With challenges in the rental sector regularly making the headlines, Stockport Homes’ head of Marketing and Communications, Verity Calderbank, explains how the housing sector can start to rebuild trust between landlords and tenants. Verity, pictured, also leads Home Marketing, the housing group’s marketing team’s new full service social-impact marketing agency.
Tenants of both the public and private sector are feeling ignored and undervalued by their landlords, local authorities and building owners.
And it’s not just the landlord and their representatives that are feeling this strain, it’s the companies in the middle too; a recent survey by Mori found that estate agents are trusted by less than one in three people.
So, why the distrust? Homes are at the heart of people’s lives and tenants put a huge amount of trust and expectation onto the organisations that are supposed to look out for their best interests. After Grenfell, rent rises and the cladding scandal, many relationships are understandably brittle.
Marketing and communications teams within housing companies have a huge weight on their shoulders, as the only people in organisations with the power to bridge the communication gap. These jobs have become more complex because their audiences tend to be diverse in terms of income, age and cultural background.
A recent survey by Marketing Week found that in-house teams struggle for the following reasons: they are trapped in an echo-chamber with no outside perspective to innovate and there are too many people involved with no clear process. Does this sound familiar?
Here are some practical ways to start rebuilding trusted relationships via solid communications:
- When you are going through a crisis, offer regular and honest updates on the situation that explain clearly what is happening and what your response is or is going to be. Clarity reduces the possibility of causing any unnecessary fear which makes situations worse
- Shift the balance and improve your reputation by clearly laying out what you are doing that has a positive social impact. Many property companies give back to the community, but it needs to be front and centre of your communications. When it comes to under-represented communities, stand your ground and be vocal in your support for them; it is the responsibility of housing companies to demand rights for everyone – don’t be shy
- Make sure your tenants know about your third-party vendors and suppliers and that these companies share your passion for and are vocal about creating great homes in the same way that you are. These vendors are likely to meet tenants every day and they will have the power to create great new relationships
- Go hyper-local with your outreach. It’s possible your overarching digital channels aren’t engaging on specific issues. Whereas if you build a community around a common purpose or interest, such as the regeneration of a site or tenants of one building, tenants might feel empowered to keep talking
- Use a wide range of media. Some tenants read tweets while others will scroll past them, others will read your physical newsletter while others will put it straight into recycling. Use as many media outlets as possible to ensure all your tenants see your messaging – radio, press, TikTok, face-to-face meetings. The more visible you are, the more you are understood.
Trust is similar to reputation; it can be built by consistently communicating over a long period of time and there’s no better time to start forming these relationships now.
As we all become increasingly connected, your housing or property organisation has no choice but to build honest and positive relationships with your tenants and customers. If you have great communication lines in place, whether something goes well or bad, your tenants are more likely to stand by you.