A brief introduction to the importance of marketing communications

Marketing includes a broad range of activities, including communicating and building and maintaining relationships. These all contribute to securing the sustainability of your organisation.  Marketing does not only mean selling. It is also about communicating value (i.e. quality of service), establishing credibility and nurturing relationships. Marketing communications involves making conscious efforts to share information and keep in touch.

Aims include:

  • Increasing awareness of your day centre, what it has to offer and to spark interest in it. Ensuring your service is known about is key for sustainability. Awareness-raising aims to result in new relationships, often broadly directed at the general public or, more directly, at others who work in a similar field. This awareness raising tells people that the day centre exists and about the services provided.
  • Building relationships with groups of people, or organisations who are already in touch with your organisation by keeping them informed. It may be volunteers, unpaid carers of people who attend the day centre, commissioners and other funders, or local organisations with whom you have worked (e.g. community groups or companies involved in corporate volunteering schemes).

Madeline Powell and Stephen Osborne have studied day centres for adults with disabilities that are run as social enterprise organisations. They asked day centres about their views of “marketing”, how marketing was undertaken and how successful efforts were. They discovered that:

Building long term relationships rather than focusing on short term transactions is important for public services and is critical for fundraising

Madeline Powell and Stephen Osborne

Informal communication outside a service is part of marketing communications. This means that staff and volunteers who make phone calls to carers or speak with a visiting professional, for example,  are also involved in marketing communications.

Who are potential audiences for day centres’ marketing communications?

Knowing your audience is crucial for marketing communications work and the potential audience for day centres is very varied. Audiences are also important “stakeholders” in your organisation.

Day centres will want to make efforts to engage with:

  • Older people who are looking for some support, care or social contact and activities during the day
  • Family members or carers who might be considering the use of a day centre for the person they support
  • Students or trainees looking for a placement in a day centre to broaden their work experience (e.g. social work, occupational therapy or medical university students, or health and social care college students)
  • Job seekers
  • Potential volunteers
  • Donors, grant-making and other funders, or organisations who can help with funding, or where a contract is already in place
  • People putting together or updating directories about local services (e.g. organisations contracted by a local authority (LA) to do this as part of the LA duty to make information available)
  • Local community and other organisations that want to work with the day centre somehow (e.g. organising employee volunteering, donating money, gifts or items as prizes, local schools interested in intergenerational working, organising information visits)
  • People working in roles who might make referrals or signpost to day centres (e.g. carer support organisations, Admiral Nurses, community nurses, occupational therapy, social services, social prescribers/link workers or others based in GP surgeries or in community organisations)
  • Local councillors with influential decision-making roles about funding or choosing or reviewing committee members (e.g. Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Healthwatch).

Some people may need more of an introduction to day centres. They might have  preconceived ideas about what a day centre is and does. Others might have had previous experience (good and bad) which influences their views of day centres. Hearsay may have informed some people’s views.

Good marketing communications can help inform the GPs, link workers and other health and social care professionals who are “social prescribers”. Social prescribing is a new profession and not all workers will be familiar with day centres. They can refer people who have non-clinical needs to services (e.g. day centres) to support the person’s health and wellbeing but they should be properly informed, and your marketing communications are an important part of this.

Some people may know of people who attended a day centre and who did not have a good experience. Others may assume that a day centre involves sitting on chairs around the edges of a room all day with the television on. People may know day centre volunteers or have heard of people who have benefited from a family member going to a day centre.

A widespread old-fashioned view of day centres makes it important for your communications to be informative and to illustrate that attending a day centre can be interesting and attractive, with activities that are appropriate for a range of people.

Where and how can day centres undertake marketing communications?

Places and formats for undertaking marketing communications are many and varied. They include websites, social media, printed materials, local radio stations and newsletters. They can also include face to face events, meetings, videos, photos and sharing individual stories. A short piece about each of these now follows. Some examples are included, and more are signposted to.


Websites are an increasingly important source of information for many individuals and professionals. For some, websites are a first point of call. However, online information about day centres and information for carers on local authority websites is very variable in detail and quality. It is important to ensure that information is available online, and that information is accessible and inclusive. This contributes to respecting and protecting the rights of people with disabilities, including people living with dementia and their carers.  Although many older people do not use the internet, the Covid-19 pandemic has improved digital access for many older people.

