Don’t just do PR…BE your PR
Posted by: Alistair Clay | 23.03.17

It might seem a little unusual for the boss of a health and social care PR agency to encourage people not to do PR – but I am, well, sort of.

‘Doing’ PR (public relations) without ‘being’ your PR can be a dangerous game in the social care sector.

Of course it’s great to secure lots of positive media coverage, have engaging social media content and a bells and whistles website, but if all of this isn’t grounded in the culture of the organisation then it can strike a hollow note over time.

And in our sector that’s a problem because the real purpose of PR is to develop and shape your positive reputation, to build trust in you as a provider of care above all others in your area.

For instance, when you’re in the business of delivering high quality elderly care services, and are given the huge responsibility of looking after somebody’s mother or father, you need to practise what you preach.

If your company values are firmly rooted in kindness, compassion, trust and personalisation then it’s not enough to simply list these on your website. Anyone can say this – but can you do it?

It’s the job of great PR to evidence these values in action, every single day of the year. Your PR person, team or agency must be telling the story of your home and the positive impact it has on the lives of the residents, their families and the wider community.

But that story must be linked to the reality of what is going on in the home and so PR must be integral to your everyday operations.

I would go as far as to say that you cannot do meaningful PR, PR that drives occupancy and fuels staff recruitment and retention, unless it is fully integrated into the operational side of your business.

Don’t glue it on at the end of an activity (the dreaded A word) and hope that you’ll get a nice story in the local newspaper, embed it at the heart of everything you do. In fact, truly leading edge elderly care naturally provides the fuel for great PR, for high impact media coverage, social media content and winning award nominations.

Why?

Because the best care is truly person-centred. It means knowing the tiny details of the life story of the person you are caring for – this will provide opportunities to create bespoke individual activities that will produce wonderful stories for your PR machine.

It means innovating and running genuinely personalised lifestyle and leisure sessions, that by their very nature will be different and so will be of interest to the local media and your various audiences.

Move away from the bingo and get creative. Why not have a vinyl record listening club, provoking endless wonderful memories of a bygone dance. Or take a chap with a passion for footy to the local derby on a Saturday afternoon. Empower your carers to think outside of the box and create wonderful new memories with your residents. The PR will naturally fall out of this.

And so yes, it means having an employee culture that celebrates those carers who go the extra mile, who are living breathing embodiments of compassion, kindness and dedication – these are the people who will win awards for you.

Your staff engagement is CRUCIAL to your PR. The people who work for you day in day out have the greatest bearing on your reputation, bar none, from how they give care in the home to how they speak and act in the local community.

On the whole your team lives locally and so they are part of the networks that you are directly selling to. You need to build a culture that empowers these individuals everyday so they are out in the community talking about you in a positive light.

All the glossy brochures in the world won’t amount to much if your real reputation is in the mouths of your carers when they are in the local churches, pubs, school playgrounds and social clubs. Invest in your staff and in the long run it will do wonders for your reputation, and your bottom line.

Yes, it takes more work but the pay offs are exponential.

Everything you do is constantly shaping your reputation, never forget that. Your reputation is not what you say it is, it’s what other people say it is – and that starts with your staff.

First published by Health Plus Care