EmpoWWering Citizens in a Housing Crisis: FFTC and CELC

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  • Date:

    December 2, 2020

EmpoWWering Citizens in a Housing Crisis: FFTC and CELC


Each year, the Wray Ward EmpoWWer program selects a group of local nonprofit organizations to receive marketing service grants that will help further their work in the Charlotte area. Framed by three pillars — creativity, shelter and advancement — EmpoWWer also gives employees a chance to give back as part of our commitment to social responsibility since we opened the agency’s doors in 1977. Foundation For The Carolinas and the Charlotte Executive Leadership Council were among our 2020 EmpoWWer partners working with internal teams at Wray Ward as part of this rewarding initiative.

Foundation For The Carolinas (FFTC) is a catalyst for philanthropic activity in the Charlotte region, driving major civic efforts and offering innovative solutions that help individuals, nonprofit organizations and companies realize their charitable visions.

The Charlotte Executive Leadership Council (CELC) is a collection of locally based CEOs who are focused on improving economic mobility in Charlotte through education, workforce development, affordable housing and community engagement solutions.

Together, the two form a visionary powerhouse. And in 2020, they, along with an eviction prevention working group made up of area nonprofit organizations, decided to raise awareness for one of the biggest issues in the Charlotte region: affordable housing and the prevalence of evictions. But rather than tackling this challenge with capital campaigns or housing solutions, they approached it from an education angle.

How could they empower residents with the knowledge needed to understand their rights as tenants?

When It Comes to Affordable Housing, Knowledge Is Power

Charlotte has long faced a housing crisis. In fact, along with the issue of economic mobility, it has been debated and discussed in our growing city for many years. After a series of meetings and conversations with nonprofit groups and their clients, FFTC and CELC decided to provide tenant education via a seven-part podcast series.

The series aims to educate local citizens about the eviction process while informing listeners of their rights. Topics include:

  • Financial Literacy and Preventing Eviction
  • Housing Subsidies Overview
  • How the Eviction Process Works and What You Can Do
  • Knowing Your Rights as a Tenant (Part 1 – Repairs)
  • Knowing Your Rights as a Tenant (Part 2 – FHA)
  • Overview of the Eviction Situation in Charlotte
  • Understanding a Rental Contract (Tenant Responsibilities and Illegal Fees)

Next came the task of getting the word out about the podcast and promoting it in such a way that it would become an invaluable community resource, helping lower the number of evictions in our city.

That’s where Wray Ward came into the picture.

In its EmpoWWer application, FFTC and CELC asked Wray Ward for a holistic marketing communications plan to ensure the podcast series reached its target audience including displaced tenants as well as local nonprofit partners who would help the podcast reach those most in need.

Wray Ward’s Connections and Creative teams quickly got to work branding the new series and developing a marketing communications plan.

Branding a Podcast

Step one? Give a unique, crucial podcast the memorable name and visual identity it deserves. Early in our partnership, Wray Ward tackled a new name, look and feel for the series.

The Tenants Toolkit

Tenant education is the first line of defense against the damaging effects of eviction in our communities. Difficult times beget the need for a streamlined and comprehensive resource checklist for tenants who may suddenly find themselves at risk. The name “The Tenants Toolkit” quickly came to mind for us, because that’s exactly what it is: a guide composed of easy-to-understand information, actionable tasks and effective policy guides, broken down by topic. When people are properly equipped with The Tenants Toolkit, we believe our community can have better shared outcomes.

We also worked with FFTC to develop new intros and outros that leverage the podcast title and bolster the connection between episodes.

Promoting a Podcast

Next, we tackled how to get the word out about the podcast. Our distribution strategy included tapping into community partners who could assist with grassroots outreach in Charlotte. Strategies and tactics encompassed public relations, social media and community partner promotion. Additionally, we curated a list of local media contacts to help us tell the story and included various pitching angles and approaches to working with them.

Then, we moved on to developing a portfolio of printed and digital assets that would help each community partner reach out to clients. Materials developed for their use included digital banner ads, posters, fliers and an audio PSA, assets that could be used in an organization’s waiting room, on a website or via their phone system hold messaging. The portfolio also delivered social media assets and suggested post copy, including tagging verbiage and suggested hashtags.

The complete podcast branding and promotion plan was presented to the entire eviction prevention working group in order to get input from all the community partners who would be critical to the project’s success.

Never a Better Time

We started working with FFTC and CELC in early February 2020, shortly before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Charlotte was already facing an affordable housing crisis, with evictions skyrocketing and affordable housing in short supply.

At the time, of course, we couldn’t have known just how big the housing crisis and the subsequent need for tenants’ rights education would become, as the pandemic led to widespread job loss and a greater economic burden for many families and individuals. While evictions were temporarily halted during this unprecedented period, the need for tenant education only grew as many of the area’s affected citizens navigated new waters.

One podcast can’t possibly solve the affordable housing crisis, yet The Tenants Toolkit provides a huge boost to displacement prevention efforts. This, in turn, reduces the monetary and psychological burden felt by so many neighborhoods, families, courtrooms and property owners.

Getting clear information into the hands of tenants is a giant step in the right direction.

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