Affordable housing is an essential component of Scotland’s social fabric, with social landlords often contributing directly to developing local communities. I’ve worked with a number of housing associations in Scotland, and come to understand that they do far more than provide social housing: often they play a vital role in binding their communities together. Marketing and communications are essential to developing good strategies for developing relationships across the community that benefit both local people and the housing association itself.
Like many other public sector and third sector bodies, housing associations work in a challenging climate. The particular issues which are up at the top of the agenda for housing associations in Scotland at the moment included limited funding; increased competition; changes to housing policy; the Scottish Government’s legislative commitment to tenant participation, and guidelines on community planning and community engagement processes.
- Marketing is of growing importance to the social housing sector in Scotland. It can:
- underpin and support the business strategy (whether that be acquisition, merger, growth or asset disposal)
- differentiate from other housing associations, using branding and positioning
- Build reputation, within property developer and construction sectors; and with other stakeholders
- Connect the housing association with tenants for consultation, review, scrutiny and participation
- Help people engage with services
- Help local people collaborate to improve the communities where they live
For long enough, housing associations have produced printed newsletter to engage with their tenants, but digital marketing provides the opportunity to do so much more. My approach has been to help housing associations and others in the sector to take a strategic approach to marketing: that way the investment is of real value because the organisation has focused effort where it is needed.
Recently I worked with TIS (Tenant’s Information Service) on a rebranding exercise. Developments in the sector and changing legislation have an impact on their role and they needed to establish their offer in relation to both landlords and tenants. Commenting on the rebranding project, Chief Executive of TIS, Ilene Campbell said, “Our turnover has increased by 20% in the last year and our membership has doubled.”
Linstone is a Renfrewshire Housing Association. They were aware that their tired brand wasn’t doing the organisation any favours and wanted to take a fresh look at the organisation as a whole. A new website became a key means of communicating with tenants and other stakeholders and the rebranding also tied in with an office move and is a prominent element in the décor of the new offices. Gary Dalziel, Director of Finance and Corporate Services, says, “We get positive comments about the brand on an almost daily basis.” More than this, the rebranding had a positive impact on staff, tenants and others involved in the organisation. It really helped people to think differently about their roles, new opportunities and what the organisation could achieve.
I have also contributed to the work of other housing associations, such as Cairn, Govan, Castlehill and Partick.