Fact or Fiction: Housing PR disasters
Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing
Fact or Fiction: Housing PR disasters
In a world where even the teeny-tiniest mishap can end up making national news, it’s vitally important to make sure your PR campaigns are absolutely spot on. So let this bunch of housing howlers be a lesson to you all.
1 Refugee flees housing association
Cadder Housing Association’s attempt to get a positive story into its local Glasgow newspaper back fired to such an extent that it now features in text books on the world’s worst PR disasters. Among its tenants were a woman and her family who had been given emergency accommodation after fleeing the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Cadder felt that telling her story to the press would portray them as ‘knights in shining armour’ but when the paper arrived the tenant asked what her fee for the interview was going to be and the story fell through. Except it didn’t. Behind the HA’s back the woman sold a ‘warts and all’ story to the paper detailing how the family was subjected to racist taunts, threats and even physical abuse while staying in the city. The gist of her tale was, ‘I’d rather live in war-torn Bosnia’ – much to the embarrassment of all at Cadder.
2 Because you’re special
Bedroom tax victims in south Wales were outraged to be offered a solitary Cadbury’s Creme Egg from social landlord Valleys to Coast as a thank you for avoiding rent arrears. Tenant Kay Harris, a member of ‘Bridgend against the bedroom tax’ (not to be confused with ‘Bridgend against Cadbury’s Creme Eggs’), slammed the “insulting” gesture and pointed out the £6.40 bus fare incurred by many tenants lusting after their 60p egg. V2C subsequently announced all tenants who downsized this year would get a free packet of salt and vinegar crisps (okay, that last part’s a joke).
3 Happy Christmas!
Not entirely in keeping with the seasonal spirit, Hammersmith and Fulham Council sent tenants a reminder to pay their rent in the guise of a Christmas card. It read: “Don’t overindulge this Christmas. Pay your rent!” An unrepentant council said that nearly 50% of its tenants were in rent arrears and that the card, sent to 17,000 properties, was part of taking “all reasonable steps to make sure people pay”. One resident blasted “this disgusting, threatening piece of literature masquerading as a Christmas greeting”. Others hoped for a Creme Egg.
4 Bright idea
In an attempt to publicise a free energy-efficient lightbulb giveaway, Futwick Homes enlisted the help of elderly widower Dudley Gribbens, who they dressed up as Thomas Edison and sent along to his local supermarket. Sadly for all concerned, no-one recognised who he was and the stunt back fired completely when the local press photographer walked past him and took a picture of millionaire footballer Leighton Baines buying cut-price fish fingers, which featured on the front page instead.
5 Lambs to the slaughter
Arena Housing wasn’t pulling the wool over anybody’s eyes when it embarked on a poorly thought out means to ram home a reminder for its tenants to pay their rent. Cards delivered to tenants featured a sweet, meadow-based lamb frolicking above the ominous message “Are you for the chop this spring?” The 14,000-home provider’s sheer baa-d judgement was condemned as “intimidating” by residents who drew comparisons with “Mafia tactics”. A sheepish Karl Dean, Arena’s director, bleated: “It should never have got out there but it was an idea that ended up in the big wide world. We got it wrong.”
6 Fool house
The Tories were jolly chuffed with themselves after this year’s budget, and consequently allowed their disproportionate sense of self-righteousness to create a patently insulting piece of celebratory propaganda. Gaffe-king chairman Michael Green (AKA Grant Shapps) spread the PR fiasco (who else?): An online bingo-style ‘poster’ that declared the budget had gifted the UK’s “hardworking” saps the chance to do more of the things “they” enjoy – gambling and drinking, basically. Even Tory lackey Danny Alexander sighed. Perhaps after next year’s election, the Conservatives will have more free time to do the things they enjoy.