1. Tell us who you are, what you do, and how you got here.

I am Erika Gennari, Director of Marketing and Communications for Commonwealth Senior Living. I have worked in sales and marketing my entire career across a variety of industries. My first job out of college was in managing private events at City Museum (still one of my favorite places on earth!). From there, I worked in a marketing firm, a newsweekly, and a nonprofit. Exploring what makes organizations unique and human and sharing those stories really appeals to me. But I fell in love with senior living when I landed at Commonwealth. It provides a mouse in the pocket view of the whole spectrum of life experience. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. It’s never boring.

2. What’s the most inspiring interaction you’ve had with a resident?

Before I worked in senior living, my grandmother was a resident at McKnight Place in St. Louis. In fact, my son learned to walk pushing her wheelchair around her community. Seeing the love those associates poured into my grandmother had a tremendous impact on me. I’ll never forget seeing Carla, her caregiver at the funeral crying along with the rest of us. That emotional investment that she made with our family was priceless. When the opportunity presented itself for me to work in senior living and help families on that path, I knew it was the right fit. As luck would have it, I met David Smith, the owner of McKnight Place at SMASH the following year. He was as nice as could be and remembered my family and my grandmother.  

3. What’s the marketing or business challenge that keeps you awake at night?

I worry about “the ones who got away.” Those families who see our TV spot, visit our website, hear about us from a friend, but for whatever reason, they don’t reach out. They stay home, and they’re alone. I worry about the ones who chose not to move to senior living.

4. So what keeps you coming into work every day…even without a full night’s sleep?

For me, it’s the perfect balance of creative and analytical. I have the distinct pleasure of planning and directing our photo and video shoots. We only use authentic photos of our residents, families, and associates in our marketing. So I get to interview them off camera and get them to giggle for a shot. It’s ridiculously fun. But then I also get to dig into the database and understand the ROI of our campaigns, what tactics generated the most leads for the least amount of money, and how many of those leads moved in. It’s a nice mix of qualitative and quantitative work.

5. What’s the most valuable piece of advice you can give newcomers to the field?

Listen to the residents and families. Understand why they chose your community, and make that your holy grail. Share it with your teams, on your social media accounts, and let it be the thing that you carry home and take pride in.

6. Tell us about the best marketing move/decision you’ve made to date.

Two years ago, we began really looking at leads and move ins by source. I have to thank Love and Company for providing us with this strategy. Ultimately, setting goals and expectations for each community based on where leads originate and the conversion rates gives us a very clear roadmap to census goals.  

7. What’s the trend you see coming up in senior living that you think marketers can take advantage of?

We’ve all talked about it, but I am really excited to see how senior living flexes and bends to meet the needs and desires of the Baby Boomers. Will yoga and meditation studios become standard? Will we be building more “Golden Girls” style homes? It will be interesting to see what the new demographic wants and needs and how we can adjust to provide it.

And the added eighth question from Wes Lavendar of Atria:

Who is the mentor that brought out the best in you?

Kristy Ruppe Craddock has been a fantastic mentor. As my Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, we’ve worked together closely for the last two years. Her depth of experience in the industry has been a huge asset. Not only has she coached me through the higher level budgeting and forecasting aspects of this role, her critiques have led me to push myself to be more thoughtful when considering how a message may be received by a variety of audiences. You know you have an impactful mentor when you think, what would Kristy say about this?