PR and Reputation Considerations
The federal eviction moratorium posed a lengthy and unprecedented challenge for apartment operators. But it is the post-moratorium period that will test their reputations.
The 2021 AIM session, The End of the Eviction Moratorium: PR and Reputation Considerations, delved into the reputation management risks posted by actions taken post moratorium and best practices for navigating the eviction landscape.
“With the moratorium coming to an end, our reputations are at stake,” said LinnellTaylor Marketing Vice President of Strategy Peter Jakel, noting the myriad issues brought about by the pandemic were largely out of operators’ hands. “We can’t solve a problem we can’t control. The one problem that we can manage in this industry is our reputations.”
Jakel said that lack of control can be exacerbated by a reluctance to take a direct approach when it comes to the eviction discussion.
“We hide from the conversation, we don’t like to engage with the media or the public at large,” Jakel said. “The more we do that, the more we hide from the conversation, the less control we have over the situation.”
In terms of managing the end to eviction moratoriums, Jakel said that it’s important to focus on customer service. He stressed being innovative to help solve the real problem, and determine what can be done from a behavioral standpoint to help people get through the situation. Great customer service is about helping people first.
Remember that while residents facing eviction are vulnerable, they have review sites, news media and other tools at their disposal to air their grievances. When residents feel like they’re being treated unfairly, the version of the story they tell is going to shape public perception, regardless of whether it’s based on reality.
“In those situations, you’re going to take a lot of negativity,” Jakel said. “But you have to continue to focus on customer service. Talk to people like they’re people. Don’t treat people like a rent check. Lead with empathy.”
When it comes to reputation management, Jakel said multifamily has an unfortunate tendency to narrow the focus to two audiences – current residents and or prospective residents.
“Our reputation is much bigger than that,” Jakel said. “Reputation is really performance, behavior and communication. Authenticity is your multiplier effect. We may have values living on a screen or webpage somewhere, but are you living those values? How well you live up to those values as an organization really determines your reputation.”
Staying true to authenticity not only increases brand value, but it also enables companies that know who they are to sell their brands effectively. Companies that embody their stated values are more comfortable engaging with the general public and understand that reputation is more than their transactional relationships.
“Our foundation needs to be real and meaningful, and it has to include engagement with more than just our customers,” Jakel said. “One of the biggest audiences in communication is our associates, and we often overlook them. Our associates are going to take that communication and use it to relate better to our customers, and that’s going to improve our reputations.”
That makes it vital for companies to be true to their values, make decisions based on those values, and hire and fire based on those values to ensure than their brand is authentic. Organizations that were true to their values before and during the pandemic will be better poised to navigate the end of eviction moratoriums, as well.
“The best thing we can do as an industry is to continue work on our reputations moving forward,” Jakel said. “It’s a little bit late at the end of the eviction moratorium, but we can be ready for the next crisis.”
Here is the replay:
- Peter Jakel, VP of Strategy at LinnellTaylor Marketing