Cracking the Comms Code: Let’s Conquer The Annual Report Labyrinth

annual report

It’s time to venture into the labyrinth that is the annual report – those enigmatic puzzles of paperwork that both challenge and intrigue us! We get it, the struggle is real, from deciphering the data to dealing with cryptic feedback from Sue in finance who seems to speak in riddles – no offence, Sue.

At Be Smart Design, we’ve got the map and the compass to guide you through this maze of paperwork with style and flair!

Balancing Info and Fun

Alright, let’s be real here—annual reports can be be as intricate as a maze, with twists and turns, surrounded by walls of information that leave us feeling lost. But who says informative can’t also be fun? We’ll help you map out your reports whilst taking you through the scenic route – keeping your report fresh and engaging without losing the important stuff.

Running from the boulder of deadlines

Ah, the crushing weight of deadlines—they seem to come hurling at you out of no where! With our lightning-fast workflow and a dash of creative caffeine, we’ll leave those deadlines in the dust without breaking a sweat.

Illuminate the way with your brand

Your brand deserves to shine, so why settle for anything less than stellar? We’ll sprinkle some pizzazz into your reports to keep that brand essence bright for everyone to see, ensuring your report beams “YOU” from start to finish.

Breaking down barriers

Everyone should have a chance to join the discussion, right? That’s why we’re all about making your reports accessible to everyone. Whether it’s adding some forward-thinking features or just keeping things simple and easy to read, we’ve got you covered.

Handling Stakeholder Expectations Like a Pro

Stakeholders can sometimes present challenges, but we’ve got your back. We’ll help with navigating their expectations and ensuring everyone walks away satisfied.

Keeping Compliance Cool

Regulations, rules—whatever you want to call them, they can be a headache! With our keen eye for detail and knack for staying on the straight and narrow, you can trust us to keep your reports compliant, legit, and ready to impress even the toughest critic!

So, there you have it, folks—annual reports, decoded by Be Smart Design! With us at your side, annual reports will become not just a task, but a thrilling adventure full of fun, flair, and boundless creativity! 

Get in touch to let us help you achieve annual report success!

Unlocking the Recipe: The Key Ingredients for Your Social Housing Annual Report

annual report
annual report

It’s time to get that annual report cooking – so grab your apron and preheat those ovens! Just like baking a cake, creating your annual report requires the perfect blend of ingredients and a dash of creativity – but we highly recommend adding a sprinkle of Be Smart for extra flavour and guaranteed great results.

Mission and Vision

Think of your mission and vision as the key ingredients that give your report its solid foundation. Think of them as the flour that binds everything together, giving your report its structure and shape.

Financial Overview

Let’s not forget about the financials—they’re the butter and eggs that give your report its richness. Lay it all out, from revenue and expenses to investments in community development. Transparency is key, so make sure your financials are as smooth as butter!

Performance Highlights

Now it’s time to add some sugar to your report—those sweet, irresistible highlights from the past year. Whether it’s reaching housing targets, boosting tenant satisfaction, or championing community projects, these sweet successes will make your report sparkle.

Tenant Engagement and Feedback

Now, let’s add the secret ingredient—the voices of your tenants that give your report depth and flavour. Share their feedback, testimonials, and insights to show how you’re listening and responding to their needs

Community Impact

Time to add some sprinkles to your report—those little bursts of colour and joy that make it truly special. Share stories and victories that showcase the impact you’re making in people’s lives and communities.

Sustainability Initiatives

Let’s go green! Think of your sustainability initiatives as the organic ingredients that make your report eco-friendly and sustainable. Share your projects and initiatives, showing how you’re reducing your carbon footprint and making your community greener and cleaner.

Future Plans and Challenges

And now, let’s preheat the oven for what’s to come! Outline your future plans and challenges—the recipe for success in the years ahead. Share your strategic priorities, upcoming projects, and potential hurdles, demonstrating your forward-thinking approach. Just like adjusting the oven temperature for the perfect bake, these plans will ensure your community continues to rise and shine!

