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Customized communication with residents and families: today's technologies offer much more than generalized newsletters.

Nursing home owners and operators are investing significantly into the location, design, and amenities of their facilities. This strategy mirrors today's societal emphasis on the development of homes and buildings that are aesthetically pleasing to the eye and rich with useful and comfortable luxuries. But it is the residents and their families who are the lifeblood of every nursing home. Knowing this, it is wise to invest similarly into the means of communicating critical information to these individuals.

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Traditionally, nursing homes and long-term care facilities have relied on newsletters to provide basic facility information. Publication frequency ranged from weekly to quarterly, and they were designed and written primarily by staff members. Although the information provided was always useful, it often lacked depth concerning topics of persistent interest to residents and families. Many newsletters highlighted important upcoming dates and activities, a brief discussion on one or two topics of interest, and a resident/staff member profile or two--hardly the in-depth knowledge a family needs to truly understand and relate to a loved one entering quite possibly the final chapter of life. Residents and their family members need to fully comprehend the lifestyle of a nursing home or other long-term care facility so that they can continue to connect in this setting.

Tapping into this level of emotion can only be achieved by delivering information that speaks personally to each resident's family. A "customized" publication helps to engage families in this manner and build strong relationships with them because the facility is able to control its message and focus on its audience with appropriate content. Whether through customized magazines, e-newsletters, or content-specific Web sites, customized media let nursing home and long-term care facility operators build loyalty among residents and their families with information that is specific to their needs and conducive to satisfaction.

Options

A number of different custom media options are available these days to nursing home and other long-term care operators. Single-sponsored magazines, for example, provide complete control over production and editorial content. Considered the most direct form of messaging and dialogue with audiences, the content focuses singularly on the facility in a magazine format without the intrusion of any other home's message and/or advertising. For example, a health food company that wants to grow its customer base might sponsor a magazine including tips on nutritional trends, healthy recipes, and other lifestyle-oriented articles, as well as information on the facility.

With advertising-supported magazines, another option, the designated publisher can sell advertising space to marketing partners or complementary advertisers. Selling advertising space can often contribute to the credibility of a publication by offering a venue to communicate not only a facility's strengths but its partnerships.

Webzines enable nursing homes to combine print, Web, and e-mail into one seamless custom media program. Webzines allow facilities to cost-effectively create specific "versions"--tailored editorial content aimed at different subgroups of audiences. For example, your organization may want to offer different promotions or discuss geographic-specific topics and then distribute to the specific regions involved. Moreover, Webzines can provide a forum for instant reader feedback, potentially enhancing "brand loyalty" because readers feel their concerns are being heard.

Although smaller in scale than Webzines or full-scale magazines, e-newsletters offer the same potential for messaging and customer dialogue. In addition to controlled editorial content, an e-newsletter also allows nursing homes to target their audience with more frequency, resulting in continued brand awareness and relationship building.

Content Considerations

Content is the central element of any successful custom publication. The publisher will help define its objectives and determine the target audience in an effort to construct the most appropriate editorial platform. Examples of magazine content include case histories, feature stories, trend articles, news items, a letter from management, guest/expert columns, industry research reports, and answers to frequently asked questions.

Because families often have a great deal of emotional stress placed on them when a loved one enters a nursing home, they need to be informed of a number of issues that pertain to resident care. A customized magazine could offer in-depth articles on a variety of legal issues, for example. Topics could include everything from how to select an elder-law attorney, to estate and financial planning, to guardianship, to long-term care insurance, to issues of consumer fraud and abuse.

Other important topics could include:

Alzheimer's disease. For caregivers, life is an around-the-clock ordeal. Families with loved ones in nursing homes suffering from Alzheimer's desperately need the additional information and advice that a custom magazine could provide.

Malnutrition. Many families are curious as to the kind of nutrition and diets being provided at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Everyone has a primary concern to avoid the lethal epidemic of malnutrition and dehydration among nursing home residents. Updated information, including valuable insight from nutritional experts, can also be offered in a series of articles in a customized magazine.

Other topics of interest could include how to deal with seniors who suffer from depression and anxiety, resident fitness and other recreation programs, social activities, and fund-raising to support pets whose owners are now living in facilities or who have passed on.

Publishers

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities will want to choose a custom publisher that has experience working with companies or organizations with the goal of enhancing brand loyalty. The publisher will work with the administration to develop a clear editorial strategy that supports the direction of the magazine. Key components of the strategy include topic research, deciding on editorial tone and direction, graphic and design solutions, production, distribution, and measurement analytics to monitor the magazine's effectiveness. Online versions and response mechanisms to promote feedback and interaction can also be integrated by the publisher into a customized program.

Conclusion

Simply put, residents and families--whether existing or prospective--will feel loyal to nursing homes and other long-term facilities they can trust. New forms of information dissemination must be employed to reach residents and their families on this emotional level. Customized communication will increase the odds this will happen.

Peggy Nordeen is Publisher of Dialog Custom Media, a South Florida-based custom publishing house that specializes in the design and production of print and online customer magazines, newsletters, and direct response collateral materials. Visit www.dialogcustommedia.com to register for a free Webinar on November 17. For further information, call (954) 874-9000. To send your comments to the author and editors, e-mail nordeen1005@nursinghomesmagazine.com. To order reprints in quantities of 100 or more, call (866) 377-6454.
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Title Annotation:featurearticle
Author:Nordeen, Peggy
Publication:Nursing Homes
Date:Oct 1, 2005
Words:1077
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