By: Victoria Hochman

Working with government and non-profit clients can be tremendously rewarding but can sometimes present a challenge.  Unlike promoting a flashy new shopping mall or a trendy eatery, the goals of a non-profit and government agency are not, well… as sexy. Grabbing the headlines for programs that promote social good requires some thought, and homework.

At Thompson & Bender we recently took on this challenge with a not-for-profit/municipal housing agency. Our expertise working with government and our familiarity with all things Westchester made us the logical choice to handle this project.

Our clients had spent more than 10 years putting together funding and approvals needed to start the renovation of thousands of units of public housing, but two obstacles remained: persuading government officials to finance the final piece of the plan and gaining the trust of residents in the buildings that were about to undergo work.

Anyone who deals with government knows that nothing is simple. So, the challenge was to make a presentation to officials that would eliminate the jargon and get the heart of the matter: The difference that this would make in the lives of public housing residents.

Our graphics team designed a lean and mean pitch packet for our client’s presentation. This was a challenge since it was crucial that the audience understand the complex funding scheme without getting lost in too many details. Using info graphics, charts and a colorful, eye-popping design, we crafted a clean presentation that simplified the numbers. To add the human element, we interviewed public housing residents who would benefit using their personal stories in compelling testimony which our client delivered before key legislators who would be voting on the funding.

Nothing is more critical to moving elected officials than public opinion. Stage 2 of the plan involved launching our public relations campaign. Thompson & Bender worked with our client to write a well-researched op-ed to run in the local newspapers. After coaching our client, we followed that by arranging for a video interview with a well-respected local journalist that made a compelling case. We invited TV and print media on a tour of the public housing showing why renovations were needed.

Knowing our community played a key role in our PR strategy. It was critical that we show that the taxpayer dollars would be spent to benefit the entire community, not just public housing residents. We underscored that these renovations were the lynchpin to the economic revitalization of the entire community. Millions of dollars in private investment to build new luxury housing in the area would not be as successful if public housing remained a blight.

Stage 3 was to help our clients to gain and keep the trust of public housing residents. Since the renovations were being funded in part by private companies, it was essential to convince residents that once the renovations were completed they would not be forced out of their homes in favor of higher paying tenants. Thompson & Bender created a streamlined website, making it easier to communicate with residents and provide essential information. We launched a colorful resident newsletter in English and Spanish to keep residents informed and invite them to participate in the process.

To thank all our stakeholders, Thompson & Bender arranged for a celebratory event/press conference inviting elected officials who helped obtain the needed funding as well as residents, community members and housing agency representatives.

The victory was tremendously rewarding not only for our clients and public housing residents, but for Thompson & Bender because we were able to make a difference in bettering the community.