Affordable Housing Month functions as a cohesive banner that offers an opportunity to mobilize housers, bring supporters into our movement, grow public will for critical policy solutions– and shift the narrative on housing and racial justice. NPH designed its 2021 campaign to specifically find, motivate, and activate new audiences while measuring the impact of specific narrative framing strategies. Affordable Housing Month showed that amplifying the foundational role of housing, attaching housing justice to related causes, and moving in unison maximizes our impact.
Building the Base: Affordable Housing Month 2021 showcases the positive impact of narrative strategy on key engagement outcomes for new supporters
Shift the Bay relies on a strong base of existing supporters who center systems change and organize advocates for real solutions, but growing our coalition means mobilizing another core group: new champions. This audience includes those with the potential to become enthusiastic supporters of the movement— but they aren’t there yet.
These unactivated folks share our values and may support the general idea of affordable housing, but worry about the impact of change on themselves or the people they care about. Some don’t believe that their own involvement is important; and, many remain conflicted or complacent in their agency.
In partnership with United Way Bay Area County, NPH launched its 2021 Affordable Housing Month with these potential supporters in mind. AHM functions as a unifying campaign under a cohesive banner that offers an opportunity to mobilize our coalition, expand our reach, and grow public will for critical policy solutions.
The 2021 collaboration between NPH and UWBA allowed us to pursue new Affordable Housing Month programming elements, including a direct public information and engagement strategy that put Bay Area Shift the Narrative research and learnings into practice.
With the opportunity to reach beyond our usual circles, we set out to experiment with specific narrative strategies that engage new supporters and help to unseat the harmful narratives holding our movement back. NPH used the Affordable Housing Month organizing mechanism to build resonance, pride, and identity as a ‘pro-housing’ coalition. A crucial part of that mission requires challenging the limiting concept of individualism and other myths that continuously penetrate public discourse on affordable housing.
Affordable Housing Month served as a key experimental engagement effort for implementing tested narrative strategies from the Seize the Narrative Playbook and other Shift the Bay resources.
→ From April to May, NPH focused on information and education outreach. We tested new messages, audience targeting, and long-term engagement through a multi-pronged approach, including:
Three-Phase Facebook Ad Campaign
NPH coordinated a three-phase Facebook advertising campaign using Affordable Housing Month as a hook to outreach and engage constituents. We designed the campaign specifically to find, motivate, and activate bystander audiences while measuring the impact of various framing strategies. Frames tested included broad pro-housing promotion and three single issue-attachment messages: environmental justice, racial justice, and public health. Putting our values at the top of our messaging helps people to understand what they “gain” from being part of our movement. These graphics and top-line copy were served in tandem with specific news articles or recent reports that further explained the link across issue areas.
Exploring ways in which we are all connected, our fates are intertwined, and our prosperity shared – are all important stories to lift up. When people are reminded consistently of their deep connection and reliance on others who are also in need, it helps them to see their stake in helping others.
Twitter Campaign & Email Program
Affordable Housing Month offered a platform to move our base beyond passive support for housing justice and embrace the movement’s calls to action. In addition to activating new supporters, we engaged our existing supporters through a coalition-coordinated Twitter hashtag campaign and email program. The 2021 #AffordableHousingMonth hashtag connected Affordable Housing Month promotions across the movement, while eleven segmented emails to our members helped to energize our affordable housing allies. Our coalition of members and partners amplified these messages, employing the reach of our collective networks to mobilize across the region.
Through eye-catching creative materials– such as branding, videos, graphics, tools, and a social media toolkit– we developed consistency across our audiences and simplified our partners’ ability to implement narrative shift tactics.
These materials were offered in conjunction with a pledging opportunity to show support for affordable housing. Endorsers received sticker incentives, creating a second actionable outcome: in addition to the pledge, supporters could then publicly showcase their endorsement of pro-housing values to their communities, even after Affordable Housing Month wrapped up.
→ Here’s what we learned from implementing narrative strategy through AHM campaign efforts:
Amplifying the foundational role of housing is a winning message!
NPH was able to build resonance when centering a general, pro-housing message. Of the four messaging frames tested, the general AHM messaging vastly outperformed the others with 40,408 total users reached and 129 leads generated. The positive response to these messages signals the importance of investing in educational messaging that explains the foundational role of housing to new audiences.
Attaching housing to single issues resonates with persuadable audiences!
Bystander audiences are more receptive when we make the connection between affordable housing and issues they already care about. For example, highlighting housing as a pathway to racial justice was the most successful message for activating petition signers: By delivering messages that affirm access to affordable housing uplifts communities of color helped us earn 613 of them! Accounting for leads generated, racial justice was the second-highest performing frame, reaching a total of 8,532 people and capturing 27 leads. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the public health attachment also got folks interested in learning more and drove clicks to the website as well.
When our coalition moves in unison, we maximize our impact!
As a coordinated regional campaign, Affordable Housing Month demonstrates a unified front across the housing justice arena. Our efforts – developed and executed in partnership with United Way Bay Area, regional conveners¹, and NPH members² – included the regional hub AffordableHousingMonth.org, a video story collection tool, and social media partnership: resources that build capacity and regional identity.
The increase in website metrics compared to last year demonstrates the focused and cohesive effort made throughout the month of May. We saw almost five times the amount of visitors in 2021 compared to 2020 (6.1K visits this year vs. 1.2K last year), over six times the amount of unique visitors (5.9K this year vs. 818 last year), and almost seven times the amount of page views (14K this year vs. 2.5K last year). 900 visits to the AHM website came from phase 1 of our AHM ads on Facebook.
→ Next Steps
We continue to engage roughly 600 new housing supporters as part of our housing activist email list. The group is notified of important policy and advocacy calls to action that push our work forward; and, as they move through our engagement ladder, we’ll be able to activate these voices to combat NIMBYism, demonstrate support for inclusive communities, and engage in specific policies. We’ll be measuring engagement to see if these bystanders-turned-activists from Affordable Housing Month 2021 continue to engage at similar rates as our base supporters.
For Affordable Housing Month 2022, our digital engagement plan will include a targeted ad campaign that continues to help identify bystander supporters.
How do we all help move these messages and materials to new audiences? How do we all benefit from growing our lists? Which calls to action maximize impact?
We look forward to tackling these questions and more during Affordable Housing Month 2022.
Check out this year’s Affordable Housing Month resources here!
¹Bay Area regional conveners include NPH’s Bay Area Affordable Housing Partners (BAAHP): East Bay Housing Organizations, Generation Housing (Sonoma), Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County, and Silicon Valley @ Home
²NPH’s Strategic Communications Council