A housing comms cry for strategy

I can’t pretend I was shocked by the findings of a survey I commissioned of comms professionals in housing.

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The results, revealed this week, show people dedicated and passionate about their jobs – but held back by lack of management buy-in and tiny budgets.

It seems the housing sector has a love/hate relationship with public relations and communicators. When a crisis hits, we’re heroic experts who should take the lead. But day-to-day, we’re often treated like an expensive post-box – the simple deliverers of messages.

And this is the story that emerged as I analysed the data.

As an anonymous respondent said: “Sadly top level managers don’t respect comms and think it’s a job anyone can do, and that’s not true.”

It can be frustrating for communicators when colleagues underestimate what it takes to build relationships online and formulate creative content.

So how CAN we ensure a housing organisation’s communications function is effective, and our communications professionals have what they need to do the job brilliantly?

One word… Strategy.

Comms teams need to create a vision for the organisation’s comms. Otherwise we’re always in reactive mode, aimlessly trying to do the right thing.

One anonymous respondent said: “We need to refocus on purpose and have more honest conversations about the things we need to improve.”

Creating a comms strategy means the organisation has very clear priorities. It means you become proactive in working towards achieving something specific.

It also means that some good work takes a back seat. Or gets scrapped completely. If everything’s important, nothing is.

A quarter of respondents had similar observations to this communicatior’s assessment:

“The sector is way too inward-looking… a great example of an echo-chamber.”

A comms strategy will identify and prioritise audiences. It helps you talk to the people who can help you achieve your aim, in the places they want to talk to you.

This comment also rings true for me: “Sometimes our output is very fractured and a bit ‘stale’”.

A strategy brings your content to life. If you know what you want and who you need to have conversations with, it SO much easier to be creative.

But it all depends on buy-in:

“We are doing our best to make strategic outputs, but we don’t have demonstrable support from the top.”

Support is fundamental, and you can increase this with the most useful part of a comms strategy: evaluation. This is not just measuring data, but finding insights on what have you achieved and where should you go next.

Leaders will champion work that informs them of something valuable, and advises them of what to do next.

So there we have it – the comms professionals of UK housing have spoken and we want to get strategic.

Of course, if you ever want any help with that, I’ll always be excited to help you boldly take your comms from good to amazing.

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