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Orbit Communications to sponsor SFHA Communications Conference

Orbit Communications is sponsoring SFHA’s Communications Conference, taking place on 24 March.

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By Graeme Downie, Director, Orbit Communications 

Orbit Communications is an award-winning consultancy, providing integrated PR, public affairs, digital and design services for a number of housing associations, homebuilders, and charities in the housing sector in Scotland and across the UK. 

Orbit helps organisations in the housing sector to build their profile, manage their reputation, influence policy, engage with staff and customers, and improve their digital and web footprint. 

Although much is still unknown about how the pandemic will affect communications in the longer term, Orbit has already seen the expectations of audiences change dramatically, both within organisations and amongst their external contact groups. 

Housing associations must begin to consider now what the communications expectations of their audiences will be in the future.  Some may want more two-way engagement provided digitally whilst others may continue to be largely passive customers or prefer less frequent but more traditional means. Either way, the time to examine how housing associations communicate, both internally and externally, is now if the expectations of staff and customers are to be met. 

Whilst many of these changes will be led by customers and staff themselves, the policy world in which housing associations operate is also changing rapidly, bringing new considerations for how RSLs and others communicate. The election in May will see a turnover over at least 40% of MSPs, with housing, health, and care at the centre of the agenda for many of the new intake, all framed by the economic and social recovery necessitate by the pandemic. Housing associations will be expected to be at the heart of that response so must begin thinking now about how they are going to engage in that agenda and explain their role. 

For the past 12 months, Orbit has been focussing on some of the questions and challenges facing the housing sector in Scotland, including: 

  • the role housing will play in the economic recovery after the pandemic 
  • how targets for affordable, social, and build-to-buy homes can be met 
  • what impact government actions on adult social care and fair rents might have for social and private landlords alike 
  • using digital technology to engage with staff, customers, and stakeholders. 
  • the effect on the housing sector of disruptive new entrants to the market 
  • how RSLs, and others, must adapt and their website and digital footprint to better target potential customers and engage their staff 
  • the broader effect that the pandemic is having and will continue to have on RSLs and how councils might address the problem of empty homes. 

As a result of this thinking and working with clients, Orbit has been able to conduct different exercises with clients in the housing sector. This has included: 

  • redesigning the website for Hanover Scotland to make it more suitable for mobile devices and improving its Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to reflect changes to Google’s search algorithm 
  • promoting the construction of 50 affordable homes for Rural Stirling housing association 
  • developing the brand identity for a number of housing organisations to update the impression they convey to staff, customers, and potential customers 
  • organising and promoting the digital annual conference for Scottish Empty Homes Partnership 
  • carrying out a digital consultation exercise for British Land in Milngavie, attended by 400 people, with retirement living a key part of the plans 
  • creating a brand, website, and marketing materials for Juniper, a new entrant into the retirement living market 
  • undertaking over 30 digital consultations as part of planning proposals, including for mixed residential and local service hubs 

Graeme will be leading a workshop at the Communications Conference on ‘Digital tools: how to engage with staff and residents in the future’. He will also be taking part in the opening plenary session on ‘Lessons learned from communicating during the crisis’. 

SFHA’s Communications Conference is a virtual event, taking place 24 March. To view the full programme and book your place: please visit the SFHA Live! section 

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