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12 July 2023

38 min

S9 - E2: Second impressions – John Neugebauer

Second impressions: How marketing can shift perceptions of your sector

After graduating with a Masters in marketing 10 years ago John has worked in marketing positions within the publishing and legal sectors. For the majority of the previous decade John has worked within the housing sector heading up the marketing and PR function. He has recently now joined the team at DNV as a Marketing and Communications Specialist.

He is a Chartered Marketer, John has delivered projects that have gone onto be seen in the Guardian, the Drum and the New Statesman. This standout work led to him being invited to become a founding member of the first cross-sector marketing committee. John is also a published academic writer with book chapters written on the various impacts on consumer behaviour.

Outside his role at DNV John acts as a Team Lead within the marketing team of the Global Diaspora Confederation. This UN-backed project, supporting people who have been displaced, with a particular emphasis this year on helping those affected by the crisis in the Ukraine, and matches them with appropriate medical, emotional and financial support.

Outside work, John is a wild swimming fanatic so he can often be found in the sea, lakes and rivers at all times of the year!

Do you think your customer base (either existing or prospective) have an outdated or incorrect viewpoint of your sector? If so, it can be holding back new business and leading to a sense of internal inertia. How does an organisation go about changing this though, especially if they’re a sector that’s regulated. This is where communications and marketing can help.

In this conversation John joined us as he neared the end of his 8+ years at RHP before joining DNV to share his top tips and best practices that you can use, no matter how traditional your sector is, to stand out in a meaningful way and help push things forward not just for your organisation but your peers too and help benefit your bottom line and internal culture.

Podcast questions

  1. Why might comms teams start to think about shifting perceptions of their sector and how might they make a start with it?
  2. How have you attracted customers to RHP Group who might not typically know about your products, Shared Ownership homes for example.
  3. How does thought leadership play a role in this?
  4. How has organic PR been generated through this approach
  5. Do you believe recruitment marketing plays a role in this too?
  6. You work in quite a regulated sector, what top tips do you have for those who’re trying to cut through in equally regulated or even more tightly regulated sectors?
  7. Rounding up the conversation, what would your top three tips be?

Disclaimer: this is an automated transcript. Please don’t call the grammar police on us. You never know, we may have ChatGPT writing our next one…

Asif Choudry (00:03):

Hello and welcome to another episode in the You’re my CommsHero podcast. And I’m your host, Asif Choudry. Today my guest is John Neugebauer, um, with an interesting spelling of that name, and you’ll see that in the show notes, but it’s pronounced Neugebauer. So John, after graduating with a master’s in marketing 10 years ago, John has worked in marketing positions within the publishing and legal sectors. And for the majority of the previous decade, John has worked with the housing sector heading up the marketing and PR function of R H P Group, a southwest London based housing group. John’s a chartered marketer and has delivered projects that have gone on, uh, to be seen in The Guardian, the Drum and the New Statesman. Uh, the standout work led him to be invited to become a founding member of the First Cross Sector marketing committee. And John is also a published academic writer as well with book chapters written on the various impacts on consumer behavior outside his role at R H P.

Asif Choudry (00:59):

John acts as a team lead within the marketing team of the Global Diaspora Confederation. And I had to Google how to pronounce that and John’s told me that is correct. This is a un backed project supporting people who have been displaced with a particular emphasis this year on helping those affected by the crisis in the Ukraine and matches them with the appropriate medical, emotional and financial support and outside work. John is a wild swimming fanatic, so he can often be found in the streams, lakes and rivers at all times of the year. So John, it’s an absolute pleasure to welcome you on the podcast

John Neugebauer (01:35):

As if, how lucky am I to get some quality time with the busiest man in comms? Thank you so much for having me. And of course, big up the comms here are massive.

Asif Choudry (01:45):

Thank you, John. And before I do the getting to know you bit, I think we need to here, you told me, um, before we started recording the story of the approach from the Global Diaspora Confederation on G D C as we might have, uh, use the acronym. Um, tell us about that approach, John.

John Neugebauer (02:06):

Yeah, well I really appreciate you taking the time to ask about it actually, as if, um, so this was all through LinkedIn, our trusted channel. So I was approached by the un, um, I got a private message for them. It actually took me a couple of days to realise that it wasn’t Spam <laugh>, that it actually was Yeah, yeah. The proper un <laugh>. Um, and yeah, they said they were putting together this project and it was interesting as I, I hope you don’t mind me saying as if we, um, both are talking about how diaspora was originally a new word to us when it it came to us. But yeah, as soon as we started doing, um, our due diligence realised, um, wow, this is, this topic is something we do know a lot about. Um, my per personally, firsthand. So my, um, my father’s father was, um, a diaspora from, um, Poland.

