Casey Reese

Marketing Senior Care during Coronavirus

Casey Reese, Director of Business Development for National HealthCare Corporation was kind enough to spare some time to talk about the marketing and communications challenges she is facing in marketing for senior care during the COVID-19 crisis.

The crisis has caused one of the leading senior care companies to rethink many of the long-standing marketing practices and adjust to a “new normal” with patients, families, staff, communities and press.

What should we know about Casey?

Casey Reese is Director of Business Development for National HealthCare Corporation. NHC has been providing senior care for almost 50 years through their skilled nursing centers, assisted living centers, retirement communities and a network of home care agencies.  Casey’s role includes marketing and business development strategy for NHC.  Casey has extensive healthcare marketing experience having worked in wellness, hospital marketing and now senior care.  What many don’t know is that she was a dance instructor and owned a dance academy.  Guess that’s what gives her the flexibility she needs for healthcare marketing today.

Who is the target audience for senior care?

Most of the decisions for senior care are made by a women in the family – a spouse, a daughter, a granddaughter – and many times they are not even in the same state as the patient.

How does the need for senior care usually arise?

In most decisions, there has been some catastrophic event in the life of the senior.  It could be an illness or injury that creates a need for rehabilitation or skilled nursing.   In most instances, a patient’s family may only have 24 hours to make a decision on where their loved one will go after release from the hospital.  Different from hospitals, senior care facilities have not had the opportunity to create a lifetime experience that a hospital may have had.

How do emotions play into the decision-making?

Family have not had experience in making these type of decisions and it is a very emotional time.  Most times families have not made a plan for the need.

What types of marketing does NHC use?

While many would assume that technology is not a choice for marketing, it is actually our best venue.  We use very little print and direct mail.  We have found that seniors are very active in social media, just like their sons and daughters.  So to reach both audiences, we have found that search, digital ads, texting campaigns and social media work hardest for us and are the easiest for us to target geographically.

What has been the hardest challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic?

The biggest challenge was when CMS and CDC told us to restrict visitors.  With some 10,000 patients and residents in our centers, we had quite a steady stream of visitors in centers everyday.  With restriction of visitors, we had to think of providing peace of mind for families and emotional well-being for our partners (employees).

How has technology helped during the crisis?

We had to turn to iPads, emails, Facetime and Facebook as alternative methods of providing communication with patients and their families.  It has turned out to be very effective with some families actually “visiting” more often.  We have strived to create an atmosphere where we are socially distant, but emotionally close.

On the external marketing, we have turned to videos, podcasts and social media campaigns like #makeaseniorsmile to let audiences know we are working to keep patients safe and occupied with activities.

How have you kept in touch with your partners?

One of our priorities has been to communicate often with our partners on what a great job they have done during unprecedented circumstances.  Because of the nature of their jobs, communication has always been a challenge.  But we are sharing with them through texting, social media and website updates.  We are fast tracking an app for our employees to provide new resources for them.

Why aren’t we hearing more about senior care during this crisis? 

The media attention is turned towards the hospitals because that is the first line of defense.  But in senior care, we are dealing with some of the same issues in trying to get enough personal protection equipment and keeping everyone safe.

What have you learned during this crisis?

The spirit of community is alive and well.  So many in our communities have reached out to provide meals, entertainment, parades and more to keep our patients and our staff feel cared for during this time.  Personally, I have learned that this crisis is not a sprint; it’s a marathon and we all need to be able to take a minute for ourselves to recharge. We have seen so many giving their to care for our patients and they need some time for self-care as well.

Resources and Links

NHC website

NHC on Facebook

Casey Reese on LinkedIn