Last week, I attended the Solutions for Housing Communications convening in D.C. with my 5:00 Films & Media colleague, Tim Parsons. The event was hosted by the National Housing Conference (NHC), a nonprofit dedicated to educating decision makers and the public about housing policies and practices that create and support thriving communities with quality homes that are affordable and accessible to all. Tim actually came to 5:00 from a housing nonprofit, Rebuilding Together, where he led communications, marketing and digital strategy (and made a LOT of video). We attended NHC’s convening because Tim was invited to join a session panel about–what else–communicating affordable housing stories with video.
With my association background, I’ve been to a LOT of conferences, so, to be honest, I wasn’t really expecting too much out of one more event, aside from meeting some new people and hopefully getting some halfway decent photos from Tim’s session. I figured the sessions would be really housing-specific and therefore sort of out of my lane. HOWEVER… I was surprised to really get a lot out of the event! I don’t know whether it was the fact that a familiar issue–communications–was being framed through an unfamiliar lens–housing, or that the speakers were just really good, but it was awesome!
The first session I attended was the panel on communicating with video that Tim was a part of. Tim’s fellow panelists Max Gouttebroze, VP of marketing and communications at Rebuilding Together, and Raisa Johnson, public policy associate at the National Housing Trust. Christina McHenry, SVP of public relations at Neighborworks America®, hosted the panel. Max talked about lessons learned from one PSA campaign to the next, Raisa shared a really powerful collective-storytelling approach to advocacy and Tim focused on how the sweet spot for successful video lies in understanding the intersection of what’s important to you (and/or your organization) and what’s interesting to your audience. The session attendees asked some really interesting questions about relevance, distribution, and DIY video solutions.
Tim’s example video is embedded at the bottom of this post. The NHP Foundation commissioned 5:00 Films & Media to create an award winning video that would weave together emotion and information to explain to existing and potential stakeholders how NHPF uses the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit to transform communities, including Cleme Manor in Houston, Texas. The video was debuted at a gala for supporters, and the video was specifically designed, with the help of NHPF, to appeal to those supporters.
— 5:00 Films & Media (@hi5oclock) April 17, 2018
It’s always fun to see a colleague speak, but that was just the beginning. The lunch speaker was the biggest surprise of the day. First of all, who even listens to a lunch speaker when it’s a conference around a subject they know about? (Ok, maybe other people are better lunch listeners than I am.) So when the lunch speaker approached the podium to talk about “Communicating to expand the discourse on fair housing and opportunity,” I fully anticipated taking that time to catch up on email. Nope!… the speaker, Dr. Tiffany Manuel VP, Knowledge, Impact & Strategy at housing nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners, had an unassuming but riveting stage presence that had even me–someone not at all involved in housing issues whatsoever–listening the entire time and even taking a full page of notes.
Even though she was talking in the context of housing, most of what she said was relevant in a broader sense in terms of communications in general. She talked about the importance of messaging and being mindful of the words you choose, about anchoring messages in the future to inspire audiences to imagine themselves in a larger, better story they can help create by working with your organization, and about framing your message in a broader context when possible to involve larger community or world issues. All things that I think can definitely be useful to when framing out communications around almost any topic.
The last session I attended about, of all things, was whether or not your organization should do a podcast. Who knew that 44% of Americans listen to podcasts, or that 80% of people who listen to podcasts listen to the entire episode, or that podcasts listeners listen to 7 podcasts a week? (I didn’t notice a citation, but these stats and more can be found here). While not a podcaster, panelist Jennifer Reed, director of fund development & public relations at Eden Housing, shared a really cool idea for commemorating 50 years of providing affordable homes for individuals and families throughout California. Fifty Years, Fifty Stories includes podcasts, videos and photo stories depicting different facets that together paint a vivid picture of the ways the organization not only provides affordable homes but also helps positively impact the lives of many outside the community they help support.
The main takeaways from the convening that any organization can leverage:
- Video: Want to make a video? Before you get to “make a video”, you have to “make a plan that includes video.” Start by focusing on desired outcomes and intended audience. Are you trying to intrigue someone enough that they want to learn more, give them useful, relevant information, or inspire them to action? Then think about how what you need to say can be framed in a way they will want to hear (and be excited to share). Then you can make a plan that incorporates video as part of an overall strategy with measurable outcomes.
- Messaging: Tell a bigger story that leaves room for the person reading, watching or listening to your message to see themselves in order to inspire action. With housing, that story goes beyond providing affordable housing to encompass much more: the ability for caregivers and teachers who may be part of your child’s life even if you yourself aren’t someone who thinks of themselves as someone who needs to worry about affordable housing; access to education and opportunities that shape people’s lives across all socioeconomic spectrums, etc.
- Speakers: Diversity matters. Part of why this event resonated with me was because of the diverse perspectives and stage presences that it included. People of color and with different accents were part of why this event successfully captured and held even the attention of someone outside of its intended audience.
- Innovative storytelling: There are many ways to tell your organization’s story: with words, video, audio, photos and more. Staying on top of trends like the popularity of podcasts or “pivot to video” ensure that your organization’s story can best reach audiences across different platforms to maximize your communications efforts and budget.
About the National Housing Conference: The National Housing Conference has been defending our American Home since 1931. NHC is abroad-based coalition representing the widest possible spectrum of housing. We make housing a priority. Our American Home is the foundation of everything it means to be a great nation, and that foundation is in need of defending. Working together, we can make it possible for all of us to live in a place we are proud to call home. Learn more at www.nhc.org.