John Neugebauer (02:53):

He came over after the Second World War, um, over to England. And, um, yeah, so it’s a topic close to my heart and um, it’s been an amazing experience. I know, um, our chair, Peter will be listening back to this, so pick hello to him and, um, in March, at the end of March, gonna be going to the UN in New York, um, on behalf of the G D C. So yeah, it’s been two years of, um, really eye-opening experience and it just goes to show, um, a career in marketing. You never know where you’re gonna end up. I I never thought I would be working for a un backed project, um, within the marketing function. So yeah, I hope that’s a, a bit of a inspiration for people who are starting out in comms and marketing that yeah, just keep an open mind and never know where you might end up.

Asif Choudry (03:41):

It’s very true, John, and no, I appreciate you sharing that story as well. So very inspiring for people you just don’t know who’s watching. Um, and absolutely, you know, props to you for doing that. It’s an amazing organization that does obviously does fantastic work and, and good luck with, um, uh, with the event in March that you’re attending as well. So let’s get to know you a little bit more. John, I’ve got some quick fire questions. So are you, let’s get straight and I, are you an e booker or a printed booker?

John Neugebauer (04:11):

Uh, well again, I hope you don’t mind me putting you on blast as if, but we are both very much a, um, a Prince sniffers, so we love the smell of

Asif Choudry (04:19):


John Neugebauer (04:19):

Yeah. Book new magazine. Yeah, prince Sniffers Unite <laugh>. Um, there’s something about a physical book that feels like a bit of a treat. Um, I don’t know, an ebook kinda makes me feel, you know, it’s a bit of an extension of work, so to be able to really kind of switch off with a good book. Yeah. That said though, actually, um, so we were lucky enough to have June sarong come and give us a talk rhp recently. And we, after that we read her book Diversify. And, um, apologies to, she’s listening, you never Know <laugh>. I actually, um, misplaced her book. So, uh, rather than buy a new copy, I, um, checked out the audio book and it was interesting cause I was about halfway through the book, but I thought, oh, let’s listen to a bit of the, the first half anyway, through this audio book. And I actually, um, a lot of what she was saying where I thought she was being serious, she was actually being a bit tongue of cheek and then vice versa. So it was really quite a, a different experience listening it to, to audiobook rather than, um, yeah, reading it on the page. So yeah, it might be a bit of an audio bit convert as well.

Asif Choudry (05:23):

No, I’ve, um, I, after interviewing, um, the one half of Comm’s Hero Power Couple, the Waddington, um, I recorded a podcast with Sarah Waddington Yes. Probably over a year ago about, um, uh, print and, um, uh, permanent Inc was the episode title and she talked about Audible and I didn’t know it was a thing to be honest with you, uh, before that. And I, I do, I have listened to quite a lot of books on Audible now, um, just because I’m still commuting and it’s a great way to, um, take in some more C P D and more learning. So I’m, I’m definitely a convert. But the printed book, we commented on LinkedIn, didn’t we? About the Yeah. Arrival of the latest edition of the CM Magazine, the Chartered Institute of Marketing Magazine, catalyst, which is always a good smelling publication as well as Jam pat full of marketing content

John Neugebauer (06:14):

As well. Amen.

Asif Choudry (06:16):

So, yeah, so you’re very much a, um, a printed booker and I in, I’m gonna post out a tweet, uh, before this episode goes live and I’ll tag in June Saron, cuz she’s had a mention. So let’s see if she gives us a,

John Neugebauer (06:28):

Hey, you never know, you know up.

Asif Choudry (06:31):

I won’t, I won’t tell her that you, you misplaced a physical copy of her book though, John, but we’ll keep that. Yeah, please

John Neugebauer (06:36):

Do. Please.

Asif Choudry (06:37):

Unless she listen to this podcast and hears about us, <laugh> hears about the story. So are you, um, Twitter or Instagram? Yeah, Twitter or Instagram, John.

John Neugebauer (06:47):

Oh, that’s,

Asif Choudry (06:48):

It’s putting you on the spot, isn’t it?

John Neugebauer (06:49):

Isn’t it? Um, I think probably best way to describe it, yeah, if I want my brain kind of switched on, I’ll go onto Twitter and um, yeah, always amazing things to be seen there. Um, and then yeah, if I want to maybe switch my brain off a bit, that’s when I’ll go onto Instagram. Yeah. Um, from a business perspective though, both have been amazing for us for generating leads. So yeah. I’ve got big love for both.

Asif Choudry (07:15):

I might have to, yeah, I might have to update that question now to include LinkedIn and TikTok. Now I might ask, I might have to update that 23.

John Neugebauer (07:25):

I do you feel about TikTok? It just makes me feel hideously old whenever I, uh, look at who <laugh>.

