We need to talk about housing

Forget Geordie Shore and TOWIE – the latest trend in reality television is benefits and welfare, and Benefits Street and How To Get A Council House are just two programmes bringing social housing to our screens.

PR Account Executive Rebecca Jackson

Rebecca Jackson, PR Account Executive at Acceleris

Our work with the National Federation of ALMOs, Kier and Rixonway means we know more than most about the real work that goes on behind the scenes in supplying social housing to more than 17% of the population, but some sections of the media continue to spread a negative stereotype of social housing and tenants, something we work hard to combat.

Our work with the NFA has just been nominated for a Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) Award and we are counting down to the annual NFA Awards, which recognise all the great and good work of ALMOs and their tenants, but a negative image still exists in the media, exacerbated by these programmes.

Benefits Street showed that despite thousands of complaints, millions of viewers tuned inBenefit Street How to get a council house to watch the stories of White Dee and her neighbours. Likewise, How To Get A Council House ignited fierce debate on Twitter, prompting many of those in the housing sector to work together to defend the system with the Council Homes Chat campaign- designed to give people a platform on social media to discuss their experiences of social housing.

The campaign gathered pace on Thunderclap, which hosts a campaign page and generates a timed Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr post from all supporters when a supporter goal is reached, creating a wave of social media attention. Comms officers and housing professionals tuned into Twitter as soon as Council House started, undermining the vitriolic comments with important statistics about social housing. Pretty soon tenants joined in too, telling the Twittersphere why they’re proud to live in social housing, with tweets including:

Together, the #CouncilHomesChat hashtag helped send out a strong message across social media, demonstrating the importance and impact of a joint approach. Thunderclap is a great tool for synchronising a message across social platforms and hosts a range of different campaigns. With follow-up opinion pieces in influential blogs, key housing trade titles and the housing pages of national papers, the campaign has had widespread coverage and demonstrates the importance in united responses.

Here at Acceleris we understand the importance of crisis communications and reacting to negative coverage; our MD Peter is delivering a talk at the Buy Yorkshire Conference on how to tackle issues management and Team Fish know a thing or two about winning awards for their work for the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO). Council Homes Chat is a great example of the community coming together to protect an important asset, and shows how simple crisis communications can be.

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