Branding Archives – Varsity Branding

Category: Branding

During our latest COVID-19 roundtable, communities talked about the changing moods in their respective states and exchanged advice for successful virtual events.

Dig into the summary below. Please also join us for our next roundtable, coming this week!

Please join us for our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, September 10, at noon ET.

Aging-services expert Scott Townsley from Trilogy Consulting will join us to discuss consumer research and other insights related to the pandemic.

For log-in information, please contact .


As more cities opened up, communities met virtually for roundtable #13 to discuss this week’s triumphs and tribulations.

Check out the recap of our discussion below. Please also join us for our next sales & marketing roundtable, coming up this week.


Join the next roundtable on June 25!

You are welcome to join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, June 25, at 12 p.m. ET.

You don’t have to be a client to join — all are welcome. For call-in information, email .

As social distancing continues, communities came together for roundtable #9 to share their ideas and challenges. Robinson Smith, creative director at Varsity, joined our discussion to share insights on brand-centric messaging during quarantine.

Check out the takeaways below. You are also welcome to join our next sales & marketing roundtable, coming up this week.

Insights from Rob’s discussion on creative messaging:

Rob shared this video, which essentially highlights how painfully similar much of the COVID-19 advertising is.

  • Every commercial is exactly the same, with catchphrases like: “uncertain times,” “home” and “together.”
  • Brands want to let you know they were there for you in the past, are with you now and will be with you moving forward. While these messages of hope and empathy are important as we move forward, it’s critical not to lose sight of the brands we’ve worked so hard to establish. We need to make sure we’re not abandoning them, especially as normal community marketing will not return for quite some time.
  • While all communities want to communicate that they care about the safety of their team members and residents, they also should make sure that they are talking about their BRANDS and are leveraging the messages that they have put out into the marketplace and established over time.
  • At Varsity, we talk about branding and brand personalities in terms of archetypes. The caregiver archetype is typically the archetype of industry, so it’s not a long-term solution for individual community branding as we go forward. Communities need to be intentional about expressing their own voices — explorers, magicians, lovers — and make sure that the things that set them apart from competitors are being stated in true, unique and compelling ways.

Join the next sales & marketing roundtable on May 28!

We thank everyone for participating, and we invite you to join the next session on Thursday, May 28, at 12 p.m. ET.

Jackie Stone, Varsity VP of sales, will be joining us for part of the session to share her insights on virtual event topics and processes.

You don’t have to be a client to join — all are welcome. For call-in information, email .


‘Like it’ or not, we’ll never know, thanks to a new update being rolled out by Instagram that will prevent you from seeing how many likes the accounts you follow are receiving on their accounts. To see what this means for your brand, check out this infographic.

Even after three days in the steamy summer heat, my excitement about everything I learned at the LeadingAge Tennessee 2019 Annual Meeting & EXPO is just beginning to heat up. The theme was: “What if we helped people find passion and purpose?” The individuals I connected with at the show are doing that in amazing ways. They’re bringing generations together, leveraging strategies from other industries and approaching their challenges with a fresh perspective.

Without further ado, I’m excited to report back to you my top five “what-ifs” at the show:

1. What if we could integrate former foster youth into senior living communities?

While I was walking the floor, I spoke with Rosemary Ramsey, founder of The Victory Lap, an organization committed to matching youth, 18 to 21, who have aged out of the foster program, with open apartments at senior living communities. The community would be paid $900 per month (funded by the foster program in Tennessee) and would be asked to provide a job for the individual (at least 10 hours per week). The program is intended to give former foster kids a boost — with stable housing, employment opportunities and support from caring older adults — while meeting workforce challenges, filling otherwise vacant units and fostering intergenerational friendships. Look for an interview with Rosemary in a future blog post!

2. What if we could bring the principles of doula care to hospice?

A session on creating a doula program for hospice created some serious conference buzz. The program follows the principles of birthing doulas to help guide the individual and family/loved ones through the dying process.

3. What if we could find and retain top talent?

One of my favorite sessions, led by Matt Thornhill, stressed the need for transparency and inclusion when hiring. It was all about finding and retaining top talent. One example Matt referenced was the innovative 30/40 program by LifeSpire of Virginia in which certified nursing assistants are paid for 40 hours but are only required to work 30.

4. What if new residents could feel at home more easily?

I heard several people talking about a unique continuum concierge program discussed by Melissa Ward, vice president of clinical & regulatory affairs at Functional Pathways. The program promotes successful transitions and helps people stay in their current levels of care. Its tools include new resident orientations, resident-driven support groups, physician services, collaboration across the care continuum and more. Stay tuned for a future blog post about this innovative program.