Listing your day centre information on websites

Day centre providers may have their own website, or pages on an organisational website. Day centre providers may choose to make information available on other websites hosting directories of services; these may cover whole areas, selected, boroughs, smaller areas, or may be themed by groups of people (e.g. carers, people living with dementia, minority ethnic groups). Often, the service provider will be responsible for providing information and for updating this from time to time. Keeping the information reliable and up to date can be challenging but it is important, and it is worth checking how this will be done. There may be an online form to submit this information.

•    Examples of service directory social prescribing websites are Lewisham Wellbeing Map, Lambeth’s MYcommunityDirectory and Social Prescribing London’s London-wide website Simply Connect London which was created in 2021 to support the Mayor of London’s vision for every Londoner to have access to a social prescription. 
•    CarePlace is a London-wide service directory commissioned by Commissioning Alliance which supports local authorities.

Social media

Social media is any online service or website that allows content to be created and shared, and connections and interactions made within virtual communities or networks. Social media platforms include X (formerly known as Twitter), Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and WhatsApp (which is a more restricted platform for messaging or supporting specific groups of people such as volunteers). Some of these are linked (e.g. Instagram and Facebook). Some allow static content, such as news, announcements, or photos. Some also allow “stories”; these are short videos or a series of images with text.

Social media is a cost-effective way to build relationships with multiple stakeholders. Using social media helps give a “personality” to a day centre, and can help foster relationships. It can be used for awareness-raising, highlighting events, or notable achievements. It is effective for telling stories, and it helps generate positive word of mouth messages. It can be used to support and engage people in the community, such as for virtual support groups, or lunch sessions. 

Although many service users do not use social media themselves, it is a key tool for marketing communications.  Users can ‘follow’ an account so that they are alerted when new material is posted. It enables funders and donors to have an idea of  the general activity and progress of day centres, or to find out more before investing. It is important to select the social media platform which is the  most relevant for the audience that you want to reach. 

•    Example: Read about how Bring Me Sunshine uses social media and some of the challenges faced.
•    Example: See how Age UK Wandsworth uses Instagram to bring alive day centre experiences by showcasing activities.
•    See Madeline Powell’s tips on boosting social media presence and creating a personality on social media (slides 15-16).


Linktree is a simple social media landing page. It allows users to create a personalised/customisable page of links they wish to share with their audience and descriptive text for these.

Its basic version is free of charge. A link to the page (the url) can be included in various places to guide visitors to other materials (e.g. in the descriptive text in Instagram or organisational details in Facebook). Visitors can “subscribe” to receive notifications of new content – such as publicity about upcoming events (e.g. open days).

•    Examples: See Age Concern Bracknell’s and Age UK Wandsworth’s Linktree pages.

Radio and printed publicity

Radio publicity and articles in free newspapers may reach people who are difficult to make contact with in-person, for example people who do not often leave their homes. Leaflets have long-since been used to reach people visiting places such as libraries, GP surgeries, supermarkets, or public buildings. 

Radio and printed publicity are useful for people who do not use technology. Leaflets can showcase highlights of a service and include individual testimonials and photos as well providing important details about times, location and a contact telephone number. Some people feel that printed information is more trustworthy than verbal recommendations. A day centre attender we spoke with during the development of these resources said:

"My sister already came to the club and was telling me all about it. (…) I think a leaflet would have been more helpful, and I might have come sooner. Because it's sort of like saying things on paper, and by word of mouth, they might say things that are not happening. And if you have a leaflet that you know exactly what's going on."

Leaflets summarising research about day centres may reassure older people and carers and encourage them to try a day centre. 

See the two-page information sheet developed for the Resources Hub which summarises some of the main messages coming from six recent UK research studies and illustrates these with quotes from some of the older people and family carers interviewed for these studies: Day centres for older people: what do people say about them?


Newsletters help keep people you are already in contact with (e.g. regular clients, their family members or volunteers) informed about the organisation, events, news and announcements.They are also a good way to reach new people and organisations.

Local community organisations and funders may also be interested in keeping up to date via a newsletter. Some day centres produce monthly or quarterly newsletters. 

Some newsletters are printed, while others are electronic (email or website-based). An advantage to making newsletters available on a website is that any interested person or organisation who has searched and found the service website can read about the service, important news and have contact details. It is a good idea to include an option on the website to “subscribe” or “sign up” to the newsletter, so that someone can choose to receive it by email when issued. Some older people may prefer to receive paper copies.

