‘The Key’ is a terrific looking publication with a brilliant narrative and good tone of voice throughout. Solid objectives underpin its production with specific content targeted to the audience very well, in both format and delivery. Wheatley Group demonstrated strong evaluation that shows how the publication achieves the objectives. Well done to all involved!

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Winner entry:

Brief, objectives and budget:

For many organisations, the future of their communications will mean one thing – digital.

That’s certainly true at Glasgow Housing Association (GHA), part of Wheatley Group. But it’s also true GHA ensures no one is left behind by the digital transformation.

As Scotland’s biggest registered social landlord, with 40,000 households in some of the UK’s most deprived communities, we still have high levels of digital exclusion.

That’s why, alongside our efforts to support people to get online, our customer magazine the Key is at the centre of the Communications Team’s strategy to engage with tenants.

Old-fashioned? Not a bit of it. The Key – GHA’s 16-page tenant magazine delivered to 41,000 homes four times a year – is packed with content that reflects the strategic priorities of the organisation: improving housing; increasing digital inclusion; tackling fuel poverty; improving our repairs service; helping people cope with welfare reform and managing their money.

But it brings these strategy objectives alive for customers with engaging copy, bright photography, interactive features, competitions and human interest.

Our objectives are to engage our readers as much as possible and give them information and advice tailored to their needs – while, at the same time, meet the strategic objectives of the organisation.

We want the Key to:

  • keep tenants informed about services and the ways GHA can help improve their homes and lives
  • be a trusted source of information and advice
  • help tenants be safe in their home
  • help GHA engage with tenants
  • celebrate tenants and their communities.

The total print and mailing cost of the Key is £28,776 per issue – equivalent to 76p per customer. That’s roughly the cost of a first-class stamp.

The cost for design, including the digital version, is £2810. This is offset by income from adverts of £1800 per issue from partners promoting services that support our tenants – for example college courses, affordable furniture schemes and credit unions.

We rarely commission photographs for the Key, either re-using images from press events and photocalls we have organised or taking photos ourselves.

This helps us save money while maintaining quality output.

The idea, research and planning:

The one thread running through every page is that GHA is here to help tenants.

That is particularly important around two issues which have had a major impact on social housing in the UK – welfare reform and fire safety.

Two of GHA’s most important strategic objectives are mitigating the effects of Universal Credit and helping tenants stay safe from fire.

It’s hard to overstate the impact of Universal Credit, the biggest shake-up of the UK benefits system in living memory.

It has left tenants struggling to cope, while social landlords such as GHA need to deploy extra resources to mitigate its effects.

The Key is crucial in helping tenants understand Universal Credit and how GHA can help.

Fire safety is the other issue which has been central to GHA and the magazine.

Our ‘Stay Safe’ campaign has featured in every issue since the campaign launched in 2017.

‘Stay Safe’ gives tenants important advice on keeping safe at home, encouraging them to book a Home Fire Safety Visit and even avoid slips and falls.

The campaign reassures tenants their safety is GHA’s No.1 priority.

Strategy, creativity and innovation:

The use of language is crucial to our strategy. It’s too easy to use jargon when talking about complex issues. We prefer clear language which unpicks difficult information and presents it in a way that is easily understood.

Just as important is the tone of voice and the reassurance it provides. Tenants know GHA is on their side.

Short, simple, accessible messaging is combined with visually appealing photography to produce a helpful, informative and colourful magazine.

We’ve introduced new features – in line with GHA’s key priorities – such as a focus on high-rise living and increasing the profile of our repairs team.

The digital version often includes embedded videos – produced by the Communications Team – making the Key a great watch as well as a great read.

Delivery/implementation of tactics:

How do we deliver all of this? By putting tenants front and centre.

Who better to tell tenants about the advantages of being online or the help available from GHA than other tenants?

People listen to someone who looks and sounds like them and lives in a similar community. That makes for more authentic, and more effective, communication.

And when tenants see themselves reflected in the newsletter, it helps GHA maintain its high customer satisfaction levels.

That’s the power of giving tenants a voice.

The newsletter features services to help tenants improve their lives – from spending less through our online discount scheme to bursaries to help them go to university.

It deals with wider issues such as illegal money lending and how to claim childcare costs.

Tenant content is also very important. The letters page provides a way for customers to get issues resolved and the Star Photo competition showcases tenants’ creativity.

Measurement, evaluation and impact, including engagement of target readers:

Our ‘Stay Safe’ campaign has made a major contribution to the reduction in accidental dwelling fire fatalities in GHA homes – from 52% (2003 to 2012) to 16% (2013 to 2019).

We’ve done this by pushing our key fire safety messages but particularly by encouraging the uptake of Home Fire Safety Visits.

The first year of our Stay Safe campaign saw an 81% increase in the take-up of Home Fire Safety Visits, with the total number of fires in Wheatley homes falling by 11%.

As one of Wheatley’s senior managers put it: “Our Communications Team saves lives”.

Content on welfare reform has been part of a coordinated effort of early intervention across GHA to help tenants get ready for Universal Credit.

This has led to a lower than anticipated level of rent arrears – an average of £340 instead of an anticipated £425 – among tenants on Universal Credit.

Referrals to GHA’s wraparound services – including emergency food supplies and free recycled furniture – rose by 30% between August and December 2019.

Our latest tenants’ survey (2017/18) showed 84% of GHA tenants ‘always’ or ‘usually’ read the Key.

A total of 76% find it useful at keeping them informed, while 72% found out information about GHA through the Key – and 60% said it was their preferred method.

That shows the Key is an authoritative, helpful publication that gives tenants the information they need in a format they like.