Engaging Design

And now that your cake is baked and cooled down, this is where the exciting part comes in – decorating the cake! Good design is the frosting that makes that cake too tempting to resist, keeping your readers engaged. From captivating graphics to intuitive layouts, a well-designed report enhances readability and ensures your message shines through.

With this fool-proof recipe and our creative flair, we’ll transform your annual report from a bland flan with a soggy bottom to a dazzling three tier masterpiece that will have your stakeholders asking for an extra slice. 

Get in touch today to discuss how we can help make this your best annual report season yet!

Calling all Comms people in Social Housing! Feeling overwhelmed about annual reports?

At Be Smart Design, we understand the pressures that come with annual report season for social housing providers. That’s why we’re thrilled to announce our latest campaign, ‘Be Smart Stress Less’, designed specifically to support social housing providers in creating stunning annual reports without the hassle.

So, you’re a busy communications manager, juggling multiple tasks, and the looming deadline for your annual report is causing stress levels to rise. And here comes our secret pink package – a delightful surprise filled with branded pink goodies carefully curated to take the stress out of your annual report preparations.

But that’s not all – along with our charming pink package, we’re offering our expertise in annual report design. With over 30 years of experience in the industry, including extensive work with social housing providers, we’ve mastered the art of crafting compelling annual reports that captivate stakeholders and convey your organisation’s message with clarity and impact.


Why choose Be Smart Design for your annual report needs?
Here’s what sets us apart:

The Experience
With three decades of experience under our belt, we’ve honed our skills in designing annual reports that exceed expectations. We understand the unique needs and challenges of social housing providers and tailor our approach accordingly.

The Know-how
From financial statements to complex data visualisation, we have the knowledge and expertise to handle all aspects of annual report design. You can trust us to deliver professional results that showcase your organisations achievements and impact.

The Creativity
Annual reports don’t have to be dull and uninspiring. Our team of creative professionals brings fresh ideas and innovative design concepts to the table, ensuring your annual report stands out from the crowd and leaves a lasting impression.

So, why stress when you can ‘Be Smart Stress Less’ with Be Smart Design? Take the first step towards a stress-free annual report season by sending your annual report project our way. Let us handle the design, so you can focus on what you do best – making a difference in the lives of those you serve.

Not convinced yet? Feel free to check out our portfolio to view our work, or take a gander at our home page to read some testimonials from other happy clients.

Get in touch today – and let’s make this annual report season your best one yet!

How To Lead The Way and Gain Trust On Social Media

Housing Associations, you’ve got a mixed bag of folk to reach out to, which means your marketing communications, especially social media, need a touch of TLC. Your social media managers will be juggling a whole circus of news, from shiny new builds to the latest buzz from the local community. The question is, how do you shine out from the crowd and really connect with your audience?

Well, we’re here to give you a leg up. Stay tuned for our savvy tips on how to master the social media game and win over your audience’s trust. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Be different by being authentic

Authenticity isn’t just a buzzword; it’s the star player in the game of trust, particularly in the digital playground of social media. Let’s wave goodbye to faux smiles and posts that paint an incessantly rosy picture. It’s time to bring some raw honesty into the frame.

Social media is the stage for authenticity and transparency, so don’t tuck away your mistakes in a corner. Be brave enough to admit when things have gone pear-shaped and address your followers’ concerns head-on.

But remember, it’s not just about holding your hands up; it’s also about how you right the wrongs. Discuss how you’ve tackled the problem, and elaborate on the new measures you’ve introduced to prevent a replay. That, my friends, is how you build trust with your followers and keep them coming back for more!

Bromford – Cyber Incident: How would you talk about it?

Choosing the right social media channels

Social media is a brilliant tool to connect with your residents and stakeholders. But remember, not all channels are created equal. So, it’s about creating content that fits like a glove for each audience.

Think TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook for customer and resident engagement, and keep LinkedIn and Twitter in your arsenal for business and corporate communications. There might be some overlap, particularly for companies who’ve got their ears to the ground to understand how residents feel.

However, it’s always a smarter move to create bespoke social content for different platforms than to churn out the same message across all channels. Trust me, your followers will thank you for giving them a tailored experience!