Some electronic newsletters are Adobe Acrobat (pdfs) and some on e-libraries, such as Scribd, as well as being downloadable as a pdf.

•    Example: Devonshire Dementia Day Centre’s monthly newsletters combine photographs and news about activities with carer testimonials, information about the day centre and useful tips.
•    Example: Staywell News on Scribd

Tip: Including links to online newsletters and social media sites in automatic email footers can broaden awareness of a service.

In-person events and in-person input

In-person events may include having a stall at a local community summer fayre or holding an open day.

A staff member of a provider we spoke to about developing these resources felt that an open day is a secure way of helping the public to have a better understanding of what goes on in a service and who uses it. It also helps members of the public to feel it is a friendly space and a community asset. She felt this is necessary because ‘most day centres that I’ve seen, they are friendly inside, but it is kind of a fortress, you know, with big walls around it.’ 

•    Example: Merton and Morden Guild organises an annual open day on the building’s forecourt to raise awareness of its existence. The day is attended by the Mayor and includes demonstrations by its older members (tap dancing, music, exercise, line dancing), a buffet lunch and other fun activities. 
•    Example: Merton and Morden Guild, in partnership with the LA and the NHS is involved in celebrations for the annual International Day of Older Persons. Celebrations take place in the nearby Sainsbury’s Savacentre Superstore. M&MG organises demonstrations by people who attend its exercise classes. Other community organisations are also involved. The NHS offers blood pressure testing amongst other things.

In-person input (to external bodies) may include attending a local social services or NHS staff meeting or community group to speak briefly about the service (i.e. being actively engaged with the local community and social care and NHS communities). It can also be a good way to recruit volunteers whilst raising awareness of the service.

A staff member of a provider we spoke to about the development of these resources felt that an open day is a secure way of helping the public to have a better understanding of what goes on in a service and who uses it. It also helps members of the public to feel it is a friendly space and a community asset. She felt this is necessary because ‘most day centres that I've seen, they are friendly inside, but it is kind of a fortress, you know, with big walls around it.’

Photos and videos


Photos and videos can help people visualise a service and build confidence and trust.  Photos and videos will be useful for people considering starting to attend a day centre, their relatives and any professionals speaking to someone about starting to attend a day centre as an option. Photos might be of people engaged in activities or chatting, of outings or of day centre rooms. A day centre manager we spoke with during the development of these resources said that photos would be good “to show people are engaged, and that it’s not a big, scary, cold day centre”.

•    The Centre for Ageing Better has a library of photos that are freely downloadable.
•    Example: Devonshire Dementia Day Centre’s newsletters make good use of well-captioned photos that demonstrate purposeful activity, singing, coffee and dancing.

Video content 

A short video can also be a good introduction to a day centre. It might show groups of people, or one or two people talking about what it’s like to go there. A manager might explain the benefits, or a social worker (for example) can explain why it’s useful to be able to refer someone to a day centre and the difference attending can make to people’s lives. The video could cover transport arrangements, how long the day lasts, lunch and refreshment provisions, some of the group activities that are organised, but that people can also do their own thing if they prefer, and who will be supporting them when they are there.

A slightly longer video may also cover other benefits such as safety, safeguarding, health monitoring, signposting and emotional support. Family carers will be interested in this, as will social prescribers, social workers and occupational therapists. A professional, doing assessments and referrals, may want to know how a service would meet their cognition, mobility and health needs, the location, travel time and transport arrangements. Your video need not be flashy or complicated. For example, it could include a short clip of someone who attends a day centre explaining why it is important to them.  It is a good idea to make sure that a video is accompanied by a transcript, where possible.

Social workers, occupational therapists, social prescribers and other suggesting day centre attendance may wish to show a video of their local day centre to potential users and their family members.

•    Example: Age Concern Bracknell Forest shares information about its day centre in a 3 minute 55 second video covering staff speaking about their work and what happens at the centre, a tour of the facilities and an invitation to visit. 
•    Example: A look inside the Devonshire Dementia Day Centre is a 41 second (YouTube) video embedded into the day centre webpage and on its YouTube channel. It paints the day centre as an opportunity for fun and shows photos and films of people at the day centre and the centre itself and its garden.

Individual stories (case studies)

Individual stories (case studies) can convey how and why people find the service valuable and enjoy it. These stories are often called “case studies” (e.g. short overview of the person and the benefits they have experienced as a result of using the service).