5. What if we looked beyond a prospect’s age and income?

Last but not least, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our session with co-presenter Robbie Voloshin of United Methodist Communities (UMC). Robbie celebrated her birthday that day! The talk covered an in-depth research study on which we had partnered with UMC. In short, the study shows how going beyond superficial demographics to interests and values can help organizations connect more deeply with the right prospects. Discussion centered around the core aspects of the study — the values statements and how they were ranked.

Have you had any what-if moments of your own? If so, drop me an email at . I’d love to hear about them.

We are proud to announce our participation in this year’s LeadingAge PEAK leadership summit, held March 18–21 in Washington, D.C.

The Varsity team has gone all-in this year, hosting a basecamp at zone 5 of the event. The theme of our basecamp is “Telling your story: connecting with tomorrow’s discerning customer.” All of our presentations will cover topics that relate to how aging services providers will need to grow and adapt their messaging in the coming years.

Keynote presentations will include:

  • “Positioning the Mission,” with Varsity President Wayne Langley
  • “Connecting with Consumers,” with Rob Smith, creative director, and Jackie Stone, vice president of sales consulting — both of Varsity
  • A panel discussion, hosted by Derek Dunham, Varsity’s vice president of client relations, where he will interview marketers to get their respective takes on how to get the most of an agency relationship
  • Kevin Purcell, of WildFig, who will demonstrate how data-driven decision-making can change the way you do business

In between these sessions, the Varsity team will be on hand to meet and discuss these topics and more with all of the attendees. We invite you to stop by and say hello!

Following PEAK, we plan to make a selection of our presentations available via videos on our website, so if you can’t attend in-person, be sure to check back to catch the highlights of the event.

Many aging services providers use Facebook as a means to engage with their current and future residents, families and supporters of the community. The platform has become a powerful tool for communities and marketers alike. But, after several years of building a quality Facebook presence, providers are now being warned about upcoming changes to how Facebook works, which can and will affect their accounts.

In a January 11, 2018, post to the Facebook blog, Adam Mosseri, head of News Feed at Facebook, announced that changes to the News Feed are being implemented. Says Mosseri, ”With this update, we will also prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people. To do this, we will predict which posts you might want to interact with your friends about, and show these posts higher in the Feed. These are posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments…We will also prioritize posts from friends and family over public content…”

Obviously, these changes are going to be felt the most by organizations that operate a Facebook Page as part of their outreach efforts. Facebook expects that Pages will see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease. While people will still see posts from pages they follow, Facebook will prioritize content that prompts conversation and interaction between users.

So, what can you do to ensure that your posts will still be seen by your target audience? Here are our top tips for keeping your content in front of your followers:

  1. Make your content engaging. We can’t stress this enough. The days of just posting a pretty picture or trying to promote an upcoming marketing event are over. Your content needs to elicit a response from your audience. Before you make a post, ask yourself, “Does this post inspire me to leave a comment or share it?” If it doesn’t, then you should go back to the drawing board.
  2. But don’t beg for engagement. Facebook announced that it will algorithmically degrade content that asks for engagement. This means that you shouldn’t end your post with, “Please leave a comment” or “Make sure to Like and share.” Again, your goal is to inspire this behavior organically.
  3. Use a mix of words and media to garner a response. Every post you make should have a picture or video attached. Studies have repeatedly shown that text-only posts receive far less engagement. However, this doesn’t mean that you can ignore the words that go along with the post. The corresponding text needs to be descriptive enough that someone who has no knowledge of the topic being presented could be moved to engage.

Facebook has a history of making changes to its platform that are initially resisted by the user base but, over time, have proven effective, making for a better user experience. We believe this round of changes will be in the same vein, requiring us to adapt to a changing paradigm that will make us smarter and more effective marketers in the future.

2017 was a trying year for aging services organizations across the country — and not just for the traditional reasons. Sure, costs went up, income from government plans went down, and the need to upgrade remained constant. But, as the year went on, it was the unexpected tragedies that caught the industry’s attention. Massive flooding permeated the Gulf Coast, wildfires blazed in the American West and, of course, there was a devastating fire that recently struck at Barclay Friends in Pennsylvania. These unexpected events can quite literally destroy lives and communities.

While we all like to think they could never happen to us, in 2017, many realized it could. This has led to a renewed interest in crisis communications plans across the aging services sector, with providers dusting off their three-ring binders, updating their plans and expanding them to include new media. One question that we often hear is, “What are the key things I should have in my crisis communications plan?” While an article such as this provides too little space to detail a full plan, we can share with you the three things that we look for in creating, revising or updating a crisis communications plan.

1. Is your leadership trained to talk to the media?

The aging services field has long benefited from sustained tenure in the C-Suite. Executives, especially CEOs, often stay with an organization for many years, becoming the face and voice of the brand. They become comfortable with local news organizations and inherently know how to speak to them through a lifetime of experience. Now many of those seasoned leaders are retiring, and a new crop of executives is taking over.

