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The COVID-19 Pandemic: Navigating a Crisis with Communication and Collaboration

Planning and Preparation Builds a Foundation for Success

Weeks before the Governor of Pennsylvania issued his shelter-in-place directive, Presbyterian SeniorCare Network had already assembled its COVID-19 Task Force with the sole purpose of putting policies, procedures and protocols in place to prevent the disease from infecting its residents and staff.

With locations in 10 counties in western Pennsylvania that include skilled nursing, assisted living, personal care, independent living and low-income housing communities, the faith-based non-profit aging services provider serves more than 6,500 residents and patients annually and employs approximately 2,000 team members.

The COVID-19 Task Force worked diligently to keep pace with the ongoing changes in guidance issued by local, state and federal authorities. As quickly as protocols and procedures were issued, they soon had to be modified and reissued, again and again.

Communication was a critical component of the Network’s effectiveness with employees and vendors as well as residents and patients and their family members. Pipitone acted quickly to support Presbyterian SeniorCare Network in:

  • Family member communication: development of a COVID-19 Family resources web page
  • Hiring communication: development of a web page for interviewing information and protocol during COVID-19
  • Outreach to the community: print ad campaign in the beginning of COVID-19 letting the community and families know we would be restricting visitation to get the message out broadly and quickly
  • Earned PR coverage about the in-depth protocol to keep our residents and staff safe
  • Internal Communications to keep the internal team connected during a time of crisis
  • Morale Boosting to bring light to an unprecedented, difficult situation for team members and residents alike.

Staying Connected – Weekly Video Messages for Team Members

The Pipitone Group, together with staff from Presbyterian SeniorCare Network, developed a weekly video series, Staying Connected, that featured updates from the Network’s CEO along with one or two members of the COVID-19 Task Force.

With strict visitation restrictions and social distancing guidelines in place, it was not possible to produce traditional videos. We needed to think creatively.

Videos consisted of a narrated PowerPoint recorded on the WebEx platform. Information was shared each week covering a wide range of subjects from infection control to recruitment to strategic operations.

A link to the video was provided in the weekly Team Member Update e-newsletter that also provided a brief overview of the content of that week’s video.

Igniting Rays of Sunshine

Pipitone Group quickly recognized that an opportunity existed for community participation and involvement – from a distance, of course.

During a time of quarantine, individuals were looking for ways to help. We developed Rays of Sunshine. The community was invited to help brighten the lives of Presbyterian SeniorCare Network’s residents, patients and team members by delivering some Rays of Sunshine during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the community were invited to send a note or a card, long or short, big or small, homemade or store-bought. We promoted Rays of Sunshine on social media, the Network’s website and to family members of residents.

Greetings then were shared with residents, patients and team members in several ways. Individual cards and notes were distributed to residents, and weekly videos were produced featuring a compilation of Rays of Sunshine received that week. A link to the videos was provided in the weekly Team Member Update e-newlsetter and also featured on hallway flat screens, running on an endless loop.

Recognizing Heroes with Heart

Working collaboratively with Presbyterian SeniorCare Network, Heroes with Heart was born.

Heroes with Heart is an employee appreciation project to salute and recognize the commitment and dedication of team members during the challenging COVID-19 pandemic. Through a series of small acts of gratitude, Heroes with Heart was designed to maintain positive employee morale and bring a smile to the faces of team members who were working hard to make a difference each day.

From thank-you signs on all campuses to gift cards to pizza deliveries to tasty sweets, these small acts of kinds made a big difference.


Maintaining consistency and frequency in communication about updates to procedures and protocols and keeping morale up for employees and residents were among the most important goals of communication during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On average, the Staying Connected weekly videos received about 350 views each week or 17% of employees, which is 4% higher than the national average.

Immediate success was obtained through Rays of Sunshine. In the first four weeks of the initiative, more than 1,300 greetings were received through social media, videos and U.S. mail.

Heroes with Heart maintained a steady drumbeat of small acts of gratitude for employees across the entire 10-county network. Execution was well thought out with every distribution.

To date (May 14, 2020), distributions have included two $25 gift cards – one to a major grocery store and another to a nearby convenience chain store; candy bars, personal-size pizzas and a long-sleeved Heroes with Heart t-shirt. In addition, a series of Heroes with Heart thank-you signs have been placed on every campus to greet employees as they come to work. The Heroes with Heart theme and graphics have been incorporated by the client into the weekly email updates sent to all team members across the Network.

Pipitone Group 3933 Perrysville Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15214-1735


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