Benlowndes

a perspective on PR in social housing and regeneration

Three reasons why I’ll champion the HCA’s work

Five years, one month and a day after joining the HCA, I departed last Thursday to take up a new job.

I’m returning to agency life at JBP, an extremely well-respected company which specialises in PR (in all its forms) consultation and public affairs. From tomorrow, I’ll be a senior account director in its Bristol office and I am hugely looking forward to the opportunity.

That’s not to say that it was an easy decision to leave the HCA. After all, I was able to influence discussion around a hugely important area of government work. I had a flexible and fair employer and I enjoyed what I did. In the end, I moved because it offers me an opportunity to progress my career in areas that are most important to me.

I will still champion the HCA though and there are many reasons for this. Three of them have stood out in recent conversations. Read more of this post

#ukhousing jargon: what we can do about habitual horrors

“Some people love speaking in jargon, using fancy words and turning everything into acronyms. Personally, I find this simply slows things down, confuses people and causes them to lose interest. It’s far better to use a simple term and commonplace words that everyone will understand, rather than showing off and annoying your audience.”

Richard Branson on why we should ditch jargon

Nonsense I have an issue with jargon, and it’s not because I’m a pedant…

At its worst, it alienates those who we’re trying to reach and highlights a disconnect between us and the rest of the world.

It also makes no business sense, because it wastes the time of the person who is giving and receiving the information. Those are strong reasons to stop the ‘cut and paste’ approach that litters business correspondence and get back to basics.

Whilst the world of housing (particularly the bit in which I work) isn’t alone in having its own ‘special’ phrases, it’s clear that we have a problem when it comes to clearly explaining what we do. Ask anyone who joins the sector from another industry (as I did once). They’ll probably tell you much of their first few months were spent wondering what people are talking about in meetings and struggling to decipher emails.

If people who work with us feel like that, what does a small business or resident think when trying to find out about something like a new development in their community, for example?

There may be a case for using jargon sometimes; if the audience understands it, using specialist terms can be an efficient way to make a point. But context matters and dumping technical information into a note intended for someone who isn’t an expert bugs those who are on the receiving end.

And don’t even get me started on acronyms (another post for another day)! Our language is littered with them, ranging from the reasonable (HCA, DCLG) to the odd (LA for council) and plain daft (GCN? Great crested newts, or just newts!).

Sure, comms people with their ROIs, metrics, SOVs and other clever words have their own idiosyncrasies. But this should concern anyone who cares about whether people ‘get’ what we do. Read more of this post

FUTURE PROOF: 40 skills you’ll need in your 2020 comms team today

benlowndes:

This is one of the best public sector blog posts I’ve read for a while, from the ever-excellent Dan Slee.

Originally posted on The Dan Slee Blog:

6916758251_2c7753d7fc_oSo what occupies the mind of the most successful Olympic coach Britain has ever had? You’ll find the answer surprising.

It’s not next week, the next Tour de France or who will be in the squad for Rio that occupies cycling’s Dave Brailsford. It’s what his best team will be in five years time.

“I find that once you’ve done that,” he told the BBC, “you can work backwards to work out a way to get to where you want to be.”

It chimed with something I’ve often reflected on for some time. Just what should a comms team look like? Not the press release counting machine of history. Not either a team of ninjas on hoverboards. Communications people if they want longevity should be moving. Unlike Dave Brailsford we don’t have until 2020. For some its too late.

Your job used to be create content in a place where…

View original 1,529 more words

#StateOfPR: how I’m doing something about it

As tweets go, the responses to my lament that the headlines from the CIPR’s latest research into the profession are depressing were at opposite ends of the scale.

The first one, from Love Bot!

Then former CIPR president Stephen Waddington, whose blog on the ’10 areas of pain’ identified in the research I was responding to.

A bit more robust, although he is pushing the industry to raise its game. It also had the ring of a demanding client or stressed out line manager (of which there are many, if the research is correct). Stephen’s blog post and the headlines in this infographic mirrored my view view that the industry needs to do more to raise standards and improve its reputation. But his challenge got me thinking: where do I – a mere manager in a small public sector comms team – sit within this snapshot? And what am I doing about it?

Read more of this post

How we helped tell a housing success story

“I’m delighted with the new development that’s being built in xxx. It’s a huge success story which local people and partners can be proud of.”

