Case study: Shepherd Village external research

Shepherd Village
Shepherd Village is a non-profit seniors housing organization that owns and operates four accommodations for seniors in Scarborough, ranging from fully independent retirement apartments to a longterm care home. Since 1961, Shepherd Village has been meeting the physical, spiritual, emotional, and social needs of seniors, within a caring, Christian environment.

A Marketing and External Relations Plan informed by original stakeholder research.

Opportunity & approach
Shepherd Village had recently completed a new strategic plan. A major thrust of the plan was to increase the organization’s outreach and relationships with community stakeholders. Shepherd Village needed a communications and marketing expert who could translate its strategic plan into a comprehensive and practical marketing and external relationship plan.

For this project, I: audited and analyzed the organization’s existing communications and marketing materials, strategic documents, and resident evaluations; researched the Agincourt and Scarborough communities to gain a snapshot of the demographics and community players and culture; researched, conducted, and summarized one-to-one stakeholder interviews; and strategized and wrote a final plan that contained an overall recommended approach to guide the organization’s brand and 31 specific recommended tactics and initiatives.

To make it as relevant and ‘actionable’ as possible, I deliberately aligned the Marketing and External Relations plan to the organization’s strategic plan. One of my first steps was to identify all of the objectives within the existing strategic plan that had implications or relevance to Shepherd Village’s brand, marketing, and external relationships.

Shepherd Village has many avenues into the community. It offers seniors housing, practical and healthcare services for seniors, and faith services. Shepherd Village is also a large landowner, employer, and entity that manages dozens of business and vendor relationships within Eastern Toronto. Despite this reach, Shepherd Village’s relationships within the community have historically been quite limited. The relationships they did have were often transactional and short-term. Therefore, one of the first steps necessary for this project was to determine who Shepherd Village’s stakeholders were and what they knew and what they felt about Shepherd Village. Through conversations with the senior management team and my own research, I identified the categories of stakeholder groups relevant to Shepherd Village and proposed a list of stakeholder organizations under each category. The stakeholder list was finalized with the management team. In total, I conducted 16 stakeholder interviews. The vast majority of the interviews were made ‘cold’, meaning the request for an interview was done without Shepherd Village’s involvement. The interviews were summarized overall and also by stakeholder group. The stakeholder research findings were key in the development of the Marketing and External Relations Plan.

The final Marketing and External Relations Plan included: the overall goal and objectives; summaries of the stakeholder research findings; recommended broad approach; and 31 recommended tactics and initiatives, organized by strategic objective. The recommended tactics and initiatives ranged from high level, such as updates to the organization’s branding and corporate key messaging; to very tactical, such as specific Search Engine Optimization improvements for its website; to business growth, such as a recommended alliance with a national research body that specializes in dementia, a key area of opportunity to help differentiate Shepherd Village from other seniors accommodation organizations. The project was completed within three months.

Shepherd Village’s management team was very pleased with the process and the final report. They were especially interested to learn about the community’s impressions of Shepherd Village. The management team is currently prioritizing the recommendations and created an implementation plan.

From the client
“My expectations of working with Nathalie were exceeded. She took the time to understand our business and what makes us slightly different from our competition and she didn’t let her pre-conceived ideas get in the way of her analysis of our position in the marketplace. Nathalie’s research skills impressed us. She identified organizations in our community that we hadn’t even heard of. Developing business relationships with some of them is going to be one of our initiatives. I would definitely recommend Nathalie. She was professional in the way she led us through the process and the final report was exactly what we were looking for. She was very clear about what she was going to deliver and the timeframe for delivery. All of her promises were kept.” – Farhad Sethna, Vice President Corporate Services

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