ITN turn into Investigative Journalists

Several key issues emerge from the reporting of the Croydon Council Housing Scandal. This relates to South London flats being described as “the worst housing conditions ever seen”.

ITN News led on the “dangerous squalor” residents in Croydon have been living in despite repeated calls to the council for repairs.

It was a little surprising that this story had been the lead on a national ITN bulletin in spite of its seriousness. However, very few other news outlets had covered it at all. Normally, other news outlets follow up on an “exclusive” which tries to link these faults with the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The comparison was made by Local Government Committee Leader, Clive Betts.

ITN exclusives

ITN does not usually have the resources to come up with exclusives or conduct investigative journalism. It usually focuses on a national news agenda, rather than trying to turn a local story into a national one. Is this a departure for ITN’s vision of journalism, or simply a reaction to trying to find something else to report on apart from Coronavirus?

Of course the story is incredibly serious, especially for the residents of the flats affected. But to compare it to Grenfell Tower is something the BBC would almost certainly think twice about reporting.

Interestingly, this story has not been covered by the usual suspects like The Guardian newspaper, or The Daily Mail.

This leads to a wider point about the perception that housing and specifically social housing, often gets a bad press and still has a stigma attached to it. This is definitely true, but does not mean that there it is pointless trying to turn this around.

Housing Associations and Local Councils can do more locally in terms of proactive communication. Our Proactive PR  course is designed to help PR professionals, heads of service and senior managers communicate the vital role that housing associations fulfil.

NHS media coverage since Coronavirus

It is very interesting to compare the way housing is being reported in the media to the way the NHS is (now) being reported since Coronavirus.

Before Coronavirus, media reporting on the NHS had taken a negative turn. The focus was usually A&E – too crowded, long waits, patients in corridors, ambulances lining up outside full of patients.

But Coronavirus changed that – at a huge cost to the NHS in terms of tragic consequences for some NHS staff. We saw the public clapping NHS Heroes at 8 pm on Thursdays from their doorsteps during lockdown. We saw Captain Tom Moore, aged 100, raising £40 million for the NHS. The NHS is probably the only organisation to emerge from Coronavirus with its reputation enhanced.

Housing can learn lessons from the NHS here.

Housing should be viewed by the general public as a “Second NHS”. Social housing providers work hard to provide ordinary people with decent, affordable homes. They do this admirably and almost always against a backdrop of ever shrinking budgets.

It is that it is easier to challenge local mind sets than national.

Communicating effectively

Media training will empower your key spokespeople with the skills and confidence to promote the benefits of social housing through radio and television. This is especially effective through local radio and regional television.

We have been working for over twenty years at doing what we can to help Housing Associations and Local Authorities engage in “bottom up communication”, through local media. “Top down communication” is very hard to achieve with national newspapers. Each newspaper has it’s own specific agendas, prejudices and profit motives.

We help in two ways. Firstly through Media Training – helping communicate and manage the bad news better and helping communicate the good news more effectively and more often.

Secondly, through our Proactive PR  courses and Media Awareness Seminar.

Our Media and PR courses are aimed at Communications and PR Professionals. But they are also aimed at a wider audience of senior and middle managers at Housing Associations and Local Councils.

Our aim is to inspire your whole organisation to embrace positive communications. Our training will help them appreciate the importance of communicating good news about housing.

What makes a good news story?

Housing associations are full of good news, great human interest stories and community projects. But it’s important that everyone understands the news value of the work that they do. Senior staff need to know how to work effectively with Communications teams. This is so they can alert them to new developments, affordable housing schemes or sheltered accommodation for the elderly. Social Housing news stories could also be around a wide range of “social initiatives” – Apprentice Schemes, Digital Inclusion, homelessness, debt and Welfare Reform.

Media Friendly is deeply committed to Housing Associations and Local Authorities. Our mission ‘to help you turn around the “culture of blame”, is as strong today as it was when we first started.

Key media training courses for housing associations and local government include:

  • Media training for your Senior Management Team. We aim to help you manage Crisis Communications better. We also want to help a wider group of middle managers to communicate the good news more effectively and more often.
  • Proactive PR for a range of Communications Professionals. This course aims to help you find ways to identify those unreported good news stories, which you only find out about after the event. It will also help your organisation find ways to engage with your local media in a more positive way.
  • Media Awareness Seminar – Raise media awareness across your organisation, so your Communications team has more eyes and ears. The ideal way to help your senior staff, councillors and managers understand good news stories. We will also help them spot a potential crisis.
  • Expert Media Training –Within your organisations are “experts” in areas which your local media consider newsworthy – such as jobs, homelessness and debt. Our one to one media coaching will prepare them for everything “Newsnight” interviews to panel discussions like “Question Time”.

Contact us and we can talk through your needs and come up with a tailored offering for your organisation. Call us on 01628 474154.

Posted by Andrew Carapiet, Media Director