How strategic PR can help social housing

The social housing sector continues to face many pressures, with the Local Government Association reporting that ‘there are currently not enough social homes to meet current demand’ and ‘over 1.2 million households are on the waiting list for social homes in England’. This makes it even more important for housing associations to have a strategic PR plan in place.

With a cost of living crisis, high house prices and the demand for rental property on the increase, coupled with homes that are not fit for purpose or of poor quality, the housing crisis looks set to continue for some time to come. Alongside this, social housing has always had a certain ‘stigma’ attached to it. And the media are quick to jump on any mistakes made by housing associations.

Ultimately, housing associations face continued criticism, so the need for reputational management is essential. Without it, the confidence of tenants, stakeholders, partners and potentially the workforce could be affected.

What does a strategic PR plan look like?

An objective public relations strategy that shapes content and communicates the right messages to the right audiences will ensure an organisation is positively seen in the public eye.

PR will help to build awareness of what an organisation is and why they are making a difference to the community. Consistent PR, that reflects the true tone of voice of an organisation, builds a positive long-term perception to an external audience.

To truly become strategic, public relations should form part of the overall marketing plan and business objectives. Public relations are about understanding strengths and weaknesses, values and missions and the audiences that need to be connected with.

Implementing a PR strategy

A solid understanding of an organisation will ensure any PR efforts are strategic and targeted. PR needs to mould around marketing, sales, HR and business planning.

Knowing, and understanding, the target audience will be one of the most important steps in building a strategic PR plan. What are the barriers and motivators and how, when and where will it be best to communicate with an audience?

Implementing the strategic PR plan will involve outlining the various communication methods and channels, setting objectives, and understanding how to evaluate.

The various audiences housing associations need to communicate with will be varied – with tenants ranging from young to old, community organisations scaling from small to large, and developers dealing with small to large-scale builds.

Social housing PR should, therefore, consider all of its audiences’ needs. Maintaining a positive reputation for both the organisation and the sector as a whole.

How to measure your PR strategy

It is more difficult to quantify PR due to the fact that the majority of activities are influential and emotive.

In a nutshell, public relations is about reputation. If a housing association has a good reputation, it needs to be protected and nurtured. If it has a bad reputation, a PR strategy can turn this right on its heels, over time.

Many organisations are still too focussed on how many press cuttings that have been generated and the AVE (Advertising Value Equivalent) this equated to. The PR industry has long realised this is not an effective form of measurement. AVE does not consider key audiences, key messages or the quality of the piece; the outcome.

By measuring outcomes, a housing association can look at what external (and internal) audiences do as a result of being exposed to PR communications. This could include visits to a blog or news page, completing a call to action from a PR campaign, engagement on social media, watching a YouTube video or signing up to an event.

Analytics and the advancement of technology have made it much quicker and simpler to track PR. It has even provided the ability to understand how PR is influencing different demographic groups. With this knowledge and power, PR can be tailored and targeted to reflect objectives.

Reflect and change

When we take the time to measure PR activity, it becomes possible to evaluate what has worked, what is working, and what has been unsuccessful. There are many things to consider – including whether business objectives have now changed. It’s a time to refresh and update the PR strategy in line with the changes of the business. Brands evolve, just as their customers do. Change is good!

playing paces demonstrating housing pr

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