So you have decided on doing a Virtual Tour. You have seen them online – perhaps even the high-end versions produced by Virtual Tour Group, or Virtual Healthcare Tours – and you are convinced that your facility will be the perfect showcase for the power and marketing edge they offer. Nevertheless, when you see those tours, you cannot help but wonder: How do they look so good? All of the rooms look like Hollywood movie sets! You might ask yourself how your facility can look like one of those facilities. The good news is that it will! And this article will tell you how you can make it happen by following a few simple steps.
1. Envision Your Vision
One of the first things to consider is how you want the tour to look. What is the “story” you want to tell? This does not have to be deep, visually symbolic artistry; just an answer to the question: What should people know about our facility? For example: Do you offer specialized services that few others have? Do you have a small, family-oriented staff? A beautiful location? Newly renovated rooms? What is it about your facility that you want people to come away with? Once you determine those things, you’re on the way.
Of course, you then may wish to decide which of these elements are the most important, and how you might want to project them. Much of this happens through staging – but it is a good idea to have the vision in mind from the very beginning, in order to make things smoother and more streamlined when the time comes.
2. To Make it Great, Communicate!
An important thing to remember about any working healthcare facility is that the staff is concerned with caring for patients/residents above all else. While this is a key marketing point, it also needs to be figured into the project as well. Once a date and time has been set to photograph for the tour, personnel needs to know about it. Everyone from the physicians, to the receptionists, to the security people should be kept in the loop so that there are no surprises when photo-day arrives. Nothing is worse than employees being taken aback, or even refusing to allow photography, simply because they “…hadn’t been told anything about a photo-shoot today.”
It is fascinating how smoothly the process goes when everyone is ‘on the same page’, however. The amount of equipment typically used by the photographer is small enough to fit in a single camera bag, so the process is very fast and virtually non-intrusive. Once the staff sees that there are no big lights nor equipment obstructing their work flow, and that a given area is usually shot in less than five minutes, it makes everyone happy. So let them know how quick, painless, and fun the whole experience will be as soon – and as often – as you can before the big day!
3. Staging the ‘Set’
This brings us to the topic of how to make the rooms and other locations (including the exterior) look like they were movie sets specifically built for the project. To use a clichéd phrase: “Less is more.” Sometimes human instinct is to add every fake plant, arm-chair, and piece of folk art in the building to the lobby, or each and every room. Frequently, however, just a few things are more than adequate. Using that fern from the conference room to block a fire-extinguisher or other non-removable distraction can work wonders. But filling a room with too many things can create visual overload.
Another important point: Generally you would want to remove any holiday, or seasonal decorations for the photo-shoot. Remember, this Virtual Tour is going to be seen online, by thousands, long after the current holiday (or calendar month) is gone. Sticky notes, coffee cups, personal effects, and the like can also be hidden for the time being. Of course, we will digitally remove the things that you cannot – within reason. While we cannot Photoshop away a fully-decked, ten-foot tall Christmas tree from the middle of the lobby, we can remove and refine many other elements so that the final images look just the way you want them to!
4. Crowd Control
Generally it is best to capture images of the locations without people in them. Typically you want to show the viewer what the place they will be coming to looks like. Since getting shots of an actively working facility without showing people in them is our goal, we good-naturedly speak of the “crowd control” that is sometimes needed when passersby see a camera in action. In the case of the exterior shots, it is next to impossible to keep vehicles or pedestrians from going by. But inside the building, having a staff member or two volunteer to keep hallways clear of foot traffic for the few moments required to photograph the panoramic shots is all it takes. This is usually a point of mention only when it comes to lobbies, nurses stations, or other places where people might move through the shot in a hazy blur. For most other spots, it is not a major issue.
5. Show With Some Tell
The great thing about a Virtual Tour is that it allows people to not only see the place you are showing them as if they were standing there; but to click on hotspots and bring up even more information. A piece of art on a wall with an interesting story behind it can be a clickable hotspot. A new, state-of-the art diagnostic device can be clicked for further information. The possibilities are endless, but the point is simple: by making some elements in the virtual scene hotspots, you are not only showing people, but you have the chance to tell them more. This means that your future patients/clients will not only feel more comfortable when walking through what now seem to be familiar doors, but they will be able to ‘do some homework,’ and have a keener appreciation for some of the finer points of your facility.
As you know by now, a Virtual Tour has a pretty compelling “wow factor” to it, that not only catches people’s eye, but stays in their memory. Healthcare facilities such as Hospitals, SNF, ALF, and others – all over the country – have found that having Virtual Tours on their websites have proven to be amazing marketing tools. After all, it is one thing to talk about your facility, it is another to show people pictures and let them see it. But all of that pales in comparison with ‘bringing them right inside’ and showing them around, without them ever having to leave the comfort of their own home!
We know that caring for your patients without interruption is your main goal each and every day. We also know that you want your Virtual Tour to be as slick, sleek, and elegant as any that have ever been created. We are here to work along with you, through the whole process, to help make sure both of these things happen! So call us now, and let us create YOUR Virtual Tour experience.