Amid a significant health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, going the extra mile can seem overwhelming. Yet, now more than ever, our communities need comradery. Creating a community outreach effort during difficult times can provide precisely the invaluable payback your business needs.
In times of crisis, most businesses incessantly worry about their bottom line. It’s all about dollars and cents for some businesses during the pandemic–and rightfully so. However, the businesses that not only succeeded but grew during previous crises were the ones who thought long term.
Success is all about confidence in a long-term mindset. It’s paradoxical to consider giving back during a time of crisis, but that may be the strategy that helps to pull your business and its community through. It’s thinking toward the future, it creates goodwill, and it’s a return of investment that you simply can’t afford to ignore.
Creating an Outreach Program: Delivering Smiles, Fostering Community
As the founder of an aesthetic dental practice, I had to ask myself what our team could do during times like these to foster an increased sense of community, even while pandemic best practices dictate continued social distancing and other protective measures.
The goal was to create a program that was engaging and supportive of the community while building and maintaining a practitioner’s high profile in the minds and hearts of existing and potential patients. From a personal standpoint, I wanted to honor the everyday essential heroes making my community safe. This kicked off the #SmilesForBostonHeroes campaign, which resulted in us honoring not one, but two local heroes who have served our community in an amazing way.
Our selected winners were Naomi Flaherty, an emergency room and rehabilitation nurse who is also studying to be a family practitioner nurse. She is on the frontlines in the emergency room and also there to help people get back to their best, healthy lives. Naomi won a $20,000 smile makeover from our dental practice. “A positive outlook paired with ambition can get you anywhere you want to go,” said #SmilesForBostonHeroes winner Naomie. “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
We originally planned for only one winner, but like all things in life, our program evolved. We couldn’t resist creating a second prize for another deserving nominee, Kanella Christopulos, a speech pathologist who has helped Covid-19 patients restore health to their virus-damaged lungs and deliver speech therapy to patient recovering from intubation. Kanella was awarded a $1,500 prize to use towards furthering her career.
“When you walk into a rehab patient’s hospital room for the first time, you are about to meet a person that is likely going through the hardest obstacle they’ve ever had to face. We bring with us discouraging and inevitable news that we don’t have a magic pill to fix it all,” said Kanella. “At these times, I’ve found having a smile in your ‘toolbox’ never fails. It’s simple and intuitive; a smile provides a sense of compassion, positivity, and hope. And in that moment, it might be just what the doctor ordered.”
The takeaway from recognizing the vital contributions Naomi and Kanella are making to the community? Greater exposure and community relationship-building for our practice brand and the intangible, powerful feeling that comes from doing something worthwhile – smile-worthy, indeed!
The Community Engagement Road Map
The #SmilesforBostonHeroes campaign was the first community giveback program we ran since closing down for three months during the Covid-19 crisis. The program had a simple blueprint. It is my hope for other businesses to use the example to create more of these kinds of programs. Here’s the road map we used:
We launched the program through Instagram in a newly established account, hoping to inspire people and make them smile through the pandemic. Instagram was selected because it’s a social channel with more than 120 million users in the U.S. and 37% of U.S. adults. Every day, 63% of Americans use Instagram. A powerful choice for community connection.
Here’s what it allowed for our business to do:
- Showcase: The new Instagram account would serve as a way to showcase the excellent work of our practice while highlighting the community involvement program.
- Engagement: As a highly interactive social channel, Instagram allowed us to invite participation on a dedicated page that we could also share among partner sites.
- Awareness: Instagram is a great site to introduce yourself and your practice on both a local and national level. According to Instagram, 90% of users follow a business account.
- Target: While 23% of 50 to 64 year-olds use Instagram, it’s most popular among our target age for smile makeovers: 57% of 18 to 29 year-olds use the site.
- Results: 900% Engagement Boost and Smiles
Inspire Your Community and Elevate Your Brand
#SmilesForBostonHeroes launched in July 2020 and ran through the end of August. Program posts had 900% engagement as we shared the truly inspiring stories of all the nominated heroes, including Naomi and Kanella. Local and national media coverage added several hundred thousand viewer impressions, along with an SEO boost for our digital presence.
While social media has multiple uses for entrepreneurs and causes, leveraging the power of connection to elevate your brand while delivering true social good is a bottom-line business decision that also inspires the heart and connects the community.
Dr. Charles Sutera, FAGD, is a doctor of dental medicine, TMJ specialist, board-certified in moderate dental anesthesiology, and renowned for high profile cosmetic dental reconstructions. He is a certified Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry and is the founder of his dental practice, Aesthetic Smile Reconstruction.
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