Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Jul-Aug 2012 Contents They mostly do it with family
members involved and family
members refer to the web in
ways they couldn't do before.
It used to be word of mouth,
but today the first port of call is
the internet and what pops up
there is either what the aged
care provider has strategically
communicated or just what the
world wide web has thrown out
there with no coordination,"
A TOP DOWN
Laverty believes that
communications is central to
the organisation's business
strategy and should be part of
all business planning, with representation
at the executive level.
Blue Care's Robyn O'Rourke agrees.
As director of strategic communications,
she was made a member of the executive
when Robyn Batten took over the role of
executive director in 2011.
"Robyn Batten recognised the
importance of effective communication to
Blue Care and decided that we needed to
be represented," she says.
"The marketing role has broadened
over time. Because Blue Care has 8,500
staff and is so geographically dispersed,
good internal communication can be a
particular challenge, so we have seen
the need for effective communication
strategies with both our internal and
"Our strategic communications
department now is a small team of 12
people -- two in media and public relations;
two focusing on internal communication;
two in fundraising, five in marketing plus
me," says O'Rourke. "We have a branding
strategy and a marketing strategy and we
look at the local, state and national levels."
O'Rourke says communication with
external audiences is changing markedly.
"Broadly, our external audiences have
been our prospective clients and their
families, local media, other media and
then government funders and referrers.
There are quite a lot but the focus on
different areas is changing as the industry
changes, especially with the new emphasis
on CDC [consumer-directed care]. With
CDC, families will be able to make the
choices themselves and there will be more
competition, we recognise that. So we will
need to be out in the community more.
"I'm not saying we haven't been out
speaking to families and the community
before but now the emphasis is changing. In
the past, there was a greater emphasis on
getting in front of the funders," she says.
Blue Care recently launched its new
consumer-directed service model, called
Blue Care Tailor Made. The organisation
invested a significant amount of time into
developing the model in a collaborative
way with all their local communities
and staff, and then another major
communication effort in rolling out the
implementation -- a process still underway.
"The communication around that
model has been critical, because the whole
philosophy and approach needs to be
understood and adopted and communicated
by staff but also by external audiences, so
clients and prospective clients know about it.
This November, O'Rourke will have been
at Blue Care for 10 years -- long enough to
have a good perspective on the changes
that have occurred and continue to occur.
"External influences are having a major
effect on the whole industry: the ageing
population; the increasing expectations
and demands of consumers; the ageing of
the workforce; the demand for adopting
"From a communication perspective
too, technology has brought many
changes. We're looking at different ways of
communicating, not just traditional media.
We are using the internet more and social
media but we're still doing a lot of face-
to-face too, at a community level: getting
out there and talking to the local service
groups and being in front of and part
of a local community. But facebook and
blogs and other social media have become
important communications tools."
THE RISE AND RISE OF
PR AND 'COMMS'
Like Robyn O'Rourke, Stephen Druce has
witnessed first hand, the ascendancy of
the communications role in aged care.
As director of group development with
Bupa Aged Care, he oversees a broad
range of business functions including
marketing and communications, but his
first aged care role was a solo position
with the then Amity Group.
"I was the first marketing person brought
on by Amity. There I was the only one. When
Amity was acquired by Bupa in November
2008, I was inherited," says Druce.
Australia was a new territory for
the UK-based global health insurer and
care provider -- now the world's largest
provider of residential aged care -- so
Druce's role has grown substantially in the
intervening few years.
"We now have a team of 11 at Bupa.
We cover functions including marketing
research and insights, brand management,
web management and internal and
external communications; and we work
closely with HR and the organisational
"Our brand is reflective of the whole
organisation so our 4,000 employees are
all brand ambassadors and they all need to
be able to understand what it is all about.
"From a communications perspective,
there is a broad national role as well as a
strong role in helping local sites connect
with their communities and promote what
they do," he says.
TESTING TIMES FOR
Robyn O'Rourke reflects that traditionally,
marketing and communications has been
considered more a nice extra rather than
one of the cornerstones of a business
"When times are tight, marketing is one
of the first areas to go. Will that continue
to be the case? It's hard to say," she says.
"Certainly, we've got to be more clever and
more effective in the way we communicate."
The real worth of a strategic
communication plan will be tested soon
enough, says Martin Laverty, with the
establishment of the Government's
Australian Seniors Gateway Agency. The so-
called one-stop shop for information, needs
assessment, care coordination and carer
referral services, including the 'My Aged
Care' website, is due to launch next year.
"The test will arise when the gateway
comes into play. At the moment they are
still dealing with the ACAR [Aged Care
Approvals Round] process. But aged care
services will need to relate to this new
referral body in a different way.
"Service providers will have to
communicate their offering through this
new gateway; to make sure they are in
control of their message and the way they
are perceived. It will require a new focus on
how they package their offering. Providers
should be thinking about that right now,
and sensible operators will be." n
AAA | JULY -- AUGUST 2012 | 29
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