Project Spotlight: Digital is Here to Stay

How the Lenbrook Senior Living Community Transitioned to Virtual Events for Marketing Results

Rochelle Valsaint
Manager of Brand and Communications
Lenbrook Senior Living

The trend toward virtual events and online meetings is everywhere – even where people didn’t seem ready to adapt to digital experiences. Lenbrook, a senior living community in Atlanta, Georgia, had not tried to engage their primary target audience of seniors with many new media efforts. But as Lenbrook has transitioned from in-person to virtual events, they’ve found new success. They’ve matched previous attendance metrics and found new ways to continue the marketing conversation with prospects.

We recently sat down with Lenbrook’s Manager of Brand and Communications, Rochelle Valsaint, to discuss Lenbrook’s embrace of digital experiences and how their success will help carry their marketing past today’s limitations into the future.


Relish Marketing: Let’s start with the basics. What kind of marketing events did Lenbrook host for prospective residents before the pandemic?

Rochelle Valsaint: Before the pandemic, we would hold two or three in-person events per quarter. At most of them, we would provide lunch, bring in speakers to discuss specific topics related to senior living and create opportunities for prospects to meet residents. We’d have as many as 50 attendees at each. They were great ways to connect people with Lenbrook.

RM:     How did COVID-19 force a change?

RV:      We had been talking about ways to do online versions of our luncheon events even before the pandemic. Then, it became clear that COVID-19 would keep us from bringing people here in person. So, we canceled our March 2020 event. Additionally, we went from talking about virtual events to actually exploring available technologies and producing them. We chose the GoToWebinar platform because of its security strengths. And, with the support of Relish Marketing, we produced our first event in June of 2020.

RM:     What stands out for you about the process of pivoting to that virtual format?

RV:      Looking back, it was an exciting time that pushed us into a direction we needed to go with our digital marketing and experiences! We worked closely with Relish to make the invitation easy to read and follow, no matter how people might read it. We were strategic about scheduling communications and using our RSVP platform to strengthen our connection to our audience, as well as track responses.

Internally, we had to get everyone from the branding and marketing team to residence advisors and sales on the same page about how everyone would use the technology. We also needed to align on how the virtual format would affect things like the way we follow up on leads.

RM:     Can you talk a bit about lessons learned?

RV:      Oh, we definitely learned some lessons. For instance, we learned that today’s seniors – Baby Boomers, especially – are used to tech in a way that previous generations weren’t. Their adult children and grandchildren are very tech-savvy, which motivates seniors to learn new platforms that can help them stay connected and in touch. With that in mind, we saw good reasons to raise our digital marketing efforts to new levels.

We also learned that postal mail gives us better results with some audiences and email delivers better results with others. But an integrated, multiple touch approach can deliver even more. The more deeply in conversation we are with a prospect – across multiple media – the greater the response.

RM:     How have you found producing a digital event different from in-person events?

RV:      They are completely different. In-person means determining food, inviting people to a luncheon, arranging seating, inviting speakers to cover a topic as people eat, and maybe conducting a tour.

Digital events are more of an actual production. We’ve pre-recorded tour content that’s closer in tone to an HGTV style walk through. We record panel discussions. There’s a whole editing process involved, combining prerecorded content with opportunities for people to feel like they’re participating in something live. But we can also have more attendees. Initially, there was concern that shifting from in-person to virtual experiences might cause a drop in interest and attendance. But we’ve seen no such decreases. In fact, in some cases, we’ve even seen increases.

RM:     Do you see this type of event continuing to be part of your marketing, going forward?

RV:      Let me put it this way – digital experiences are here to stay. Even as we have more in-person events, following up with virtual content and virtual events, can only be helpful. In-person events may be more social. But virtual events provide another form of education and engagement that’s simply easier for our prospects. Virtual events are also helping us capture how attendees feel, while they’re still feeling it. We didn’t get that feedback from physical events, even though we handed out surveys.

That said, I don’t think that it’s an either-or kind of thing. Virtual events will continue to give our residency counselors a powerful way to connect with people who don’t attend in person – for any reason. And, the content we produce can continue to support our customers’ journeys. For instance, right now, we’re editing our virtual event about the myths of moving to senior living into searchable pieces that address each misconception individually. The combination of virtual and in-person can only deliver advantages.

RM:     What advice do you have for other marketers looking to transition to digital events?

RV:      First, I’d say that just because virtual events are faster for your audience that doesn’t make them faster for you. Making a virtual event feel seamless requires more energy up front, not less. You still need strategic timelines and strategic thinking to produce something great.

I’d also tell people to work with great partners. Relish’s guidance was invaluable to our ability to execute. Knowing what was required for a successful virtual event, designing for digital and working with our digital team to execute. What it would look like, how it would work and how we would measure success – that was critical to our success.

The senior-serving world has been slow to shift to more digital experiences. But this very challenging time reminded us that we can stay smart and stay aware of what’s possible going forward. If we can stay on our toes, this is a very exciting time for marketers!

Whether you are already taking full advantage of everything that virtual events and meetings can offer or you’re still figuring out the basics, talk with the Relish team about the best ways to make digital experiences work for your business.