How we communicate about homelessness

written by Catherine An
December 20, 2010
Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with members of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness – brand new research director Kristy Greenwalt (formerly of ICF International and communications director Jason Kravitz. We did a lot of talking about communications. It’s always the same questions: what are the best methods to share information with lots and lots of people? How do we get information to where people are? How do we know what information to give them? How do people consumer information nowadays? And (my personal favorite) what if the information they want isn’t the information we want them to want? Basically the same topics that haunt any thoughtful communications officer in her sleep. But despite my fears of the 24-hour news cycle, the unwieldiness of social media, the impact – or lack thereof – of newsletters and email campaigns, I generally try to come back to two main guiding principles (fingers-crossed): a) the goals of the organization and b) the information I want to share. And I find when I keep that in mind, my work becomes clearer. I try to push out the great resources we have to share: our counts data, our best practices, our community snapshots, our interactive tools. We consider our audience, the ever-shortening time span of the average consumer, the best and most concise tools we have. We blog to clarify the information we send out, we link to other articles, briefs, and notes we think are useful, we comment on news that other organizations put out. And I feel like pushing and clarifying and pushing and sharing and pushing and explaining and pushing has really helped people understand not only what we’re all about – but what we have to offer. And the more people are able to hone their understanding of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the more they turn to us for assistance that can really make a difference: how do I practice prevention? Who’s doing great with rapid re-housing? What federal policies are going to impact me? How do I get started with targeting? (Questions like these make me so happy!) And together, we move closer and closer to achieving the goal: to end homelessness in the United States. All that to say, feel free to throw us your questions: on Twitter, on Facebook, on the blog, through good old-fashioned email. We’re always eager to answer your questions and share what we know about homelessness – and ending homelessness – with you. You ask – and we’ll do our best to answer. Photo courtesy of Chiceaux.