20 December 2018

It all started one morning when my boss approached my desk and handed me a piece of paper titled ‘National Housing Federation Communications and Marketing Conference’.

Housing. Communications. Marketing. Conference.

Four words that got me extremely excited. I instantly wanted to go, but our budgets were tight. I read further and spotted a contest to win a free place. The brief was to create a tweet that finished the sentence “I want to go to #NHFComms…”. I was all over it. I submitted the tweet and waited with my fingers and toes firmly crossed. All of the digit crossing worked because I WON! The Federation chose my tweet and this Cinderella got to go to the Comms ball!

Conference day finally came and I arrived at the beautiful venue to register and network with fellow comms people. Graphics flashed across the screens including a slide that said ‘Congratulations Vicky Reader’ displaying my winning tweet. I then entered the auditorium for the start of the conference. They ran through a few housekeeping slides and to my surprise, Beavis the Chinchilla from my tweet appeared and the entire conference applauded. It was a very special moment.

David Orr kicked off the speeches with a passionate and inspiring presentation on Owning Our Future and positive attitudes in leaders. He asked us to think of someone in a leadership position and note if they were a pessimist or not. I thought of a few leaders and none of them were pessimists, they were all optimists. It resonated with me. Chris Hogwood then spoke about perceptions of housing associations. I found it heart-breaking when words like ‘old fashioned’ and ‘inefficient’ were used to describe us. It got me thinking about how I can help define us at Connect using storytelling techniques and other positive narratives.

The workshops were next. I started with ‘Creativity Toolkit: Thinking differently’ presented by Andy Green. After handing out slinkies to promote ‘flexible thinking’ Andy asked the delegates for a ‘real life’ problem. We spent the rest of the session thinking of creative ways to communicate to tenants in groups to find ways to solve the problem. My favourite workshop was ‘Creating video content on a budget’ by Christian Payne. He gave tips and tricks on mobile video making from storyboarding to the final piece on YouTube.

In the final part of the conference we heard from David Gold from Royal Mail. He spoke about Royal Mail’s positive engagement with MPs. Andrew McMillan followed up with a session on ‘Customer Engagement: Should you be a John Lewis or an Amazon?’ He had examples of amazing customer service from various companies similar to John Lewis, like Virgin Trains.

After the talks, it was networking time! I spoke to a few people that I had met throughout the day. It was an absolutely brilliant conference. I’m extremely grateful for the Federation for choosing my tweet and enabling me to attend the conference, as I got so much out of it. Everybody there was welcoming and I want to do it all over again. Now! Please! I 100% recommend this to anybody who works in housing.

Vicky Reader

Vicky Reader is Communications Assistant at Connect Housing