Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Celebration Day

If you do the Twitter thing, follow me at @HousingITguy
or LinkedIn here https://uk.linkedin.com/in/tonysmiththathousingitguy

Well its generally staged around this time of year, although the weather is not always this summery!

No, I am not talking about The (very inspirational) Rio Paralympics, for housing, social & (increasingly un-)affordable (read my double-plus good, double speak post here)  its #HousingDay. This time too, we also had #HousingWeek, as it was coordinated with the big NHF16 Birmingham conference too. Give the clever Ade Capon a pay rise if it was his idea. It was one of his best!

Clearly this year, if not an army, but a small battalion chipped in, to make it the most successful ever, particularly on Twitter, within the InsideHousing and 24Housing sector magazines, but also (to a much lesser, but very worthwhile nonetheless, extent in the wider media. Our sector housing media do a very good job, as do the Tom Murtha's, Amy Nettletons, David Orrs, Claire Astbury's, Lucy Ferman's, Shelter, Tpas & John Popham's. Its building in Scotland too, but needs more work done there.

My fingers were busy on #HousingDay and I managed a fair reach on Twitter :

@HousingITguy 2nd behind @InsideHousing for #HousingDay contributions

Those fingers probably needed popping on ice by the Tuesday!.

It wasn't all back slapping though. There were a number of tweets in a negative vein, garnering quite a reach, about immigrants 'taking our homes' and #Brexit easing the housing crisis. It would be quite ostrich-like and convenient to ignore these & brush them under the carpet. It does however reveal the fact that we are pretty poor at getting the facts of who we are, what we do, how our processes work, to dispel a lot of red-top & Channel5 nonsense.

I measure how we get our sector across by how much my bright mates seem to know about it. The received wisdom is still too centred around the usual strong myths, such as:
  • All socialhousing is tenanted by people on benefits and they are all unemployed
  • Most if not all new lettings go to asylum seekers or immigrants, who are taking all the socialhousing.
  • Socialhousing is totally subsidised by the tax payer
  • Housing CEOs are highly paid hypocritical fat cats
  • Lots of rich people are living in social housing

These are the messages the general public seem to take about us. How do we go about getting them aware of all those good news stories, that happen many times a week, in every organisation right across the UK? By my reckoning there's at least over 700.Can we be sure that our staff understand what we do, beyond our mission statement on our mugs, staff coasters and inscriptions on the back wall of reception?

Now you comm's teams know what's coming from me here. I will apologise to all the 24/7 comms types out there, many I know personally. You know who you are and you know I am impressed with what you do and I often tell you so.

Maybe we do internal comms really well, we certainly seem to employ enough staff within the sector. But how well do we engage local press, radio, twitter, Facebook, blogs, free-sheets, snapchat etc, with the good news? I often tweet local press stories. Most are of the ilk of planning permission sought or granted for x, affordable units level cut to y at x etc. The people stories are 90% of the time negative. ASB here, disabled family not being helped and suffering there etc.

Not forgetting the sterling comedy gold output from Channel5 posing as investigative journalism, 'Benefits by the Seaside', 'Benefits Britain: Life on the Dole', 'Obese on Benefits', and the rather unimaginative 'On Benefits'. Clearly C5 were too 'benefitted out' to improve on that one!

It's tempting to think, 'Oh it's like the red sea, we are not Moses, we can't hold all that brown stuff back!'. Well, having waited in line in scores of RSL receptions over the years, I know with some determination, we can. Every new kitchen fitted, neighbourhood improvement completed, tenant helped into training or work, disabled ramp fitted, heat pump sunk etc, Gas service completed, is a good news story, to explain what on earth we do.

We do a lot of this stuff, that the PRS would never do.

If we are not getting these quality snippets out to the wider public, we might as well be (or become) the PRS, for all any of the general public cared. I think for any RSL over 500 units, a good news story pushed out every fortnight, is not unreasonable. Our comms teams may need some new skills to do it, but you back room chappies can save socialhousing, Comms are like the Bletchley Park for our time.

We need to be thinking how we do it, not how tall a mountain it could be to climb, or how hard it is. We need answers and solutions, so everyone, not just the sector can celebrate #HousingYear, not just reflect on how much good we do society and our communities, for just one single #HousingDay. 
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Led Zeppelin - Celebration DayLed Zeppelin - Celebration Day.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009

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