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Communications Conference speaker interview: Graeme Downie, Orbit

“Change is going to be driven by the expectations of tenants in 10 to 15 years’ time.” 

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Ahead of this year’s SFHA Communications Conference, Events Assistant Mollie Stephen spoke to Graeme Downie, Director of Orbit Communications, ahead of his session on the role of engagement in the digital service shift. 

What initially sparked your interest in working in communications?  

I think a desire to understand better and then to help others learn more as well. I have always liked finding out how things actually work and then what the many implications of that might be. From that starting point, using communications to help those affected, or influenced, to have that same understanding and knowledge. 

Why do you think it’s important to change staff and tenant culture to embrace digital transformation changes, and where do you start with convincing those less willing to move over? 

I think change is going to be driven by the expectations of tenants in 10 to 15 years’ time. All age groups and demographic groups now expect to be able to do things digitally without thinking about it. To meet that, housing associations will have to start now and really get ahead of those needs, or the sector could suffer in the future, both to hire staff and deliver a quality service for tenants. 

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?  

I think as an external agency, it is understanding the culture and journey of different clients – be that a housing association or something entirely different. As much as the ultimate destination on something like digital transformation might look the same, the way in which it is delivered and how it is achieved will be different every time.  

Finally, what are you looking forward to most about the conference? 

I am really keen to hear what other organisations are doing on their own journey to increase digital engagement among staff and tenants. I am also really interested to learn more about the broader communications challenges that housing associations are facing – be that influencing policy, internal engagement, brand development or media relations. 

This year’s Communications Conference is taking place on 24 March at the City Halls in Glasgow. Day delegate rates start at £229 for SFHA members and £319 for non-members.   

 For more information or to book your place, please visit the conference’s event page.

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