When we were asked to speak at the National Housing Federation’s annual Marketing & Communications Conference in Euston last week, I juggled my diary around to make sure I could be there for the whole day. I was looking forward to hearing a range of views on the role of marcomms in the sector, particularly when housing is adopting an increasingly centre-stage role in the escalating general election furore.

I wasn’t disappointed. The conference, which this year had the theme ‘Strengthening Your Voice’, included a controversial presentation by the producer of Benefits Street, making his case to a room that struggled to accept his arguments. The breakout sessions covered everything from digital inclusion to voter registration. But the speaker who most stood out for me was Boris Worrall, Director of Futures at Orbit – one of the largest housing providers in the country.

Boris spoke passionately about the need to change the narrative across the housing sector, dropping an obsession with jargon and complex tenure explanations in favour of a stronger, more challenging story about the need for a range of housing options. He urged the sector to come together, in the same way it has done for the impressive Homes for Britain campaign, to increase public understanding of, and appreciation for, housing associations and the products they offer to so many different people – those in work, and those not in work. Boris argued strongly for a broadening of the debate, beyond housing associations as a ‘safety net’, to include the ‘springboard’ role played by much of the sector – a more positive, aspirational message.

I couldn’t agree more. While the mainstream media remain obsessed with dramatic, victim-filled bad news stories (which need to be heard, of course, if we are to highlight the implications of top-level decisions and push for policy change) the proliferation of digital channels means the housing sector can and should be pushing out an alternative view of social and affordable housing. What it is, what it does, who it’s for, and what it wants to achieve in the future. Boris made that case very well, and it was great to see the enthusiasm spread throughout the packed auditorium.

I’ll look forward to seeing how Boris’s message is taken up by the sector in the crucial coming months.

For some top tips linked to my own session, focused on making the case for communications, you can download our free ‘Introduction to Making the Case for Comms’ here.

See what was talked about during the day on the NHF Storify – https://storify.com/natfedevents/twitter-says-yes-to-comms

– Kirsty Kitchen