These new leaders may not be prepared to deal with a media firestorm that can explode after a tragedy. Taking some time, and budget dollars, for training your leadership in media relations could be a vital investment. There’s an art to speaking to reporters, especially when information is scarce and you are trying to be both honest with the public yet protect the privacy and safety of your residents, employees and volunteers. For these reasons, we heartily recommend media training for your leadership team.

2. Who is responsible for managing the digital media response?

When tragedy strikes, one of the first places people now turn to is digital media, such as Facebook, Twitter and the web. Have you incorporated these outlets into your crisis communications plan? Is there a system in place for the person responsible for updating these channels to receive approved messaging and post it in a timely manner?

Experienced social media and web managers are usually able to handle an onslaught of information requests, but in many aging services groups, the task of digital media management is left to the marketing team or a small team of communications professionals on the corporate level (who may not even be in the same area as an affected community). This is why it’s so crucial to identify a process for information disclosure through these channels, including who can approve a release of details, who will be doing the actual publishing of the information and a chain of command for answering difficult questions in a timely manner.

3. Are you prepared to deal with the aftermath?

The first 24 hours after an event occurs are the most critical — and, in the moment, may seem the most stressful. Are you and your team prepared for the intense scrutiny and stress that will come once the initial dust has settled?

For example, in the case of Barclay Friends, reporters immediately went digging for information about anything and everything related to the community. They quickly uncovered issues with fire protection equipment reported earlier in the year, placing a new focus on the community and creating another aspect for the media to latch onto. As investigations unfold and causes are determined, you should have a plan in place for managing media relationships in the weeks and months after an event occurs.

We get it — no one wants to think about dealing with a crisis. It’s also very difficult to show a return on investment for the costs of developing a crisis communications plan. At Varsity, we like to think of it as insurance. It’s a product that you pay for in hopes that you never have to use it, but it provides a peace of mind that can’t be overestimated Plus, should an event occur, you’ll be glad that you had a plan in place.

Potential residents and their families are increasingly turning to the internet to aid in their search for a retirement community. Nearly every community has a website, and most employ lead-generating tactics on them (contact page, downloadable brochures, etc.). But there is always room for improvement. Over a period of three weeks, we’ll provide you with three actionable tips that you can use to improve your digital footprint.

It’s Friday night, and you’re feeling great. You’re ready for an adventure, so you plan to try a new restaurant for dinner. Do you just pick one at random that you saw on a billboard? Probably not. You’re far more likely to give it a try if you’ve read glowing reviews on Yelp, Google or OpenTable. It makes sense, really. No one likes to go into a situation blind. The same sentiment goes for your potential residents.

The online reputation of your organization is just as critical to your success as Yelp reviews are to restaurants. The first step in improving that reputation is to know where people are looking for reviews. The biggest players, by far, are Google and Facebook. These sites allow you to review just about any product, with little to no oversight. Once a bad review appears on one of these pages, your only choice is to be open and transparent in your response. Unfortunately, most retirement communities aren’t even aware that these poor sentiments exist on the web — let alone how to respond to them.

One site that often gets overlooked is Glassdoor is an employment site where potential employees can go to find reviews of an organization. It allows users to rate the interview process, share benefits information and comment on how they were treated as an employee. Have you looked to see if your organization is being reviewed on Glassdoor? Perhaps now is the time — especially as the employment market for skilled professionals, such as nurses, is getting more competitive.

Knowing what is being said about your organization is just the start. At Varsity, we help our clients be proactive instead of reactive. Businesses need to be actively establishing and managing their online reputations and working to build positive reviews on key websites. That way, when someone searches for a community, they’ll be overwhelmed with the positive reviews, while the negative ones are pushed to the bottom of the page.

When we’re working with a client on a potential brand position, we ask three questions: Is it true? Is it unique? And is it compelling? All three of those qualities need to come together for a brand to work its hardest. In previous posts, I covered true, unique and compelling in detail. A quick recap:

  • True: The claim you’re making must be true. Otherwise, people may try your product—but they won’t buy it again. Some examples of brands that didn’t live up to their advertising: the Ford Edsel, Surge soda and WOW Chips.
  • Unique: The Unique Selling Proposition (USP) first discussed in the ‘40s still holds true today. It’s critical to find something that makes your product truly different. It’s all about that one promise that no one else in the market can make.
  • Compelling: Last but not least, if a proposition is true and unique, but not compelling to customers, they won’t be moved to act. How can we be sure our promise is on track? Research. Research. Research. We should never assume we know what consumers think before checking in with them.

True. Unique. Compelling. The right brand position will be all three.

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