Respond quickly, and honestly

To show your followers you genuinely value their two pennies’ worth, it’s crucial to respond promptly and honestly to their comments and messages. This shows you’re all ears and ready for a chat.

Setting up alerts can be a handy trick to ensure you don’t let any interactions slip through the net. But, let’s not forget the personal touch. Avoid sounding like a robot, and mix up your responses so they don’t all kick off with the same old line. Remember, it’s not just about what you say, but how you say it.

And when it comes to complaints, honesty is always the best policy. Avoid biting off more than you can chew by promising something you can’t deliver. Always aim to take the complaints off the public stage as professionally as you can.

With this approach, you’re all set to build a loyal following and bolster your relationship with your audience. After all, every good conversation starts with good listening.

Use social media to showcase your work

Social media is a great way to share stories and highlight the good work that your organisation is doing. Share photos and videos of your work, and share testimonials from satisfied residents. People will trust reviews over the Housing Association’s word, so get lots of reviews and case studies that external parties can research into themselves.

Consider hiring a social media manager

If you don’t have the time or resources to manage your social media accounts effectively, consider hiring a social media manager to help you. This person can handle day-to-day tasks like responding to comments and posting updates, freeing you up to focus on other important tasks.

Ready to lead the way? Contact us today.

Unifying Your Brand As A Quality Social Housing Provider

Unifying social housing brand

The social housing provider: the unsung hero of society, the champion of affordable housing, and the master of community-building. But with so many providers out there, how on Earth do you make your brand stand out? Even with multiple companies under one umbrella, it’s crucial to create cohesive brand identity that resonates with your audience. Are you ready to unify your brand? Good! We’re going to help you achieve it.

Why should you give a hoot about standing out?

Well, let’s face it: social housing providers are a bit of a fairy godmother of the modern world, transforming lives by providing people with a place they can call home. But with all the competition out there, it’s essential to make your brand as eye-catching as a peacock in a flock of pigeons.

A distinctive and memorable brand is like a magnet for new customers, a comforting hug for existing ones, and a sure-fire way to build an enviable reputation. Plus, it’ll boost trust and loyalty, making it easier for you to smash those goals of yours.

Enter Be Smart, your branding saviours

At Be Smart we’re  all about crafting a brand identity that’ll make your social housing provider shine like the brightest star in the sky.  will work with you to whip up a brand strategy that’s in tune with your values and aspirations, creating a brand that’ll resonate with both your customers and employees.

The secret sauce: engaging copy

While a stunning design is the cherry on top of a unified brand, engaging copy is the delicious cake beneath it. It’s well-written, easy to digest, and hooks the reader like a literary angler. It should be informative, persuasive, and crystal clear.

When curating copy for your social housing brand, put yourself in your audience’s shoes. What do they want to know? What are their problems? How can you solve them and provide value? By tackling these questions head-on, you’ll create copy that’s as human as it gets and will help you nail your objectives. If you’re struggling for inspiration, talk to the people that use your services! They’ll be the experts as they’re your audience.


Picture perfect: photography and visual branding

Visual branding is like the air guitar of the branding world – it’s all about nailing the right look. And photography is a crucial part of that. By using consistent styles, tones, and filters across all your communication channels, you’ll create a cohesive vibe that’ll have people recognising your brand from a mile away.

Colour us impressed

Don’t forget about colour – it’s like the secret handshake of the branding world. Your organisation might have multiple logos or brands, but that doesn’t mean you can’t streamline your colour palette. Use colour to bridge the gap between brands and create a sense of unity. Stick to the same colours for borders and text for a subtle touch of cohesion without ditching individual branding.

The grand plan

To introduce your fabulous new brand elements, you’ll need a strategy. Internally, get your ducks in a row and decide when everything will fall into place. For external customers and stakeholders, ease them into the changes gently. Be transparent about what you’re doing and why. Show them the value of branding and why it’s worth investing in.

