Why does branding matter to a PHA?
That’s a legitimate question. After all, we are federally funded. We don’t really rely on customers or word of mouth to market our programs. We don’t technically have anything to sell.
So why is it important?
For starters, in recent years, there has been a huge shift in the traditional PHA model as we know it. Many agencies are looking to shed their preconceived identities and establish themselves in a whole new way.
A lot of PHAs are looking for ways to diversify their funding and increase affordable housing opportunities. One way to do this is through partnerships with real estate developers and investors. Branding is a huge part of how they will accomplish this.
Imagine what you could accomplish if every interaction with a participating family, prospective landlord, or community partner always leaves the right impression.
When your PHA can inspire confidence in both your community and your team… that is a winning combo! And that’s ONE thing that branding does.
We all want the same things from someone we are doing business with:
We want them to be trustworthy.
We want consistency.
We want interactions we can depend on.
We hear pretty much every company out there tout these kinds of qualities about themselves all the time. You wouldn’t even have to look very far on our own website to see all the wonderful things we say about who we are and what we do. But people don’t want lip service. They want you to be clear about what you’ll do and then do what you say. It’s that simple.
Companies that are consistent and dependable about who they claim to be are able to create lasting and mutually beneficial connections with their audiences.
This results in less barriers for outreach, recruitment efforts, and prospective partnerships. It also fosters loyalty in participants and employees and sets clear expectations for all involved about who you are and what you are going to do.
Who are You?
We’ve all heard someone ask, “Who does so-and-so think they are?” The thing about saying this is that it’s not a question about name or identity. It goes beyond simple identity to establishing authority and expertise. They are essentially asking what credentials or authority give that person the right to act the way they do.
When you clearly establish WHO you are, you confirm your expertise and the authority given to you. And the way you establish who you are is through branding.
Who you are is equal to the impact you make in your community, BUT… how you establish that is the key.
A great place to start with this is with a clear and concise marketing statement. If you only have one shot to grab someone’s attention and sum up who you are, you better make it count. We suggest using the following to get you started:
“I/We help [AUDIENCE] get [DESIRED RESULT] without [STRUGGLES OR PAIN POINTS] through/by [METHOD].”
Back it up with some authoritative statements and statistics and you are set for success. A couple of great examples of these types of statements are:
- Our HCV Program provides affordable housing throughout the city to more than 48,000 residents.
- Our housing inventory levels stand at 96% over 13 locations with 98% of HCV recipients also successfully leased with private landlords.
- We successfully transition an average of 15% of our families per year out of public housing into home ownership programs.
- Completed rehabilitation of 296 previously vacant scattered site units and 833 conventional site units with 700 of those units leased within 3 months of project completion.
- Placed 4000 homeless families into affordable housing in 2022.
Statements like these show that your agency understands how important the financial and social impact you are making in your community is.
And remember, it’s not about just sounding or looking great. It’s about being great in a way where others can’t prove otherwise. This requires consistent and intentional effort.
Who are you talking to?
Once you find your voice, you have to understand who you are talking to.
And insight is extremely valuable.
What you say to families and landlords is going to be different than what you say to prospective partners and being able to relate to each target group in a genuine and authentic way will be key to success.
The best way to be able to do this is to identify your specific stakeholders and then conduct regular research into what their current needs are. Once you know what they need, ask yourself how you can either meet their need or at the very least, participate in the solution.
While we don’t survive off the sales of our products to customers, we still have a responsibility to those we serve and those we are seeking to partner with. We have to be intentional about investing in our communities and staying in touch with the realities of what they are facing if we want to make an impact.
We owe our families and communities our best…always.
Making the Change
Rebranding and adopting the persona of that brand takes planning and preparation. It must be interwoven and reinforced by everything you say and do and must be carefully curated.
So, when trying to figure out how to best brand your agency, there are a few key points to consider:
- Be Distinctive
What makes you different from everyone else? Branding, especially among similar markets, is a lot like white noise. It all just kind of blends together. In order to be distinctive, you need to separate yourself from the white noise of other brands and capitalize on what makes you different and unique.
This is where all those authority statements and statistics will come into play. Your numbers are what will make you different from everyone else and will show what you are capable of. Everyone loves a feel-good message, but people want to align themselves with results.
Your brand identity is what makes you memorable. And a well-executed brand identity is what makes you valuable.
- Be in Alignment
Being in alignment is about ensuring that everyone representing your agency understands your brand and its goals. Developing your brand starts from the inside out. Educate your staff and stakeholders on your brand values, messaging, and the importance of consistent communication.
- When your agency operates with a clear and unified vision, they will be more committed to the outcome. And they will find themselves more committed to the overall success of the PHA. This means they will work smarter and harder to maintain the reputation they have poured into.
- Be Strategic
We also have to keep in mind that outreach must be targeted to be effective. Two things you want to be mindful of:
- Somewhere, your target audience is already talking about the programs your PHA offers…They are discussing the advantages, disadvantages, benefits, obstacles, etc. Find out where it’s taking place and join the conversations with your experience and expertise.
- Great outreach is multifaceted! This has to be emphasized, because there are many ways to convey your message that will produce results. Emails, community events, partnerships, sponsorships, and even in the homes of your audience. We must be sure when conducting outreach that we utilize as many of the appropriate channels as possible.
- Be Relevant
Our very reason for existing is to be in service to our communities.
So, what does your community need and how can you be a part of the solution?
Even in spaces where you might not hold the expertise, you can seek out partnerships with community organizations who do. Not only will you learn and grow in the process, but you can expand your impact. Get involved in the conversations that are creating forward momentum in your community, wherever they are taking place.
No matter what, when preparing our agencies for a rebranding it’s best to gain some insight first from HUD. The overall vision and mission for our efforts and our position as PHAs must always fit within that narrative.
- Be Consistent
If you’re constantly changing how you present yourself to your community, they will never get to know you. Your identity must be aligned and consistent across every touchpoint in every area of your business. Day in and day out.
- Make sure all of your key materials and interactions are on brand. Add in brand-specific training so everyone in your organization understands how to embody your brand values and why it is important.
- Leverage digital platforms available to you to their potential. Utilize digital marketing tools and platforms to reach a wider audience.
- Develop a user-friendly website that provides information about your services, resources, and application processes. Create a page here that focuses on your projects,what you need in order to complete them on time, and projected growth. Provide information on how to contact you and partner with you.
- Maintain an active social media presence to share updates, news, and relevant content.
A consistent message makes sure that your agency stays top of mind for your target audiences. When your landlords, tenants, or partners are ready to make a move, they’ll think of you first.
- Be persistent
Sometimes you don’t get it right and have to shift and adjust. We all know that it’s not what you say, but HOW you say it.
In any new strategy, you should measure the impact and adapt based on results. Set KPI’s and continuously monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of your branding efforts. Collect feedback, conduct surveys, and track key performance indicators to assess the impact of your brand strategy. Then keep tracking and adjusting until you see the results you are looking for.