A chain of 14 senior living facilities in Wisconsin had received negative publicity because of resident deaths, resident neglect, injuries and medication mix-ups during 2011 and 2012. The operator of the communities faced state fines nearing $100,000. Residents and staff at the facilities said these problems were directly related to poor management, including inadequate staffing and training. The Oshkosh Northwestern, a local newspaper, wrote many damaging articles about the situation, including a special report detailing all these shortcomings.
Chicago-based Senior Lifestyle Corporation purchased 11 of these facilities with the goal of reorganizing them so they could offer their residents respect along with the quality care that they deserved. Senior Lifestyle focused on improving transparency and accountability and training staff. Residents and staff noticed and appreciated the improvements, but the facilities still had poor reputations because of the former owner’s mismanagement.
The Simons Group consulted with Senior Lifestyle about combating negative publicity and improving these communities’ reputations. We worked with key executives at Senior Lifestyle to create a two-pronged communications strategy to achieve both these goals.
Informational letter campaign for each facility’s referral sources: The Simons Group wrote a letter for each community that informed referral sources, such as local social workers, of recent and upcoming positive changes since the Senior Lifestyle acquisition. The letters reiterated how much the communities valued their relationships with these referral sources and highlighted each community’s strengths.
Letters to local editors: We wrote a letter to the editor for each community paper, discussing recent changes, such as the Senior Lifestyle acquisition, and focusing on each community’s strengths and positive developments. Not wanting to put editors on the defensive, we opted not to rebut any specific article they had published, but instead to provide some perspective on the current state of each community. We submitted these letters to The Oshkosh Northwestern and other local press outlets.
The Simons Group convinced the Northwestern reporter who had written the damaging articles to give these communities another chance. He reached out to schedule an interview with key Senior Lifestyle managers and wrote a front-page article that highlighted the positive changes since the company took over. After the article ran, many referral sources for one of the communities, Bella Vista, called to congratulate the residence on its positive changes.
Read more about the article here.