Brand in Social Care: Be your PR
Posted by: Gemma Keogh | 08.07.15

We are experiencing a time of rapid change for the social care sector.

Jeremy Hunt’s recent call for a national debate has placed care of older people at the top of the political agenda.

Unrelenting scrutiny from the media means that care providers continue to make headlines across the country.

And, the CQC’s new Regulation 20: The Duty of Candour, has, and rightfully so, ensured the public expect high standards of transparency and communication throughout all aspects of the service that they receive.

The social care sands are shifting, and quickly.

Directors, CEOs and Managers (the latter being perhaps the most crucial as Managers have the most frequent contact with customers and often are the face of the business at a local level) must stay abreast of all new developments if providers are going to adjust and move forwards.

It’s unlikely that traditional advertising and sales mechanisms alone will be enough to manage a company’s reputation and so investing in a comprehensive communications strategy for your business has never been more necessary.

Your strategy should consider all aspects of the business and all engagement with stakeholders – and the starting point for any strategy is your brand.

A brand is more than a logo and it is more than a website. A brand isn’t just what you say it is, it is how your business is experienced by the customer or service user. A brand is a culture, it is how your company operates and how it makes your residents or patients feel, think and act.

Ultimately a brand is how much you care about your customers, how much you engage with them, respond to their feedback and shape your business around their needs and wants, and not just the bottom line – although the two are intrinsically linked.

Financially, operationally and culturally, brand should be the central focus of your business.

Your staff are your biggest brand ambassadors so they need to embody brand values and training schemes should be revamped to reflect the new compulsory communication focus.

It isn’t just high street stores or restaurants that fail because of poor customer services, care providers will now be expected to adhere to the same stringent standards. Service users are now consumers and will judge you harshly if their expectations are not met.

Providers need to create a culture of transparency in their care homes, shouting about their successes, engaging with their local communities, joining debates on excellence in care and crucially admitting when things do not go as planned, from time to time. Take control of your reputation – don’t leave it down to luck.

Communications strategies, brand development and PR are not just fluffy add-ons they are critical to the success of your business and those who realise this will succeed.