Working in Communications at Hastoe

Emma Hetherington, Head of Communications tells us what she loves most about being part of the Communications team at Hastoe.

What I love most about being part of the Communications team at Hastoe is the chance to work across all areas of an organisation that has a clear mission and sense of purpose.

We build and manage mainly small, bespoke schemes of sustainable homes in rural areas of the south of England. Because these are affordable homes, we’re helping people with strong connections to an area, who couldn’t otherwise do so, to stay connected to that area. Because our homes are sustainable, we’re also helping to reduce our impact on the environment and meet future zero carbon targets while providing really comfortable places for people to live.

We’re a very small Comms team. There are just three of us (along with a Policy and Research Officer). And our skills, knowledge and guidance are in demand from every part of Hastoe. That means we’re always busy. One minute one of us might be asked to help to draft a highly sensitive letter to a resident, write a press release about dealing with anti-social neighbours or create an engaging social media post about hedgehog-friendly fences. Another, we could be leading and coordinating a campaign for our New-Build Standard, advising on ways to improve resident engagement, organising the staff conference or promoting and managing the opening of a new housing scheme.

One of the team explains what she enjoys most:

I love the chance to work with people across all areas of the organisation, from HR and Finance to the front line Housing, Maintenance and Customer Services teams. You get to hear about all things Hastoe is doing to support its residents. You also have the opportunity to work directly with Hastoe’s senior leaders and build strong working relationships with its directors.”

My own passion centres on how Comms can improve the Hastoe customer experience. In the main our customers are our residents. And as a landlord, it’s no surprise that most of the time, residents get in touch with us when they have a problem. It could be a simple question about something our website could easily provide an answer for. It could be a request for a repair or unfortunately, it may be a complaint. In an ideal world, we want our residents never to have to contact us, because that would mean everything is going well. Sadly that isn’t the reality. And so our job is to make sure that our residents can find the information or contact details they need quickly and easily. And when they do, the way that information is provided should make them confident we have listened, that we care about them and are there to support them. This is work in progress. And we know we still have plenty of work to do across the organisation to ‘join up’ our customer-focused approach. But when we do get it right, we are helping to make a positive difference to our customers and their experience of being a Hastoe resident. It’s about listening and learning – gathering insights, tracking metrics, tapping into colleagues’ expertise and regularly checking in with residents - so that we can put ourselves in our residents’ ‘shoes’ every time we communicate with them. And provide them with the information they want or need.

We also take a very customer-focused approach to our other audiences, even our own colleagues. We plan and produce a monthly colleague e-newsletter (we only started doing this in January) and are still learning what news and information really chimes for people at Hastoe. But lots of tracking of the articles - and asking for feedback - is helping us improve the way we connect staff through this regular email channel. And again, this is just one strand of a wider internal communications plan that the Communications team gets the chance to shape and drive forward.  

So there is lots to do. And lots we can improve on. But we are a very motivated and positive team and we feel privileged to be supporting what Hastoe is trying to do.  Another member of the team sees this huge variety as both the challenge and the joy of the job. She can have the last say:

Sometimes you have to keep a lot of plates spinning but that makes the role all the more rewarding because working in the Comms team also means you get to help be a mouthpiece to tell the stories of all the great work Hastoe and my colleagues are accomplishing. Whether that be writing up a case study on how one of our Money Matters advisors has saved a resident thousands of pounds, creating handy resident guides for Property Services or helping our Development team create a community consultation page on our website, you’re always working on a really interesting variety of jobs that allows you to get a great and in-depth understanding of how Hastoe fulfills its goal of creating sustainable homes for sustainable communities”.

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