How many times have you read – or written if you’re a comms person – something like that and really taken it in? Like ‘transformation’ or ‘ground-breaking’, such words can be used so often that they start to mean very little.*

Then there are projects like Cranbrook in Devon, where slogans don’t do justice to what’s happening on the ground. Based on the fringes of Exeter, when complete it will include around 6,000 homes, schools, a town centre and a host of other amenities and jobs.

After more than 20 years in gestation, building work started in 2011, and now more than 800 homes are lived in and the primary school which opened in 2012 has more than 300 kids. That this has happened in the face of the downturn is remarkable, and every time I visit I’m amazed at the progress being made.

Read more of this post

Why we’re deserting supermarkets – and saving money

Tesco over-egging its profits by £250m (yes, that’s a quarter of a billion quid) is a big overstatement and led to statements of shock across the media this week.

Twice the price; 5kg of spuds for £3.50

Tesco price: 5kg of spuds for £3.50

Explanations for its ‘fall from grace’ centre on issues ranging from being caught in a sector-wide pincer movement between Aldi and Lidl and Waitrose, to a rise in internet shopping hitting its out-of-town megastores and the sense that shoppers have simply fallen out of love with Britain’s biggest retailer. It’s still making hundreds of millions in profit each year. But the CEO Dave Lewis probably can’t afford too many hits like this, even though his response to the outbreak of the crisis was swift and impressive.

I’ve worked as a comms person for Tesco, supporting local consultations designed to inform its planning applications for new stores. I was struck by the dedication and drive of those connected with the business; everyone bought into the vision. We’ve shopped there for years and been devotees of its Clubcard loyalty scheme, which we’ve used to ‘reward’ ourselves with meals at Pizza Express and trips to Longleat.

Read more of this post

What do Power Lists say about who really has power?

Originally posted on Jules Birch:

Love them or hate them but it’s hard to ignore them. There are lists for everything from the greatest films to the richest people and the housing world is no exception.

For the second year running, housing has two alternative lists. The Power Players Top 50 was first published by 24 Housing in 2012 and Paul Taylor compiled the Digital Power Players list in 2013. This year the magazine published both: the official list in April and the digital list in the latest (June) issue.

Cover73_380Cover71-380

The lists, and the differences between them, got me thinking about power and who has it in housing. Or rather who other people think has it, since the results are inevitably influenced by the way they are compiled.

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Purdah principles for modern comms

It’s that time of year when public sector comms practitioners must carefully consider all activity to ensure that they are not seen to compromise their neutrality or favour any political group as the local and European elections approach.

This will be the last ‘purdah’ period before the Scottish referendum in September and next year’s general election, when we can rightly expect to see stringent guidelines which will affect promotional activity, speaking engagements, events, political visits and, in some cases, even business decisions.

I’ve blogged about purdah before and have become used to managing communications around this time. The guidelines are looked at in time for every election and I was interested to read this blog post from former local government comms pro Dan Slee who provides some pointers around social media. Should give food for thought for those who manage Twitter, Facebook and other accounts, to go with the official guidance that is issued.

@SouthWestUK drums up support for business on Twitter

I was fascinated to read South West CIPR chair Sarah Pinch’s recent blog post about a campaign which has started since the terrible weather we’ve endured propelled the South West into the headlines.

Sarah is calling for support for a Twitter campaign started by Maureen McAllister using the hashtag #openforbusiness to highlight the fact that life is continuing here, despite the deluge.

It has generated traction with people, businesses and media organisations from across the South West using it to remind people that the region is not completely cut off by the elements. I had a look at some results generated by up to 2,000 tweets on the topic using the tool Tweetbinder, which can be used analyse hashtags used in campaigns. Have a look at the dashboard and some of the stats, which includes some data on reach, influence and original tweets and content (as opposed to retweets and ‘noise’).

Here’s another blog post from another comms professional who has helped the campaign recently. Good to see people taking some positive steps to support the South West. I’ll be offering my support to see if it can make a difference.

Links I like 14.01.20

3 Things We Should Learn From Benefits Street – Paul Taylor blog
Here’s a good post from Bromford’s Paul Taylor about the commentary that has followed Benefits Street on Channel 4. Chimes with many of my reactions when I watched the programme (without looking at Twitter) last week and I’ve made some comments beneath his piece. What does anyone else think about the programme?

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