Ask yourself these six questions and drive home your brand story
Affordable housing is a hot topic in communities across the country and on the national stage. Local housing authorities are poised to lead those conversations.
A housing authority’s brand can help ensure you’re driving the conversation, not riding in the back seat. I’m not talking about just your logo. Your brand is how you’re perceived in the community — by residents, partners, advocates and opponents. Your brand is the experience residents have with your organization, in person and online. Your brand is how clearly and consistently your story is conveyed by every member of your team. Your brand is what people say about your organization when you’re not in the room. And, your brand is your logo. It’s your signage. It’s your maintenance uniforms. It’s your lobby. It’s the messaging and imagery on your website, social media and printed materials.
Whether you’re considering a full rebrand, brand refresh or refinements to your messaging, it’s helpful to document where your brand currently stands so you can take it where it needs to go.
A brand assessment is not a pass/fail test. Instead, it’s a measurement of the current equity of your brand. It’s important to document your brand as it is now, not as you’d like it to be. That will come later.
Consider having your leadership team complete the assessment individually, then compile and compare responses. Answer each question from your own perspective, and, as best you can, from the perspective of your audiences: residents, neighbors, civic leaders and partners.
1. When your housing authority is mentioned, what visuals come to mind?
What do you see when you think of your organization? The smiles on the faces of a family when you tell them they have a new home? Children playing in a beautiful, safe community? What comes to mind for your audiences? Can they identify your homes and communities? Do they envision dilapidated high-rise projects? Do they mistake neglected, rundown communities for yours?
2. What image has your housing authority created?
What image are you projecting? Are your communities identified on your website with beautiful, inviting photography? If you show people, are they representative of the community you serve? Are they stock photos, or real people with genuine stories?
How would you describe your current image? Is it progressive or outdated? Inclusive or limiting? Inviting or municipal? Is it fully accurate or does it not tell the whole story?
What images come to mind? Smiling faces? Dilapidated projects?
3. What emotions does your brand elicit?
How do people truly feel about your housing authority? What emotions does your story elicit among employees, residents, city council members, NIMBYs? Do your team members feel proud and inspired to be a part of your brand? Why or why not?
When people visit your communities, offices or website, do they feel pride, empathy, relief, fear, trepidation, frustration, ambivalence?
4. How would your housing authority be described in one sentence?
Your mission, vision and values are dialed in and prominently displayed. Your staff might be able to recite them verbatim. But what are people saying in their own words? Do they understand the depth and breadth of services you provide? Are they perpetuating outdated or incomplete notions of what a housing authority does? Does the average citizen even know your organization exists?
5. What adjectives are used to describe your housing authority?
In five words, how would people describe your housing authority? Helpful, bureaucratic, expert, kind, empathetic, fair, innovative, overworked, underfunded, unnecessary? Compile these words in positive and negative columns and look for patterns. Separate words that accurately describe your organization, whether positive or negative, and words that miss the mark.
What words come to mind? Helpful, empathetic, overworked?
6. What sense does your brand convey?
When people hear the name of your housing authority, does it conjure images of neighbors helping neighbors or long waitlists and reams of paperwork? Do people think of you as the community authority on all things housing-related? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Among those who could benefit from your services, is your housing authority inviting or intimidating? Accessible or distant? Easy to navigate or confusing?
Build a brand, take a stand
Traditionally, housing authorities have focused more on doing their work than building their brand. That’s understandable. But as the conversation around affordable housing solutions evolves, the way people feel about what you do will increasingly affect your ability to do what you do. A clear, compelling and inspiring brand identity will make your organization look and sound as good at it truly is and strengthen your ability to provide innovative housing solutions for current and future generations.
About Tom Campbell:
Tom is Toolbox’s co-founder and creative director. When he’s not keeping the ‘Box rocking, Tom can be found backstopping his beer league hockey team or playing drums for local bar bands. He’s also a founder and fairy godfather of Art Lab Fort Collins and keeper of TomLovesTheLibertyBell.com, a quirky repository of stories and stats on Liberty Bell replicas around the world.
About Toolbox Creative:
Toolbox Creative is a B2B Brand Engineering firm, helping mission-driven organizations assess their brand equity, clarify their positioning and amplify their voices — creating lasting impact and building brand love.