Opinion: care providers need to create more brand awareness

With the number of people aged 85 and over rocketing faster than any other age group in the UK, PR for the grey market is set to be one of the few areas of growth in future years.

Mario Ambrosi: Care opinion
Mario Ambrosi: Care opinion

From financial services to beauty products to specialist care, many companies are increasingly using images of sun-kissed, silver-haired supermen in their bid to grab the grey pound. And while public sector funding for older people’s care is shrinking, a massive change in the way that funding is distributed will bring big opportunities for PROs, as well as for the public.

'Personalisation' has become the buzzword to describe individualised care. Rather than providing identical care services to everyone, there’s a growing realisation that services should be tailored to the needs of the individual. As part of that, government is increasingly putting cash into the hands of individual consumers so they can buy their care themselves, instead of simply getting what they’re given by their local authority.

The new agenda – backed by both Labour and the Tories – provides massive communications opportunities. Many care providers have previously been able to rely on big contracts with local authorities, so had little call for consumer PR or complex stakeholder management. That is now changing.

The move to individual budgets will bring an end to those big contracts. Instead of one contract with a local authority to provide care to a thousand residents, a care provider may need to win a thousand small contracts with a thousand individual customers, many of whom will want to use savings to top-up their small allowances.

More older people, with greater responsibility for buying their care, means creating brand awareness and trust among publics is suddenly more important to the care sector than ever before.

Care services don’t always have the best of reputations and, in some cases, it’s justified. But the need for organisations to raise their profile means that, at last, some of the fantastic work done in care homes and by those providing care to individuals in their own homes will finally get talked about too.

Demographics and the personalisation agenda mean the sector will only become more high profile. Organisations will have to work hard to improve and maintain their and the sector’s reputations. That will call for tailored communications focused on individuals who often don’t see themselves as old at all. Sharp-eyed environment scanning, issues management and proactive PR from communications professionals will be vital, as well as continuous improvements in service delivery by the companies they represent.

Traditional media will be crucial. But, with silver-surfers also the fastest-growing users of the internet, new media will also be a key route to older people.
Mario Ambrosi is Head of Corporate Communications at Anchor Trust, England’s largest provider of housing and care for older people.

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