Tackling veteran homelessness
PR and Media Relations
See Media’s approach of telling the story through the veterans’ experiences was perfect. The coverage generated was brilliant and best of all is the interest others have shown in building similar projects. See Media completely understood what was needed and how best to tell the story – we could not ask for better external PR support.Head of Communications, Stonewater
For its latest development Noden’s Mews, a community self-build project, Stonewater was committed to raising greater awareness of veteran homelessness and encouraging housing providers to deliver their own innovative schemes to tackle the issue.
Typically, the not-for-profit housing provider marks the handover of any of its new developments with a scheme opening. However, the homes were due to be handed over at a time when social distancing restrictions had been tightened. In addition, See Media needed to generate media interest in the scheme a week before Christmas – whilst also competing with coverage around coronavirus.
As part of the campaign brief, Stonewater wanted any media coverage generated to achieve the following:
- Position Stonewater as a dynamic and innovative thought leader with a focus on demonstrating how other housing providers could deliver similar schemes
- Stonewater to be seen as working actively with vulnerable groups, not only to house them, but to give them skills and experience in readiness for civilian life
- To increase awareness of Stonewater and the specific needs of veterans, both locally and nationally
Throughout the build, See Media supported Stonewater with generating local media coverage about its work with the community as part of the project – particularly with the local primary school. Through this work, See Media established good relationships with journalists from BBC Herefordshire Radio and the Hereford Times who were keen to receive updates on the progress of the project.
To support Stonewater with its overarching objective of influencing other housing providers, See Media identified that the best way of generating wider engagement about the project was to share the individual stories of the veterans. But to have the most impact, See Media’s aim was to have the veterans share their own experiences through direct interviews.
This was particularly important because estimates by the Royal British Legion suggest there are 6,000 homeless ex-service personnel in the UK, and they account for 3-4% of rough sleepers. However, the scale of the situation is hard to accurately assess because many veterans access support through self-referral or armed forces charities, rather than the statutory homelessness system.
By giving these six veterans a platform to share their stories, See Media hoped to support Stonewater in eliminating some of the misconceptions around veteran homelessness.
At the time of planning the campaign, localised lockdown restrictions were constantly undergoing review and so See Media needed to orchestrate any activities carefully, keeping everyone involved safe. This involved providing laptops and training some of the veterans to use Zoom, to ensure if any in-person interviews couldn’t take place there was a suitable alternative to offer journalists.
See Media drafted an announcement press release featuring quotes from each partner involved in the project and one of the veterans to sell-in to the media. Two See Media colleagues then worked on media outreach pitching to journalists covering either housing or veteran stories.
In addition to this, See Media supported Stonewater with messaging for its core B2B social media channels Twitter and LinkedIn to promote the completed scheme.
Through this approach, See Media generated 4 broadcast pieces of coverage on BBC Midlands Today and Sky News, a radio interview with BBC Herefordshire, as well as 12 online clippings and 3 print clippings across trade, national and local media.
Stonewater achieved a record number of impressions (147,456) and likes (2,971) on a LinkedIn post, as well as 138 comments sharing the announcement press release. Many of the comments on this post requested to find out more information about delivering a similar project. This has resulted in Stonewater commissioning See Media to organise a webinar and podcast to share the lessons learned and good practice with other housing providers and charities across the sector.