Real-life rebranding

Still sceptical? Feast your eyes on some successful social housing rebrands. Take Abri, for example, born from the union of Yarlington and Radian in 2021. They unveiled new branding, a swanky website, and a sales site that effortlessly united the two organisations.

Then there’s Harbour, created after the merger of Port of Leith Housing Association and its subsidiaries. They completed a rebrand in November 2022 that perfectly encapsulated their combined heritage.

And who could forget Citizen, the rebranded WM Housing Group from 2019? They splashed out a cool £870m on a swish new look that oozed modernity and showcased their commitment to providing top-notch social housing for those in need.

The bottom line: Unify or die (okay, maybe not die, but you get the point)

To build recognition and trust with your clients, stakeholders, and audience, you need to unify your brand as a quality social housing provider. Sure, it might be tough to justify shelling out for a complete rebrand, but there are plenty of ways to work with what you’ve got and create a harmonious look across all your communication channels.

Focus on engaging copy, powerful internal messaging, photography, colour, and a plan for rolling out your brand elements, and you’ll end up with a solid and recognisable brand that embodies your organisation’s values and ambitions.

Ready to rock and roll?
Give us a shout today, and let’s start unifying your like the branding wizards we are!

Embracing Digital Communications In Social Housing

There are so many amazing ways in which technology has enabled stronger, digital connections between us in which communication is faster and cheaper. It has also been especially powerful in creating greater inclusion for the diverse communities that you’ll work with within the social housing sector. Are you making the most of the various digital communication channels in your work? Here’s a handful of ideas to get you started.

Video calls – FaceTime, Zoom, Teams, WhatsApp, Google (and so on!)

There is a near-limitless choice of options for video chatting, so you’ll be able to find an affordable one (many are free) and secure enough for your IT people to be happy (most of them). If the COVID lockdowns taught us anything, it’s that you can replace face-to-face communication with a remote conversation that’s good enough for most conversations. Not every one, though. Some conversations or meetings will be more appropriate held face-to-face. But, for those that can be done over Zoom, you’ll be able to widen your reach on who you can communicate with. In doing so, you’ll also be able to reduce your environmental impact: fewer miles = fewer carbon emissions.

Multi-language and translation tools

When using digital communication methods – emails, websites, social media – to speak with your tenants, you have a huge advantage over using traditional hard-copy letters. This is because there are a whole host of free tools that can make your life easier, and quicker, and cut costs. It also offers your tenants more control over how they receive your messages, which helps build better relationships with them. Some examples of these tools include:

  • screen readers for people with visual impairments – something that letters can’t ever offer so it increases the tenants’ independence as they won’t need someone to read the letter for them. You need to follow accessibility guidelines to make the most of this – alt text on images is often overlooked and a great place to start.
  • browser and phone settings to vary the font size so people can read comfortably – one size (quite literally) doesn’t fit all.
  • Google translate so people can read in the language of their choice – we’re a diverse, multicultural society and not everyone has English as their first language.

These tools offer a positive combination of faster, cheaper to produce communications with tenants gaining greater freedom and control to better engage with the messages you create.

Targeted advertising

While targeted ads sometimes get a bad reputation, they’re also extremely useful if you need to get a specific message to a specific group of people. This is more true as the data gathered by Facebook, Google etc. becomes more detailed and precise. For example, you can use targeted adverts to encourage customers to engage with your website or new campaign.

Archiving previous communications

Here’s something that can be useful for tenants as well as any field-based staff: replacing printed magazines/newsletters with online page flip magazines. After you’ve created and distributed them, the older versions can remain available online as archives. This is great because it’s one less thing going to the landfill (and becoming forgotten when it’s there). Also, if tenants or field staff need to check back on something, it’s easily available to find the information or resources online.

All-in-all, there’s so much great potential in building digital into your communications plan.

Need help in making the most of it? Book a free call!

How Branding Can Help You Demonstrate Your Social Impact


Having a strong ethos behind any brand is important, but it’s not always demonstrated clearly. It’s common for social housing organisations to grow and change through mergers and acquisitions, and sometimes that means their social purpose can become diluted and hidden. Here are three ways in which you can bring it back to the surface.

