Challenge

Every year, more than five million older adults and individuals with disabilities utilize a long term care facility, such as a nursing home or assisted living community. However, COVID-19 poses serious risk to this population due to their weakened immune systems.

Nursing homes became the epicenter of the pandemic, and long term care staff had to pivot nearly overnight to accommodate changing guidelines as the situation developed. In the face of inadequate testing, makeshift PPE and crippling staff shortages, long term care staff worked long hours to put vulnerable seniors first.

As a result of their heroic efforts, tens of thousands of residents from these facilities successfully recovered from COVID-19. However, this success came at a heavy emotional cost: both staff and residents adhered to strict social distancing and visitation guidelines that isolated them from their communities and prevented family and friends from providing in-person support.

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), which represents more than 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities nationwide, retained our firm to encourage communities to rally around long term care residents and workers at a time when they needed it most.


Solution

Given the gravity of the situation facing long term care facilities, urgent action was critical. We built a national strategy to drive awareness to the situation’s severity among key decision makers and influencers with an urgent call to action to send reinforcements.

To secure assistance in the form of funding and resources, including additional staffing, PPE and COVID testing, we launched a surround-sound campaign that included a mix of earned media combined with targeted digital and television advertising to drive our message directly to officials in the White House, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Congress.

We employed an “all-of-the-above” communications strategy to drive our push for resources, including:

  • A 50-state public affairs campaign with AHCA/NCAL’s state associations
  • A rapid response program to combat any misinformation about nursing homes during the pandemic
  • A robust digital and television advertising campaign
  • Dynamic website development
  • Earned media pushes in both national and local outlets
  • Video creative featuring real long term care staff, residents and their families
  • Organic social media management

As lawmakers began discussions around COVID-19 relief funding, we launched SaveOurSeniors.org detailing support needed for nursing homes that we used for tightly-targeted, geofenced digital advertising to drive traffic and engagement to federal policymakers with a call to action to send urgent funding and resources.

Simultaneously, we launched CareNotCOVID.com allowing the general public to send encouraging messages to nursing home residents and staff and using the hashtag #CareNotCOVID to highlight positive stories of recovery, heroism and community support.


Results

We secured 71 national cable news hits, more than 13,000 print and online articles and more than 2,500 local broadcast hits.

Our effort successfully shaped the narrative around the crisis that long term care facilities were facing by consistently driving the call to action for help from the public health sector. Celebrities such as Jimmy Kimmel, DeMarcus Cousins and Robert DeNiro shared video content related to long-term care communities; CMS Administrator Seema Verma retweeted our content from her feed; #CareNotCOVID garnered more than 10 million impressions and was covered by the Today Show.

Most importantly, our combined campaign efforts delivered real-life results that helped AHCA/NCAL secure vital funding and supplies for long term care facilities – including $12 billion from the HHS Provider Relief Fund distributed to long term care facilities across the nation.


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