Arc Seven Blog Archive - August 2015

How to engage your care home’s local community on social media Posted by: Gemma Keogh | 04.08.15

Although many within the social care sector remain sceptical about its usage, social media is one of the most impactful tools to show the wider public what it’s really like to live in your care home.

With one in four people now Tweeting, Liking and Instagraming across the globe, the potential for engaging new audiences is huge.

However, lets not loose sight of our goals here, there’s no point trying to achieve a global following if its not relevant to your business or the services that you are providing.

So rather than trying to talk with people around the world we recommend a more targeted approach, communicating with key stakeholders a lot closer to home – your local community.

The community within a 20-mile radius of your home are undoubtedly your most influential stakeholders. We all know that the best referrals come through word of mouth from people who live nearby and if you have a good relationship with your local commissioners then your home will have a waiting list rather than empty beds.

But this isn’t just about sales, its about creating genuine and long lasting social links that benefit the residents in your home. For your residents the local community will have played such a big part in their lives: they may have got married nearby, raised their children in the town and sent them to the school down the road. Their work, friends and leisure time may all have been based locally. It can be heart-breaking if these ties are broken when they move into your home and that’s why it’s so important to stay connected.

Here’s a few of our top tips of how to use social media to engage with your local community groups and organisations:

Introduce yourself – if you don’t let people know that you are there they won’t be able to read your content or engage with you. Most groups and organisations are on Facebook so choose someone you already work with, perhaps a local school, ‘Like’ their page and then ‘Like’ who they ‘Like’. Once people realise your account is up and running they will follow you in return and also tell people they know. The same goes for Twitter, follow all your current stakeholders and you’ll be surprised how quickly people follow you in return.

Be social – the clue is in the name really, social media is about talking with other people and sharing information rather than just broadcasting. This is a two-way dialogue not a monologue. Mention other groups in your posts – this is tagging on Facebook and @-ing on Twitter and Instagram. Respond to what other people say – if your local scout group are holding a fundraising event, wish them good luck and share the event info with your followers encouraging them to go and support the good cause. If you share and retweet other’s news they will return the favour by re-posting your content too. Make sure all your events are posted online and invite your local stakeholders to them.

Quality over quantity – Don’t spam your followers, take time to prepare your content, share a few posts a week and make sure it’s always relevant to your audiences. For example, editing photos before posting means people will enjoy looking at them rather than feeling inundated by poor quality shots with trees growing out of people’s heads etc. From a PR point of view, you always need to make sure that your social media content is on brand and emphasises your brand values.

Stay local – Share relevant news stories that focus on the local area and always post blogs or updates of activities or day trips you’ve had with groups or organisations outside the home. This will encourage others in the area to get involved too. Your local newspaper remains one of the best sources of information for your town so follow them and you’ll be up-to-date on everything that is happening. Don’t forget to use the hashtag for your town – this is an easy way to help you reach a wider audience. People often feel overwhelmed by hashtags, as if there is some dark art behind them, but they are actually just a very simple and effective way to group a conversation. For example, for events and stories held in Newbury use #Newbury and anyone searching for local information will find it.

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The Unbreakables – positive messaging around disability Posted by: Gemma Keogh | 11.08.15

The highs and lows of relationships, the thrill of going to the pub and out partying, and thoughts about what job you will do when you leave college are all typical concerns for teenagers across the country. The students of National Star College in Gloucestershire are no different, except that they have disabilities and have a BBC3 camera crew following them around recording their moving, inspiring and sometimes hilarious experiences.

The documentary is part of the Defying the Labels series and this three-parter has done just that. The programme has reached out to new audiences who want inclusivity and to share in the lives of the students.

Of course discrimination still exists but there is a growing appetite for news and information about those living with physical and mental disabilities. People want to open up and talk, they want to ask questions and to find out what it is like to lead a life that is different to theirs.

A father of one of the college’s students sums it up perfectly. These young men and women go through so much (at the point in filming his son is going through yet another major operation) but they never complain. We all have stuff that we grumble about but they never do. It’s truly inspiring and leaves us wondering why aren’t we more like that?