Social impact branding

Social impact branding is used to grow the relationship between your brand and your customers. By gaining a reputation for doing good in your community, or bringing awareness to your main values, your brand can gain customers and increase loyalty among your existing audience.

Your brand is more than the logo

No matter how much positivity you push out, your brand isn’t what you say you are; it’s what other people say about you. It’s important to remember that what your customers say will be more trustworthy than anything you put out. Consider making your customers brand ambassadors, and get them on board. Customer reviews and recommendations are useful when demonstrating your social impact because it’s straight from the community you’re trying to help and instantly trustworthy.

Keep it simple

Keep things simple. While the housing sector is the champion of acronyms, it’s easy to forget that not everyone understands them. It’s better to keep your messaging clear and simple and in terms that people can understand. If you’re going to use an acronym, make sure it’s listed on the page! Also, lose the buzzwords and be true to your brand and your purpose. Right now, every housing association is currently obsessed with the word thrive, set your brand apart by being different; try blooming, developing, flourishing, and prospering.

Picture proof

Candid photos are far better than any forced and posed pictures. If you have an event with real customers, let them know there will be photographs being taken. Use these shots to present a realistic view of you and your team. Candid, relaxed photos show potential customers a real flavour of your brand. A picture paints a thousand words and adds authenticity. Plus, it helps when customers speak louder than your own statements! And don’t forget those permission forms!

Ready to set yourself apart and demonstrate your social impact? Contact us today.

Why is it Important for Social Housing Providers to Maintain their Websites?

We water our plants, change the oil in our cars, or groom our dogs – all to ensure they stay at their very best. Your website, like these examples, also requires this kind of consistent maintenance. As a Housing Association, it’s all the more important to ensure that your website is current, performing well, and secure.


The benefits of consistent website maintenance for social housing providers

There are numerous benefits to maintaining your website, especially within the social housing sector. Your websites are central hubs of information that provide key functions that both you, and your tenants, need to be able to access. We’ve chosen a few benefits to highlight:



Security matters in a couple of different ways: running necessary updates to ensure that your website remains as secure as possible from hacking and performing regular backups so that, if something occurs, you’re able to restore your site from the backup.

Regular updates are important. Older software becomes easier to hack because the longer the software is available, the more time has been spent figuring out how to successfully hack it. Equally, the updates often include security patches that fix vulnerabilities in the software that have been identified. These vulnerabilities are ways in which the security of your website can be breached. Either of these makes it easy for hackers to gain access to your site.

Regular backups of your site are invaluable if your site is compromised, but it’s not just for this reason. Things happen – someone could accidentally delete something, incorrect code could be used, or a new feature is deployed that has unintended consequences. The list is long. Having a backup means that, quickly and simply, you can roll the site back to before there was a problem.


User experience

For a lot of people, the first encounter they will have with your organisation will be through your website. This is, of course, true for so many organisations in the modern world. However, your organisation deals with something so intensely pivotal to people’s lives: their homes.

This means that there needs to be a high level of trust built up between you and the (potential) tenant. If your website doesn’t operate in a way that fosters this trust, you risk losing a potential tenant.


Self-management of issues

Your website likely provides tenants with a way to self-manage issues (at least to some extent) without direct intervention from your organisation’s staff. Whether it be reporting repairs, paying rent, or searching for answers to their questions, your site enables tenants to be self-sufficient and minimise the workload for the staff. Given the limited budgets and intense workloads you’re all facing, having a consistently available site is essential to managing internal resources.


Boost tenant satisfaction

Your tenants will come from a variety of backgrounds and can be facing many challenges. For some, even small changes can become stressful if they’re unexpected. As such, a frequently updated, consistently maintained, and easily accessible website is going to be especially important. Where this is offered, the tenants will feel happier and confident that they can rely on your site to do what they need. Overall, this leads to a greater sense of tenant satisfaction.


What can go wrong if a website isn’t maintained

This is an example of what can go wrong from a recent experience where a UK client hadn’t been maintaining their website.

