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Comms Team Award nomination

Created on Friday, October 9th, 2015
by Kathryn Shaw

Derwent Living’s marketing team attended the 24 housing awards last night, having been shortlisted for the Communications Team of the Year gong. The winners of the category were Phoenix Community Housing, for their #RTBdebate on Twitter. Many congratulations to Phoenix, who picked up two awards on the night.

Now the awards are over, we thought it’d be nice to share our own nomination write-up, to showcase what the marketing team here have achieved and how we intend to continue providing Value for Money and sustainability going forward.

Derwent Living’s Comms Team of the Year nomination

Not bound by the conventional remit of a communications team, Derwent Living’s marketing quartet spearhead change to make the business work smarter; providing genuinely alternative ways to implement and improve engagement, internally and externally.

The marketing team has been the catalyst for a fundamental shift in the way that customer-facing technology is delivered, decentralising major projects from the traditional IT delivery to a communications team with over 25 years’ experience in business intelligence, user interface design, and software development.

MY forum

The MY forum

By creating our own customer portal – MY Derwent Living – we made a big cost saving while getting exactly the level of customisation we needed; and using responsive design we reached more customers who might not have computers and fixed broadband lines. Custom monitoring tools show that we consistently get over 50% mobile usage.

The big win came when we built on this base to add forum functionality – tenants can chat directly to staff and other tenants, comment on involvement and review documents before they’re published, without leaving the portal. With regular users, a strong staff presence during the day and customer moderation at night, plus gamification to keep people coming back, it is one of our most important tools in keeping an open dialogue with our customers.

This, along with our popular iOS and Android app, has resulted in a 20% switch in ‘time suck’ calls such as rent payment and repairs online. This means that as customer numbers increase, we’re able to keep the same staffing without sacrificing service levels.

The intranet

The intranet

We then turned our sights on internal comms. We replaced an unfit-for-purpose intranet with an ambitious magazine-style site, combining stylish yet easy-to-edit articles, internal and external contact directories, searchable photo storage and a strong social ethos to boost engagement. With a formidable feature set and a team of just two, we pulled this off in-house in six months.

This gave Derwent Living a saving of over £30k on projected replacement and thousands every year in ongoing support and maintenance. With 6000 article views a month, plus hundreds of comments and engagements, there’s now a palpable buzz around the intranet; Derwent Living has seen a sea change in internal communications, with more connectivity, information-sharing and sector engagement.

Crucially, there’s also been a significant drop in non-business critical emails. Huzzah!

A much more traditional approach to marketing campaigns, in the form of the Homes for Britain rally earlier this year, gave Derwent Living some of the best media coverage in its entire 50-year history.

Campaign concept, placard illustration, social media, PR and photography were all co-ordinated and executed in-house, designed to reinforce the message that the UK was experiencing its lowest levels of housebuilding since the 1940s.

The concept was so strong that the Derwent Living Home Guard became the face of the media coverage for the rally, helping to promote the sector message.

Staff and residents at the Home for Britain rally

Staff and residents at the Home for Britain rally

And our housing newsletter, Derwent Life, is now as far in concept from a traditional housing newsletter as it can be, designed in-house to be more like a “gossip” magazine as our customer demographic shifts to a younger audience. Costs have been slashed by over 50% while improving content, and readership levels have risen to over 80%.

In the three years since we embarked on this wide-ranging new remit, by bringing design, writing, photography and coding in-house we estimate that we’ve saved the company around a quarter of a million pounds already, while increasing quality and engagement.

For a company of our size, that’s a pretty big deal. As a result, we’re now taking on the marketing function for our commercial subsidiaries. And this is only the beginning.

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