The London 2012 ParaOlympics was a very public display of this acceptance and enthusiasm. The nation celebrated athletes whom, although training as hard and performing as successfully as their able bodied counterparts, had never before seen this level of support.

It’s an eagerness that has steadily been growing ever since then and with the ongoing production of content as insightful and compelling as The Unbreakables then it will continue to do so.

Within the social care sector, providers have often shied away from sharing news about their residents, due to concerns about privacy and dignity, but things are changing and if there was ever a time to tell the story of your residents then it is now.

As a sector we know that care doesn’t stop at the provision of medical support it also involves advocacy and standing up for the rights of those that use our services. The students at National Star College in Gloucestershire wanted people to know what they went through and what hardships they overcame, but most of all they wanted people to know that they were just like them – and the best way to do that is to show what happens on a day-to-day basis.

You can start small. Create a newsletter or update your website’s news page sharing photos of recent events.

You can think big and empower your students or residents to tell their stories in their own words through video. Written, produced and edited by them.

Whichever way you choose you just need to tell their story, the audience is willing and waiting and the time is now.

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Creating a culture of care   Posted by: Gemma Keogh | 11.08.15

Culture, broadly speaking, is a shared set of values, beliefs and behaviours that are transmitted to the different members/generations of a community, through learning.  The values and behaviours help the group adapt to its surroundings.

However, putting on my anthropologist’s hat for a moment, there is no real agreement on how to precisely define culture. It’s been an on-going debate for many years. It could be collective values, it might a shared belief structure, behaviours are included but there are variations and symbolism and language also play an important role. Each culture defines itself, so to speak, and no two cultures are the same.

And that’s, where we/you are concerned, as social care providers, is the exciting bit.

Your company’s culture is up to you; you can create the type of culture that you want to see for your business.

So for our purposes, let’s break the concept of culture into three key parts.

1. A shared set of values, beliefs and behaviours

Nearly every company now has a set of values listed on their website which should shape the way staff behave. These values are mostly centred around care, compassion and similar, focusing on the well being of residents, and rightly so.  To create a culture these values and behaviours must be shared amongst staff, right from the CEO down to the cleaner. It’s no good only half the team holding these values, everyone must embody the values and behaviour of the company ethos.

2. Transmitted through learning

If you want your staff to embody your company’s values then you must support them to do so, don’t expect them to do it themselves. Some people argue that a carer should naturally be caring, otherwise why apply for the job? Now there is some truth in that argument, but what is nature and what is nurture

I’m a people person and an optimist about human nature but I do believe that there are skill-based elements of care.  To work consistently with that caring attitude and approach five days a week, year after year, with challenging patients and with the added demands of paper work, not to mention other social and personal factors to deal with, is a great skill. And it is a skill that needs to be taught.

Culture is transmitted through learning and through training. Culture is passed from people to people and so investing in your staff’s development is critical to creating a culture of care.

3. Helps a group adapt to its surroundings

A supportive culture enables the survival of a group, it ensures that they can deal with challenging situations by sharing their skills and knowledge. The past few years have been a time of rapid change for the social care sector and this is set to continue. An enduring company culture will be one that supports your team to adapt to new circumstances, to have the confidence to face challenges together, whilst still enabling them to provide high quality, person centred care.

For me, the best thing about creating a company culture within the social care sector is the opportunity that it presents both for the people who work within it and those who are served by it. For staff, it’s the chance to perform a truly rewarding job, as part of a great team and make a valuable difference to the people and their families who require care. For those who use the services it is an opportunity to receive support during challenging times, from people who really mean what they say and act from genuinely heart-felt values.

A culture of care is one that truly cares about the people who are part of it, and in turn those people genuinely care about their culture. It’s a powerful reciprocal relationship that benefits everyone involved and has a real capacity to bring lasting positive change.

In PR terms, your culture is your reputation. It is not something that you add on at the end of the business but it is at the heart of your business and it is something that you live day in and day out.

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