One day, we were asked to add something to their site and found something that didn’t bode well: images of people holding their US credit cards. The site was being used by someone else as a scam. This is a huge issue! Finding rogue code that has been embedded through hacking is like finding a needle in a haystack.

Normally, it is quicker and easier to take down the hacked website and restore it from a backup. We couldn’t do that in this instance as they didn’t have a recent backup (because the site wasn’t being maintained).

Luckily, we’d kept an old version from when the site was originally built so we could put up this old backed-up version. The only other option would have been to start completely from scratch. Even with restoring an old version,  we still had to add all of the additional blogs and functionality that had been subsequently added. All-in-all, it was a very costly exercise.

They now have their site maintained on a monthly basis!

If you’ve had a website built by us but aren’t having the site maintained, or you have a website being maintained elsewhere but aren’t 100% happy with the service, we’d be happy to talk to you. Get in touch to discuss how we can help.

How housing associations can define their core purpose

In my previous article ‘Branding and the social housing sector’ I discussed the need, as part of the branding process, to understand your organisation’s core purpose.

From our work in the social housing sector over the years and having seen the recent challenges faced by social housing organisations, we observe that the core purpose of some housing organisations are mere statements and not many are really emotive, the core tenet of branding itself.

Core purpose has been identified by Built to Last authors Jim Collins and Jerry Poras as one of the key ingredients for a high performing organisation. Collins and Poras conducted a 6 year study of exceptional and long lasting companies like Hewlett Packard, 3M, Procter & Gamble, Disney and Marriott, who have an average of over 100 years of sustained business performance.

They uncovered some key components that ensured these high-flying businesses endured and thrived over time. One of these key components is their core purpose that creates a strong sense of identity and continuity throughout a business.

What’s your housing association’s core purpose?

Your core purpose is your reason for being and engages and motivates employees. It’s who you are and why you exist and should be idealistic in nature. It’s not about what you do but what you believe. Unfortunately we have seen housing associations fail to define their core purpose and end up with uninspiring mission statements that motivate no one.

The point of your core purpose is to motivate and lead your people and employees at every level so they know that everything they do has a line of sight to the organisation’s core purpose and is therefore meaningful to them.

Defining your true purpose is all about clarity, genuineness and alignment. It doenst have to be overcomplicated or even unique, but it has to be meaningful to your organisation.

Why do you exist?

We’d like to see more on the rich earthy stories about why housing associations exist that really connect with their many and varied audiences. There seems to be a lot of statements of core purpose but not many that are really emotive. How did you come about? Where are you going? Who do you help and what difference do you make to customers’ lives? In the hierarchy of messaging this needs to be right up there, not buried deep within your site. Your core purpose matters more than anything – give us emotion not just facts; good branding is all about you communicating how you do it not just what you do.

Core purpose means engaged employees

Your team knows that what their daily responsibilities are and when they know their daily work is part of the bigger mission, they are more driven to show up every day on time and do their job well.

A well-communicated core purpose results in a workforce that is more engaged. Engaged employees work with passion and they feel a deep connection to their company. They co-operate to build a company and they create new customers because they have become brand advocates.

A clear understanding and line of sight of how a person’s job contributes to their company’s reason for being is a powerful form of emotional compensation. It, quite simply, is more thrilling to share a common purpose than complete a job.

How do you identify your core purpose?

Jim Collins identifies five important characteristics of a company’s core purpose:

• It’s inspiring to those inside the company.

• It’s something that’s as valid 100 years from now as it is today.

• It should help you think widely about what you could do but aren’t doing.

• It should help you decide what not to do.

• It’s truly authentic to your organisation.

But, your core purpose is not your unique proposition. In fact, you can have the same or a similar core purpose as another company, even one that is in an entirely different industry.

So having defined the importance of your core purpose, here’s some questions that can help you determine it.

1. Why does your organisation’s existence matter?

2. What is your most important reason for being here and why?

3. What would be lost if your organisation ceased to exist?

4. Why are you important to the people you serve?

5. Why would anyone dedicate their oh-so precious time, energy and passion to your company? (And it’s not just about money).