Stories can be powerful when they are shared alongside other data about the day centre, for example in reports to funders. One way to do this is to share letters written by relatives of day centre attenders, which can appear as letters or "a review from an attender’s relative". Another is to use quotations from a completed satisfaction survey. 

Individual stories can also be written up (as more “formal” case studies) using the Most Significant Change approach. This involves using a person’s own words in a structured way to explain the most important change they have experienced as a result of using a service and why this change is important to them.

•    Example: Devonshire Dementia Day Centre’s webpage changes its stories regularly, featuring, for example, a letter from an attender’s daughter, and a video of another attender’s daughter.
•    Example: Staywell’s Raleigh House day centre webpage features a day centre attender talking briefly (49 seconds) about the difference that going to the centre has made to his wellbeing and a volunteer talks about how she has benefited from volunteering (3 mins 15 seconds). 

Marketing communications can also be undertaken through blogs, podcasts, exhibitions and networks. See King’s Improvement Science Communication: a practical resource  for more about these and the formats covered above.

Marketing communications content ideas

Appropriate information can provide the reassurance and information that builds trust and prompts people to make contact. Different audiences have different informational needs. So, what should marketing communications cover?

Knowing what happens at a day centre is important for all stakeholders

We have heard from older people that the idea of going to a day centre for the first time can sometimes feel a bit daunting, even for people who are keen to start attending one, because it involves going into a new environment with a group of strangers.

  • Family members are more likely to consider a day centre as a realistic option and feel happier about a relative they support starting to attend if they have reasonably detailed information about it beforehand. This may be the case particularly when an older person may not be able to tell their family about their time at a day centre.
  • A professional assessing someone’s support needs or suggesting suitable local services is likely to be interested in whether a service would meet that person’s cognitive, mobility and health needs. They would also consider practical issues like the day centre’s location and travelling time as well as arrangements for transport.
  • Perceptions and knowledge of services can vary. An occupational therapist participating in this research said “a lot of people's objection is that they don't just want to go and be dumped in a room once a week with a load of other people who are in their eighties and nineties. We don't know any different from that, as OTs. It almost feels like there's not really much information out there at all about them.”

Knowing how people feel about their day centres is also important for all stakeholders. 

The two-page information sheet Day centres for older people: what do people say about them? summarises recent UK research about day centres and illustrates points with quotes from some of the older people and family carers interviewed for these studies.

So, what might be covered in marketing communications?

The basics to cover in most formats are:

  • What is available at the day centre (e.g. activities, additional services such as footcare), the building’s facilities and accessibility. 
  • Important practicalities such as operational hours, lunch, transport, parking availability, which geographical areas are covered by the service, costs and payment arrangements.
  • Contact details for someone who can offer more information or discuss the service.

Any particular selling points you are proud of or insights into the service that will be useful or will attract people’s interest.

These may include free 'taster' days, coffee mornings for current members and others who are interested, extra services available (e.g. toenail cutting or hairdressing), links to newsletters and photos, videos or individual testimonials that add a human element or enable readers to gain further insight into the service, what the day centre offers and how people benefit from it.

•    Example: Age Concern Bracknell Forest’s professional referral form (halfway down the page) reiterates important information (e.g. times, cost, facilities, its dementia-friendliness credentials, eligibility), emphasises the low hourly cost of the service and signposts to an informational video about the day centre. 

Clarity and detail are helpful and will contribute to referrals or enquiries being appropriate.

Consider what social care or NHS professionals may wish to know. For example, is the exercise class run weekly an Extend exercise class led by a qualified person? Are some activities designed around a particular therapeutic programme (such as Cognitive Stimulation Therapy)? An occupational therapist would welcome knowing this information before making a referral. Mentioning specific activities designed to be dementia-friendly is helpful for professionals and reassuring for carers. Including a referral form for professionals to use will make the process easier for them. Cost information is key.

Day centres may like to extend an invitation to social workers or social prescribing link workers to visit. These people and others in social care and NHS roles, may value visiting the day centre as part of an induction when they are new in post. 

•    When Staywell’s Raleigh House staff gained qualifications in Cognitive Stimulation Therapy, a blog about this was published, featuring a video explaining CST, and this was also advertised on its dementia support web page.
•    Staywell’s website includes a page specifically for people making referrals.
•    Age Concern Bracknell Forest’s website includes terms and conditions, a support plan and a referral form for professionals to use.
•    Staywell advertises Bradbury Centre’s weekly programme of activities, including times, booking details and costs.

