The recent news cycle has been dominated by one person: Donald Trump. And it’s a pattern that’s sure to continue throughout 2017. Whatever your politics this is having repercussions for communicators and communications.
By Jessica Roberts
I never thought I’d say this, and it certainly sticks in my throat, but Donald Trump inspired me to write this.
I’ve been fascinated, transfixed and often despairing, as I’ve watched events unfold across the water. I’m sure many of you can empathise. I’ve listened to the rhetoric, the irresponsible, divisive provocation from Trump Tower and lost hope that good will out.
Now, I don’t want this to be a blog post about politics as such, although that’s how it’s started. To go back to my opening line, Donald Trump has inspired me (*gags*). He’s reminded me that words matter. What you say and how you say it means something. Not much of a revelation for someone in comms, I know. But we’re all busy right? Busy ticking things off the to-do list. Busy thinking about what we’re doing next. Perhaps, not reflecting on the impact of what we’ve just done or how we said it.
I work in a housing association in Wales. I’m fairly new to housing and before that I spent many years in council comms. I’m used to the austerity message and neutral language that inevitably comes with the public sector (not a criticism, by the way). I’m used to Purdah and FOIs. What I’m still adjusting to, working in housing comms, is that the association can have a voice, a point of view should it wish. Scratch that. It’s our residents that have a voice, a view. Our role is to amplify it and with that comes responsibility. A responsibility for truth, equity and meaningful dialogue. *Insert gushing comment about the Obamas.
We’ve all come across the many incarnations of Benefit Street that seem to keep popping up on our TV screens. The depiction of those living in social housing as scroungers or undeserving of support. Poverty porn at it’s best.
The constant and persistent challenge for housing comms right now is to confront the stereotype, call it out and change the conversation. As a very wise woman once said: “when they go low, we go high” (thanks Michelle).
It’s not easy and it won’t be quick. But it will definitely be worth it.
Jessica Roberts is Communications Manager at Newport City Homes
image via Flickr Creative Commons