If you’d like help defining your core purpose in the branding process, please give Philippa Smart a call on 01902 797970 or email her.



Branding and the social housing sector – my take on it

We’ve worked in the social housing sector for 18 years and in that time we’ve got to know the sector pretty well, having worked with quite a few housing associations; Bromford, Orbit Group, Halton Housing, Stafford and Rural Homes, Trent and Dove, The Wrekin Housing Trust and Pierhead.

It goes without saying that we pick up on both the social housing big picture and their branding and how they communicate with their audiences.

Housing associations are always conscious of their need to deliver large on social purpose, but these are the organisations that have the greatest need to develop strong communications.

The social housing sector has changed, and this was impacted even more with the introduction of George Osborne’s rent reforms in 2015. There are challenges all ways round for social housing organisations;

Their audience has changed

Social housing organisations now need to be more refined in the way they communicate with a wider-than-ever-before range of audiences. Customers, local and central Government, the financial sector, other housing associations, home buyers and developers are all audiences that now need to be considered. But not only that, shared ownership and market rent has joined the mix and the demographic of their customers has changed because of the need of younger people, including professionals, to get their foot on the first rung of the property ladder.

Needing new and varied services

Funding the original social purpose of the social housing sector has meant that market rent, shared ownership and homes for sale have entered the mix. Some housing associations are utilising their maintenance division by offering their service to other associations. Some associations are moving into the homes for sale sector which means they have a totally different audience and therefore need to communicate very differently. This can be challenging for them.

The rent reforms in 2015 have created an impact. It started a wave of mergers and acquisitions which still continue and this means that those organisations are looking for new and more effective ways of being able to stick to their core principle of social purpose.

So what do we advise?

We see that the social housing sector acknowledges the need to consider brand and communications from the flurry of mergers and acquisitions and the subsequent brand evolution. But in some cases, strategic consideration is not given to the brand and of those who do look at it strategically, money is not spent as wisely as it could be.

If you look at other sectors as a comparison, the quality of communications could be higher. Where money is spent it is not always spent well with some poor quality design, writing and production.

One of the challenges for housing associations is to produce professional and good quality brand communications at a reasonable price, since the core purpose of housing associations is to help those in need. It is almost as important to not give the impression that things have cost money but the cost of poor quality design or failing to invest at all, may be greater than investing carefully in quality.

Housing associations like Bromford demonstrate it is possible to look professional without seeming like they’ve spent too much money on the communications piece.

As a Communications Manager ask yourself these questions:

Can you afford not to invest in your brand and communications?

Remember the cost of poor quality design or failing to invest at all, may be greater than investing carefully in quality.

Why do you exist?

We’d like to see more on the rich earthy stories about why housing associations exist that really connect with their many and varied audiences. There seems to be a lot of statements of core purpose but not many that are really emotive. How did you come about? Where are you going? Who do you help and what difference do you make to customers’ lives? In the hierarchy of messaging this needs to be right up there, not buried deep within your site. Your core purpose matters more than anything – give us emotion not just facts; good branding is all about you communicating how you do it not just what you do.

How do you differentiate yourself?

Many in the social housing sector are swimming in the same direction in the same river; using happy people images, bright colours and iconography, so achieving no differentiation from each other. This is a real opportunity to achieve stand out. How could you differentiate yourself?

Break out of the housing association design ‘straight jacket’ – now more than ever you need to stand out, so swim against the tide and create something more sophisticated away from the bright colours and iconography.

Does your brand identity have visual flexibility?

With the additional new audiences and services, the ‘straight jacket’ visual language doesn’t extend well across other applications so there is a fall-back default position to create sub brands which end up being managed awkwardly and lead to confusion for the user on their websites.

Build more flexibility into your visual language and messaging – don’t default to automatically creating new sub brands. Flexibility in your visual language and messaging may be all you need to create.

If you do develop sub brands, create a ‘family’ – ensure the relationship between your various brands is clear and that your master brand benefits from the shine of everything you are doing.

If you’re interested in finding out how Be Smart can help with your brand give Philippa Smart a call on 01902 797970 or email us.