Remember, remember it’s almost November! If that thought sends a shiver down your spine (nothing to do with Halloween!) then we are here to help. There is plenty to come for the housing sector in the rest of the year, so here are some key Autumn 2023 dates for housing comms diaries – and some ideas on making the most of the opportunities these present.
22 November: Chancellor’s Autumn Statement
When you dig below the political point-scoring, this key financial event usually contains plenty for the housing sector to get its teeth into. Last year it was Jeremy Hunt’s first as Chancellor and the main aim was to calm the economy (and the country!) after the disastrous Mini-Budget by Kwasi Kwarteng and his short-lived Prime Minister, Liz Truss.
As it happened, the Autumn Statement 2022 did have some key announcements for the housing sector too. It confirmed that social rents in England would be capped at 7% in 2023/24, support with energy bills would continue and that the planned cap on social care costs in England would be delayed for two years until 2025. This year it is hoped that the government will give clarity on rents in 2024/25 and outline the approach to a new rent settlement post-2025.
- We’ll be sharing a round-up of key housing measures on our website and socials on 22 Nov, so keep an eye out
- Housing trade publications are always keen on quick responses to bolster their coverage. Comments from housing providers are most likely to be used – especially if they express a clear opinion. If you think it may be appropriate to comment as part of your thought leadership activity, discuss this with the relevant business lead and draft something in advance. This can quickly be tweaked on the day and shared. The shorter and sharper the better
- Consider whether a blog pitch could make sense for your organisation. If there is a key theme in the Autumn Statement where you can potentially contribute to the debate, craft a synopsis with the relevant business lead and pitch it to one of the housing trade publications
Nov/Dec: Housing Ombudsman Service ‘Spotlight’ report on communications
In June, the Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS) issued a call for evidence on its latest Spotlight report. This is exploring communications and relationships, with a view to helping the housing sector better tackle social injustices experienced by tenants. Although we don’t have a publication date for this yet, it seems fair to expect it in the next couple of months.
It is something of an understatement to say the work of the HOS has had a significant impact on the housing sector in the past two years. This increased sector service scrutiny, allied to the renewed emphasis on consumer regulation by the Regulator of Social Housing, means that housing comms teams are focused on customer communications as never before. The rise in reporting of damp and mould cases has been a key feature of housing management and customer service in the past 18 months. As we enter Autumn 2023, this trend will likely continue.
Housing comms teams will remain at the forefront of this as they field customer frustrations on social media, or those who have taken their concerns to local or national journalists. When it does come, the HOS Spotlight report will doubtless highlight areas for improvement in customer communication and relationships, but it should share good practice as well (as promised by the HOS in the summer).
- Look out for the HOS Spotlight report and share relevant findings with your team and key business leads. We’ll be publishing our take on it as well, so look out for this on our website and socials
- Continue to work with customer experience, complaints and relevant damp and mould teams to provide guidance on tone of voice, and prepare to support on problematic cases where the media may become involved. In these instances, a clear customer case history is essential to allow you to advise on the best approach
Dec: Annual report planning
I know this will have many housing comms teams sighing ‘really, it can’t be that time again already?’. While it is true that housing providers have only recently published their annual accounts (auditor sign-off delays have been a common tale of woe), the 2023/24 version will be with us before we know it.
This financial year’s report is particularly important, given the increased scrutiny on transparency and information sharing with tenants, as well as other stakeholders. While there are other specific customer publications – such as the new annual report on Tenant Satisfaction Measures – the annual accounts put everything in context and are a key part of telling your organisation’s story.
- Book in conversations with the finance and other relevant teams to explore key content themes and agree a timeline
- Ensure content is accessible from the outset – the earlier you include this in your planning the better. These government guidelines for online content are always a good place to start
- Decide how best your annual report will be published. Is a PDF still the best option to reach your key audiences? Or might a digital publication be a better bet?
- We support our clients with both options (see Housing Solutions and settle for examples). Increasingly though, digital publications using our Foleon platform, deliver the all-round performance across all devices that clients and their audiences are looking for
Key Autumn 2023 dates for housing comms diaries – and more!
See Media offers PR and communications support to the UK housing sector and its suppliers. From podcasts to thought leadership, as well as crisis communications and digital publications, find out more about more our service offering (link opens in new tab) by calling 0121 827 6622 or e-mailing email@example.com.
Stuart Macdonald is Managing Director at See Media