Websites need not be fancy and complicated.

Below are two very different but good examples of straightforward day centre web pages. (i.e. one single page)

Example: Age UK Wandsworth one page 

The web page about Age UK Wandsworth’s Gwynneth Morgan Day Centre is simple and also explains the process of accessing the service, including the option of a free 'taster' day. It is accompanied by a colourful pdf leaflet with photos.

Example: Age Concern Bracknell’s website: all the information.

As well as including photos and text about what it offers, the day centre page on Age Concern Bracknell Forest’s website states that its care team is trained and experienced, and also includes downloadable Terms and Conditions (with complete information about using the day centre – definitions, introduction, journey into our care, the service, trial periods/monitoring, illness/medication/meals, fees, closures, a Covid-19 disclaimer, cancellation policy, additional information, billing and invoicing information and a service agreement the T&Cs), a downloadable support plan to fill in (also available through a direct link on its Linktree page), a professional referral form and information on current availability. 


Cost is key information for social workers; being able to find it saves them time. 

The absence of cost information may put older people and carers off taking the next step of contacting the day centre.

Explaining how service quality is monitored may be reassuring for older people, carers and professional referrers.

Things to consider or bear in mind, and further resources

Certain practicalities must be considered when planning marketing communications. These include expertise, need, cost and time.

Digital skills

Providers will need to improve their skills to make adequate information about day centres available online. However, staff and volunteers do not necessarily have the skills or equipment to make video clips or create and update web pages. Volunteer support might also come from young people wanting to gain some work experience.

Below is an example of a day centre that secured volunteer IT help with social media

  • A voluntary sector day centre receives IT support from a volunteer once a week (2.5 hours). This has enabled the organisation, which was lacking in IT expertise, to have social media presence (X - formerly known as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) and an improved website. Staff provide materials (photos, text) for the volunteer to use. The volunteer loves computers and technology and was introduced to the organisation by their LA support worker, who accompanies them during volunteering time. The volunteer has been in this role for four years.
  • The National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ website provides help and guidance on digital technology which includes planning a website and a comparison of DIY website building tools. 
  • The Digital Inclusion Toolkit provides straightforwardly written guidance on setting up a website for small organisations, an introduction to GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), information about free software (including for working with photos and videos) and resources and case study examples.


Ensuring that your web pages appear when people search online is important. This is possible by including key words (e.g. older people, day centre, day care, club, elderly) behind what is visible. Doing this is called ‘Search Engine Optimisation’. This is explained simply in Wikipedia and more about this can be found in this free guide to online marketing. People feeling brave might like to read more detailed information on the gov.uk pages.


Permission should be sought to share materials that identify people or share personal stories (e.g. photos, individual stories, films, recordings). Our template form seeking such permissions that can be adapted for local use and can be downloaded in Word format for local use.

In gaining permissions, it is important to remember the Mental Capacity Act principles around consent.  Many older day centre attenders will have mental capacity to give consent for the use of their photos/film etc, but some may not. Some people’s capacity fluctuates. Some people have capacity to make some decisions but not others. Complying with the MCA will mean discovering whether a person has capacity to give the necessary permission at the time it is being requested. If they do not, a proxy will need to be approached for permission (e.g. a family member).

Discovering a person’s capacity to give permission can be relatively straightforward and can be done by someone at the day centre who would explain they would like the person’s permission to use photos etc. They should explain what the photos might be used for, that they may be used for some time, and that the person can withdraw their permission in the future. The individual ‘assessing’ the person’s capacity to make this decision would then use the 4-stage test of capacity, during which further questions about understanding/decisions are asked. The person may be asked to explain their understanding of the situation:

1. Can they understand what is being asked of them and any consequences?

2. Can they weigh up this information?

3. Can they make a decision about it?

4. Can they communicate their decision?

Examples of marketing communications and materials

This page includes some examples of marketing communications. More can be found in the downloadable document at the end of this page. Examples include:


Download a PDF of this section, which includes further information on and examples of marketing communications

A guide to marketing communications

This document explains marketing communications, why it is important for day centres to carry out marketing communications and who their potential audiences might be.
Download A guide to marketing communications
Download 5-A%20guide%20to%20marketing%20communications%20May2024%20%281%29.pdf