I work for a Housing Association. We build homes and we house people.
And I dread people asking me what I do for a living.
If you work in the same profession, or any other that doesn’t instantly ignite animated conversation , you will know The Tumbleweed Moment.
That moment , those uncomfortable seconds of silence , when you can see in people’s eyes that they are desperately trying to comprehend what you actually DO.
They begin searching around in the filing cabinets of their minds, knowing they have heard the phrase somewhere.
If they find it – its likely to be right at the back of the brain , along with other discarded items – like “Credit Control Supervisor” and “Biomolecular Engineering Assistant “.
If you are lucky – they will locate it , associate it with the context in which they last heard it used and , in the case of Housing Associations, come up with “Ah yes – Council Housing!”
If you are unlucky – it will be “Ah yes – Jeremy Kyle!”
In most cases they will simply look blank and confused. You will attempt a couple of lines to explain further, and then you move on – swiftly – to talk about anything other than housing associations.
I’m incredibly proud to work in Housing. Passionate even. But the world won’t listen. Why is that?
Well, let’s skip past blaming the media for stereotyping.
And let’s leave the Politicians out of this as well.
Let’s take a look at ourselves – the people who make up UK Housing, and the stories we tell about what we do.
As part of some incredibly scientific research, I set Google Alerts up over the past two weeks to search the web for stories written by us, about us.
By the way – If you don’t know what a Google Alert is – it’s a search parameter that trawls the web for relevent content and generates an email with the best results. Kind of like a 21st Century version of fishing. You usually get a load of crap in your net , but be patient and there are some real keepers.
Here’s what we generated – based on 120 search results. Statistics fresh from the back of a fag packet:
- 25% of items were about about income and funding
- 22% were about welfare reform
- 18% were about new builds and site development
- 15% were “Look how good we are stories” – Typical example: “We’ve ensured 100% of our homes meet gas safety requirements” – That’s like British Airways issuing a press release saying all their planes have landed safely and their pilots failed to kill anybody.
- 12% were about Anti-Social behaviour or complaints
- Just under 8% were about the people living in our homes and communities.
This seems completely at odds with the Social Media output of the various Twitter Feeds in UK Housing – which do a pretty good job of celebrating the difference made to customers lives.
But we need to do more than just circulate the good news to each other.
We need to get our stories into the mainstream news feeds.
We need to promote what we do and the difference we make. In the new world. Not the world of print media.
And each and everyone of us needs to look at our output to see whether it celebrates OUR successes , the things important to US.
Or whether it celebrates the achievements of those we are here to help.
The things the real world might be interested in.
It’s not about us.
I work for a Social Business. I try to help people change their lives.