Crisis communication for the social housing sector

Sometimes, things go wrong and can escalate from what you thought was just a minor problem. Tenants’ complaints, anti-social behaviour, damp and mould – these are all issues that could easily turn into a crisis communication situation. As a social housing provider, you could be dealing with a statement request from a local newspaper, a social media comment on a community facebook group, or a phone call from a national trade publication. 

Managing a crisis well can help to protect your brand reputation. It shows how well you respond to a situation and that you value your community. It should back up your tone of voice and visions and values as a housing association.

Social media, and the digital landscape, provides people with the power to reach audiences quickly and it won’t take long for that bad news to gain momentum. 

So how should you manage a crisis? We will talk you through some of the basics that you should have in place.

Be prepared – your crisis communication plan

Having a crisis communication plan or procedure in place ensures there’s a process to follow if and when one should occur. It’s the proactive part of a crisis; the part you can control. A clear plan provides you with set guidelines to follow and ensure no activity has been missed.

Depending on the type of crisis, there could be a whole team of people supporting your communications, from social media and online content, to those that will be handling calls and emails from the press.

The key aim of a crisis management plan is to protect reputation, minimise damage and get you back to ‘business as usual’ as soon as possible. It’s a set of guidelines so that all key teams and individuals in your organisation will know how to react well. Have this in place and you will be more prepared for when something does catch you off guard.

Don’t let it become an issue

Sometimes, an issue does not have to become bigger than it already is. From experience, those organisations that discuss the way they could handle a crisis and are prepared, are also more likely to be able to stop a crisis in its tracks. 

Customer service and communication with your customers is a continual process and should be regularly reviewed. What are your customers saying? Are there any trends that you should be paying attention to? Is your workforce confident in monitoring any complaints that could escalate into a crisis quickly? 

The ideal situation is for any threat of a crisis to be resolved and turned around into a positive for both yourself and the customer. Be aware of what the risks are in your organisation and what could escalate, then be sure to communicate this with your team. It is often those on the frontline that will be having the direct conversations with residents, so they need to be a part of this conversation.

Media training and how you should respond

There are a few things to consider when looking at media training and your response to the media. Knowing when and how to respond are key considerations in any crisis. As a social housing provider, you need to be thinking about:

  • A media handling policy – where will media enquiries be forwarded to and is your workforce aware of what they should do if they receive a phone call from the press?
  • Holding statements – a pre-prepared set of statements that will enable you to respond quickly to the press
  • Your media spokesperson – who is the face of your business or who is it that you would want communicating with your target audience? It may be that there is more than one person depending on the type of crisis and their area of expertise
  • Media training – consider training for those who will be having interactions with media outlets, especially broadcast media
  • A carefully considered media response – a PR or communications team will be experienced and trained in handling the media. Consider getting advice and support when dealing with any response to the media.

Your response should reflect the personality of your brand and be truthful. This is true for any form of communication you make during a crisis, right from your internal messaging, stakeholder alerts, social media and website.

What comes next? Your ongoing brand reputation

A post crisis review is essential. Is there still a crisis? Have processes or systems changed following your initial response? What does the future look like? These are all considerations when looking at communicating to your audience in the near future.

When people search for your organisation online, you want them to find positive news. Following a crisis, it’s possible this won’t be the case.

Think about your ongoing content and how you will build back on that positive SEO. This will probably include a good mix of both digital marketing and digital and traditional PR.

Why Conteur?

At Conteur, we are experienced in working with both the social housing sector and provide crisis comms support. 

From ongoing crisis comms management, to reactive support, we have a team of experts on hand that can consider the best steps for your crisis.

Get in touch with our friendly PR team to have a chat and find out more! We aim to Tell Your Story Better.

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