID and it’s going to carry us beyond COVID. It’s going to lead us to successful marketing beyond COVID, it will help us combat the negative image of the industry — if we’re able to show trust, transparency and provide education to our stakeholders,” said Cherveny.

Added Finck-Boyle: “Really focus in on your community collaboration … change the narrative, look at technology and use human capital.”

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