HiResBy Lisa Pearre, Principal and Executive Vice President, Love & Company

During the LeadingAge 2014 annual conference in Nashville, I attended an excellent session by Bethany Garrity, Director, National Institute for Fitness and Sport, and Sharon Jessup, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, LCS, titled, “Wellness Based Brands: Programming Powered by Data.” Our presenters outlined how to make wellness part of what you do every day, which is the core definition of a brand: Your promise of performance, that which your residents, their families, and your other customers can expect you will deliver consistently every day.

Wellness, oftentimes segmented into several pillars to cover the whole person (LeadingAge’s website includes useful resources on wellness), has been a hot topic for many years, as communities look to best serve their changing audience and differentiate themselves from the competition. However, I have seen the implementation of wellness programs frequently stop at exercise and fitness, maybe with some basic activities that are half-heartedly tied to one of the other pillars. The community’s commitment to most of the pillars remains philosophical and theoretical.

If multi-dimensional wellness is not fully integrated into the very fabric of your community culture, how then can it be truly leveraged for your brand?

Fully integrating wellness into your community culture and therefore your brand is not the responsibility of one or two departments. As Tom Mann and I noted in our recent presentation, “WOW! Tactics: Highly Targeted Approaches for Challenging Inventory and Prospects,” successful implementation requires a cross-discipline approach, incorporating activities, resident services, marketing, operations, leadership, even resources outside of your community.

Integrating wellness into your culture

Our presenters provided the following recommendations for incorporating wellness into your culture and therefore your brand:

1. Review your lifestyle calendar

Note that Bethany didn’t refer to this as the activities calendar. “You need a better word than ‘activity’; that’s what kids do,” she quipped. Beyond changing the name of the calendar, label the choices on the calendar to associate them with your different pillars of wellness.

2. Incorporate multi-dimensional discovery into your sales process

Every aspect of your culture—inside and out—should link back to your wellness pillars. Refine your sales discovery questions to align with your pillars. “When was the last time you were outside? How do you manage stress? What do you do to volunteer?” In addition to these sample questions, Bethany suggested using wellness opportunities at your community as a reason to call a lead and schedule an appointment.

3. Utilize education and storytelling

Nothing is more effective for making a memorable connection than storytelling. When you are speaking to your audience, whether through marketing messages or during a one-on-one appointment, educate them about your pillars of wellness by telling stories about each pillar.

4. Map out your wellness tour and hot spots

As with your discovery questions, every aspect of your sales process should integrate wellness. Map out your tour to focus on your wellness hot spots, and determine (and practice) ahead of time how you will talk about them. Where is the dining room, and what’s the wellness benefit? Does your chef use the freshest ingredients, because the community maintains an herb garden and has a farm-to-table partnership with a local farm?

5. Ensure operational support

Ever hear the phrase, truth in advertising? You can say what you want in your marketing and sales messages, but if it’s not actually happening and supported in the day-to-day operations of your community, your stories will eventually fall flat. Brands that grow and stand the test of time are based on culture, not trendy marketing messages.

6. Access resources

Your community does not need to be all-inclusive to live a multi-dimensional wellness culture. Look to outside partners to supplement your internal resources. Don’t have a pool? Partner with the local swim club. Don’t have the sources for a robust lifelong learning program? Partner with a local higher education institution.

7. Be personally authentic

A successful wellness culture is not simply about the residents. For your wellness culture to be truly authentic, staff at all levels should live it. As Bethany stated, “Be well yourself!”

Empowered for change

Developing a true wellness culture and brand doesn’t happen overnight. And, it will not happen without the authentic support of your community’s executive leadership. Change is hard, and requires empowerment, accountability and clear expectations, as well as consistent commitment of resources (money and manpower).

Gaining support requires building a cross-discipline team and documenting results. Our presenters’ suggestions included:

  • Tap into staff’s passion for your mission, their love of the residents and commitment to fulfilling that promise
  • Rewrite job descriptions to make wellness and cross-dimensional work part of the duties
  • Audit your lifestyle calendar by categorize existing activities into your wellness pillars and identifying what needs to be added to fully actualize each pillar
  • Take one or two existing successful programs and look for ways to make them more robust and dimensional
  • Evaluate program results and metrics (document attendance, survey residents after the event), and use that data to adjust programs and improve results
  • Look to the hospitality industry for ideas (hydration station infused with fruits or veggies)
  • Use your discovery efforts to inventory the personal passions and interests of your prospects, maintain that inventory once residents move in, and use the inventory to connect new residents with those of similar interests
  • Involve residents in the dialogue and action for building your wellness culture
  • Develop logos for your wellness program pillars that are tied to your community logo for consistency, then put them everywhere
  • Talk about your wellness as the culture, not an activity, and make sure the evidence is everywhere (live flowers, not plastic; bowl of whole fruit washed and ready to eat, not high-fat pastries)

What is your community’s commitment to a wellness culture and brand? Tell us your story.

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