The Inside Housing Communications Conference was all about connecting in the housing sector. Yet, when the event was originally scheduled , back on 15 September, the UK was a completely different place. At that point we were just a few days into Liz Truss’ ill-fated stint as Prime Minister, while the housing sector had just welcomed its ninth Housing Minister in six years.
Rolling forward three months to December, when the event was ultimately able to proceed, we have our third Prime Minster of the year in post, our tenth Housing Minister, and Michael Gove is back as Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The key politicians and policy-makers we are connecting with are now very different.
Not only have the ministerial personnel revolved faster than a drive-thru queue, but Mr Gove has stepped up his campaign against poor-quality social housing – making the Communications Conference a hotbed of fascinating discussion on navigating the challenges facing housing providers. Here are our top takeaways.
Stop broadcasting – build relationships
The inaugural session of the conference captured the zeitgeist and championed the role of communicators within organisations experiencing difficult times. Caroline Macfarland, Director at Common Vision and The Crowd, rightly commented that one way comms from housing providers is no longer acceptable – yet the concept of two-way, linear comms is also vastly outdated.
Communications should go well beyond audience segmentation and box ticking exercises. It should build relationships, rethink trust and be based on listening, learning and actioning change.
In the second session, entitled, Rebuilding Trust, Maintaining Resilience, the audience was captivated by Stephen Johnson, resident and chair of the Kensington & Chelsea scrutiny panel. From the outset, Stephen highlighted that many residents living in social housing would likely want to rename the session from rebuilding trust, to simply building trust – as many have lost all trust in their landlords.
Lucy Grove, head of external affairs at the National Housing Federation, teased the launch of the Better Social Housing Review (opens in new tab), and championed comms teams to push back on organisations trying to communicate themselves out of the problem – as ultimately the problems need to be solved.
The group then split to breakout sessions covering topics including change management, tackling the climate crisis, equality, diversity and inclusion and social media. However, regardless of the topic in question, one theme was common throughout – connecting.
A connection is made
Conversations throughout all the sessions centred on this theme, whether providing empathy to colleagues when managing change, being consistent in messaging with residents to manage expectations, or communicating the impact of projects. Connecting people to other people is the overarching aim of what we do in communications.
The day wrapped up with sessions covering the Levelling Up agenda (where a couple of our fantastic clients got a well-deserved name check!) and finally a panel discussion with Katie Perrior, Chair at iNHouse Communications and former director of communications to the Prime Minister – there was certainly some eye-opening comments in the latter!
While the overarching themes and topics of the Inside Housing Communications Conference agenda were vastly different to what they would have been a mere 13 weeks ago, as communicators in a sector that directly impacts the daily lives of residents, it is our responsibility as comms experts to make sure we are sharing and shouting about the stories of people and bridging the gap between resident and provider.
If you are looking to connect with your residents or sector peers, please get in touch to see how we could help by emailing email@example.com or calling 0121 827 6622.
You can review some of our work across housing here.
Eve Griggs and Jade Ziola-Sammons are Account Managers at See Media