- Meet Brooks Shelley, Chief Brand Strategy and Community Engagement Officer at Aldersgate Life Plan Services
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Meet Brooks Shelley, Chief Brand Strategy and Community Engagement Officer at Aldersgate Life Plan Services
Q: Hello Brooks, so what’s on your winter reading and podcast list?
A: Oddly enough, my podcast listening is eclipsed by my podcast creations. Aldersgate creates our own podcasts on topics such as healthy aging, equity, elder justice, and many other relevant topics. So that really takes the place of podcast listening for me. My current book is A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. It’s a recount of our history that references documents and situations not typically shown in our history books, starting with the British colonization that was more brutal than I remember learning in school. It’s a fascinating book that cites historical markers, but is also controversial and challenged by other historians. I prefer to get multiple points of view on my ‘facts’ to base an opinion.
Q: Aldersgate’s history dates back to 1943 and is very much rooted in the spirit of philanthropy. Your website states that you are “Naturally invested in community.” Can you speak to how this philosophy aligns with your non-profit structure?
A: This is one of the very few cases where ‘literally’ can be properly used, but Aldersgate was literally founded on philanthropy. Over 75 years ago, 2 Methodist minister’s wives approached a local farmer and asked him to donate a few acres of land for the clergy to have a place to retire. From that philanthropic action, Aldersgate was born—and has grown to now occupy over 200 acres. The first 3 words of our mission statement is ‘we honor elders’—and we have now taken that mission outside the geographical footprint that is Aldersgate. We are heavily invested in the community, especially the east side of Charlotte, and have robust partnerships with ourBridge for Kids, Charlotte Museum, Safe Alliance, SchermCo, Inspiration Barn, and many others. We have partnerships that aren’t typical to senior living facilities, and we were actually invited to engage on a national panel discussion by one of the leading associations. Aldersgate sits in the most diverse area of Charlotte and we embrace our neighbors and communities.
Q: The commitment to creating a community centered around diversity, inclusion and equity are woven into the Aldersgate mission. Can you elaborate on the concept of being Diverse by design?
A: Diverse by design speaks to the intentionality of our journey of diversity, inclusion and equity. It is a facet of human nature to tend to categorize and lump things of like kind, even from an early age. Senior living has historically been an all white, straight, affluent segment of our population. This is not the only segment of our society that ages and reaches senior status and Aldersgate aspires to be the flagship of change for our peer groups. Our mission statement of honoring elders doesn’t exclude elders based on their levels of diversity.
Q: Aldersgate’s “CCRC Without Walls” program is designed to provide future members with “the best of both worlds.” Can you elaborate on this new way of envisioning a Life Plan community and the tangible benefits it will going to have on your residents?
A: Our ‘CCRC Without Walls’ is called Lifegevity and is a great way to meet people where they are to get them engaged in the aspect of community. We are approaching a peak in population of seniors and there is currently not enough housing to accommodate. So Lifegevity gives folks who want to stay in their current home an option for being part of a community, with the access to social, educational, and physical offerings. It also gives a level of preference when the Lifegevity participants decide to become residents with us.
Q: The senior living customer journey is unique given the often-emotional challenges and complexities common to the search for an ideal community. The emergence of digital advertising has represented a paradigm shift for operators and their marketing and sales teams. Can you share any insights when it comes to generating high-quality leads and online form submissions?
A: Markets are moving snapshots of time and we are experiencing the technology wave. Some of our residents remember when you only had to dial 4 numbers on a phone to be connected to someone. Party lines. Rotary dials. Cable. Satellite. It’s eye opening to think of all the advances and changes made in technology over a lifetime of our current seniors. The vast majority of our new leads comes from digital, in some manner. At a minimum, digital adds a layering effect for our audience. From an administrative side, the digital advantage of being able to better address your specific demographic market is without peer. Any lead that comes in that has been cultivated from our digital efforts is already a valid, qualified lead. This allows our life plan counselors the advantage of better time management and the reduction of time lost on leads that ultimately don’t qualify for our offerings. The best advice I can give is to be as specific as possible with parameters around your perfect lead persona. Digital will bring them to you.
Q: According to the 2022 CMO Survey, digital marketing budgets now account for 57.1% of marketing budgets and are expected to grow by 16.2% this year alone. However, investments in data analytics grew by nearly 40% over the last year and are now the most common investment by marketers. Do you have any advice on how to manage data in order to tell a clear story?
A: I’ve been overly fortunate in working with the folks at Canopy and in particular, Bobby (Youngs), over the years. My level of understanding of the possibilities grew exponentially by having the experts in the field educate and guide me. My favorite conversations have been the ones that start with ‘So is there a way to……’ and then watch the wheels start in motion to a solution by the Canopy group. Nothing is off the table.