Ben Lowndes #viewsoncomms

A perspective on PR, development and life in the South West

Category Archives: Homes

How social can fuel great local conversations

“The profession is polarising between those practitioners that are cracking on and using new forms of media to engage publics in two-way dialogue and those that continue to spam journalists with press releases.

“The former have a great future in the business. The latter will be out of job within a generation.”

Stephen Waddington (@wadds) on the future of PR

After thousands of discussions, the West of England’s #WEbuildourfuture consultation ended yesterday (Friday 29 January).

This was an important and challenging conversation about housing and transport for the area’s four local authorities. Where 85,000 new homes should go and how transport should work are complex and thorny issues, with many differing and competing opinions. The last three months have seen the councils engage in genuine and thought-provoking exchanges. I hope it demonstrates the good practice Steven Waddington refers to in his quote above.

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No predictions, just 3 hopes for 2016

If you’ve read any posts, columns and opinions about 2015, it would be easy to think that last year was a bad one.

People of Columnia have a negative tendency, but it seems that there’s plenty to trouble us. Terrorism, austerity, economic under-performance, migration, Europe and runaway house prices all point to a bad year.

I’ve also had many conversations about ‘leadership failure’ over many of these issues. It seems that people have had enough of being soft-soaped. This was demonstrated in Jeremy Corbyn’s extraordinary victory over the ‘Westminster elite’ in the Labour leadership campaign. It was also expressed in nastier ways through trolling and threats dealt out on social media.

Opinion formers have an appetite for predictions at this time of year. After so many people called the big events wrong in 2015, it’s daft to attempt it for the coming year.

I want to be optimistic and set out some hopes for 2016. Some relate to national issues, others are more local and there’s a personal one too. All are important to me and, if they happen, it should be a good year.

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If where you live matters, join the #WEbuildourfuture conversation

WEbuildourfuture images

(Created by JBP)

A big conversation is happening around Bristol that could shape local housing and transport for decades to come.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been working with colleagues to get ready for a major consultation which could map where thousands of new homes are built across the West of England over the next 20 years.

The phrase ‘West of England Joint Spatial Plan and Transport Study‘ won’t set pulses racing. But the issues it covers should interest anyone who has views about where they live, how they get to work or school or whether they will be able to keep a roof over the heads in future.

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New era, same principles for engagement

I gave this presentation at JBP’s Bristol office on Monday night about how digital can be used to support engagement activity. The event was attended by professionals who work in planning, development and legal practice.

I was delighted that comms manager from East Devon Drew Aspinwall joined me to talk about activity that has taken place to support the development of the new community at Cranbrook. Listening to the conversation afterwards reinforced my view that Cranbook is out on its own in terms of the pace and scale of delivery and level of support it has locally. Partners can be proud of the community they’re helping to create.

My slides were put together using Haikudeck, which is great for clear and engaging content slides and easy to use if you know what you’re going to say. Like many tools, it seems to have its own quirky ways which can cause frustrations and I have struggled with sharing it and getting it to render properly in this blog which has added a couple of hours onto my day. I hope to get more up to speed with it soon!

My slides are below.

More detailed notes used with the slides can be found on Haikudeck.

How we helped tell a housing success story

“I’m delighted with the new development that’s being built in xxx. It’s a huge success story which local people and partners can be proud of.”

How many times have you read – or written if you’re a comms person – something like that and really taken it in? Like ‘transformation’ or ‘ground-breaking’, such words can be used so often that they start to mean very little.*

Then there are projects like Cranbrook in Devon, where slogans don’t do justice to what’s happening on the ground. Based on the fringes of Exeter, when complete it will include around 6,000 homes, schools, a town centre and a host of other amenities and jobs.

After more than 20 years in gestation, building work started in 2011, and now more than 800 homes are lived in and the primary school which opened in 2012 has more than 300 kids. That this has happened in the face of the downturn is remarkable, and every time I visit I’m amazed at the progress being made.

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Links I like 14.01.20

3 Things We Should Learn From Benefits Street – Paul Taylor blog
Here’s a good post from Bromford’s Paul Taylor about the commentary that has followed Benefits Street on Channel 4. Chimes with many of my reactions when I watched the programme (without looking at Twitter) last week and I’ve made some comments beneath his piece. What does anyone else think about the programme?

Can housing bridge the digital divide?

I got an insight today into the role the affordable housing sector could play in getting more people online, which is one of the aims set out in the Government’s recently launched digital strategy.

I was with comms colleagues who work for providers across the South West, talking about how digital media can be used to build stronger relationships with key stakeholders, make transactions more efficient and cost effective and convey messages to a wider, more significant audience. More than anything, social media can be used to achieve the ‘gold standard’ of two-way communications, where organisations listen and respond to what they are hearing in a way that satisfies their audiences, and ultimately supports their business.

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How (not) to win customers (and get blacklisted)

Don't bother mate: I'm closed for business

I blogged recently about a publisher I’d blacklisted for its dubious ad-selling, amongst other things. It was the first time I’d done this since moving to Bristol a couple of years ago.

Just like the proverbial buses which nobody sees until another one has just arrived, a different company has given me reason to repeat the act this week.

The offending firm has approached me unsuccessfully in the past with offers to publish ‘free editorial’ in return for allowing them to contact partners and pressure them to support this with advertising.

It’s a mystery to me why anyone in the sector supports this activity, which is often produced to such a poor quality that it is barely credible. Housing has a great story to tell, and better publications understand this and will help us to do so without charging for it.

After making this point a few times, I thought they had got the message.

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Swindon homes to hit the headlines

I’ve been following Channel 4’s Great British Property Scandal with interest this week. It’s pressed home some important points about how bringing empty homes back into use could help tackle the housing shortage. Many in the media will sit up and take notice of the issue following the programmes and the stories they have thrown up, which has to be a good thing.

One scheme I am familiar with in Swindon will be featured as part of the series as a positive example of what can be done to address the problem. The Triangle, delivered by Kevin McCloud’s Hab Oakus, is set to feature in his Grand Designs documentaries.

I remember attending an event with partners and housing minister Grant Shapps to mark the start of work on the site in May last year. That feels like an age ago. I look forward to seeing it featured now it is complete.

 

 

Housing hits the headlines

The publication of the housing strategy has led to some interesting headlines over the weekend, which I thought I’d share below. Notwithstanding the complexity of the issues around housing in this country, it’s interesting to see how different media treat the same information. 

The Guardian played it straight on Friday with a piece setting out plans to use brownfield sites to deliver 450,000 new homes. It also highlighted a Government-backed mortgage scheme which would help first time buyers struggling to access finance get on the housing ladder.

The Telegraph, meanwhile, yesterday wrote of plans to double the right to buy discount offered to council house tenants, to up to 50% of the value of their home, with receipts being used to build replacements. 

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