Author: Muhammed Shaikh, Voicescape
As social housing providers step up measures to safeguard tenants during the developing COVID-19 situation, the need to communicate clear, reliable and timely information has become essential. Here, we offer 10 tips for handling your tenant communications:
- Get a crisis comms team together; the sooner you engage them in planning your communications strategy, the further ahead of the curve you’ll be;
- Create a clear and comprehensive communication strategy that defines who you want to communicate with, what channels and tools you’ll use and how often;
- It may help to prepare messaging templates that are generic enough so that they can quickly be tailored and deployed;
- Create a single point of truth that relies on official sources only, for your crisis comms team and front-line staff to go to for consistent, reliable information. This reassures your audience that you are using trustworthy sources and providing facts. Examples include the UK Government website and the updates from the BBC;
- Consider a mix of communication channels including SMS and email for ‘moment in time’ and small snippets of information, and direct people to your own website for more long-form, detailed information;
- Automate outbound communications wherever possible to free up resources to focus on more complex enquiries and tenant needs;
- Offer updates on the situation that explain clearly what is happening and your response, without causing unnecessary fear or worsening the situation;
- Do be mindful of communicating information to those who may be the most vulnerable residents. For instance, if you decide to cancel a pre-arranged repair appointment, determine who needs to be informed, explaining the rationale and the subsequent next steps;
- Ensure that residents know who to contact when questions and enquiries arise. And designate a point person(s) or department to receive questions that come through phone calls, emails, or even in person;
- Don’t forget third-party vendors and suppliers – these stakeholders are vital to the continued delivery of services, so make sure you have a communications track for them too.
And remember, this is a fast moving situation and you are doing your best on behalf of your staff and tenants; hopefully with a strategy in place you’ll be best positioned to communicate as effectively as possible over the coming days. Please note: this is not an exhaustive list, but we think it should help you decide what the next steps should be for your social housing organisation.