Asif Choudry (07:31):

Well, I’ve set up an account after speaking to Helen Reynolds. Yeah. After speaking to Helen Reynolds, I’ve set up an account on Yes, I might, I might unleash myself on TikTok in 2023. You never know.

John Neugebauer (07:42):

Come big thing is king as if on TikTok.

Asif Choudry (07:44):

Yeah. So yeah, John, we’ve got, um, uh, one final one. Are you an early riser or do you love a lion?

John Neugebauer (07:53):

This is the easiest question you could ever ask me. So I’m <laugh> when I have the opportunity. Big time, big time lion. So, um, I’m, uh, a, a serious and night al I like to delude myself that there’s some science behind it. So I’m a summer, a summer baby, so I’m like, oh yeah, my circadian rhythm. It appreciates those long evenings. But then as everyone who’s born around the same time, time of year as me will remind me, I say, well my body is totally normal. So yeah, bango that theory, but yeah. Okay. Uh, lions

Asif Choudry (08:24):

For sure. Lions. Yeah.

John Neugebauer (08:26):

Are you a not actually, I’m, I’m interested to write this. Are you a al I’m telling the tables here. Are you a al or an early riser? Cause I feel like you’re both

Asif Choudry (08:35):

<laugh>, <laugh>. It depends. You know, I’ve, I’ve always been an early riser, so I’m part of the, I know there’s this movement or community of the 5:00 AM club, um, whether that’s people getting up and, you know, jumping out of bed, going to the gym, that’s not necessarily myself. I’ve got to get out of bed round about five 30 only so I can get in a 20 minute hit workout before I do the morning routine with, um, yeah, come on, uh, with the, uh, with my two children. So get them ready for school and all the rest of it. So, uh, yeah, an early riser, it just depends. If I’ve got loads of stuff, wizarding, round, creative thoughts, et cetera, then it’s kind of difficult to go to sleep on that. You’ve just got to, I’m not saying I, I don’t sit there journaling every evening or anything like that, but I like to note stuff down or if I want to respond to some emails, I’d rather just do that and leave them in my draft so that they don’t drop into people’s, um, email inboxes at stupid hours. Although some may have received emails from me and I apologize if you receive emails from me at 10:00 PM or even later in some cases, or tweets or LinkedIn posts. Um, but you shouldn’t be checking your phone anyway at that time, so it’s your fault <laugh>.

John Neugebauer (09:45):


Asif Choudry (09:45):

Exactly. So yeah, a bit, a bit of both to be honest with you, but I try and get as much balance in that as possible. But it’s, it’s a, it’s a juggling act, isn’t it? Every day. But I don’t put, it’s a juggling, I don’t put a lot of undue pressure, um, on myself, but I know that, you know, ideally get between six and a half to seven hours sleep if I can. Um, oh

John Neugebauer (10:03):

Yeah, that’s pretty easy.

Asif Choudry (10:04):

Yeah, it’s, it’s a decent amount.

John Neugebauer (10:06):

You was, it was a burning question because if you’ve ever been lucky enough to be at a multi-day event with, as if you’ll know that he’ll be one of the last to leave an evening function and then you’ll, he’ll be the first person you see early in the morning looking immaculate. And I don’t like, I’ve slept in a barn <laugh>.

Asif Choudry (10:24):

That’s very kind of, you jump,

John Neugebauer (10:26):

So I dunno how you do it. <laugh>.

Asif Choudry (10:28):

Well, we’re, we’re here for the Commer podcast. Let’s give some content to our listeners now. So just a quick overview of what we’re gonna talk about. So, um, do you think your customer base, either existing or perspective, have an outdated or incorrect viewpoint of your sector? If so, it can be holding back new business and leading to a sense of in internal inertia. So how does an organization go about changing this though? Especially if they’re a sector that’s regulated? And this is where communications and marketing can help. And in this conversations John’s gonna share his top tips and best practices that you can use no matter how traditional your sector is, to stand out in a meaningful way and help push things forward, not just for your organization but your peers. Two, and help benefit your bottom line and internal culture. So we’ve got some questions I’m gonna throw at you, John, to explore that and expand on that and give your top tips and pearl of wisdom. So I’m gonna kick off with the first one. So tell us, John, why might comms team start to think about shifting perceptions of their sector and how might they make a start with that?

John Neugebauer (11:34):

Yeah, well I’ll stop by saying that I appreciate this topic might seem a bit of a lofty and ambition. So grab that couple and let’s get into it. I said just took a, an appropriate swig of tea whilst I said that <laugh>. So my main aim of our conversation is to talk through the steps that can be taken to help reposition how people see your company. And if more companies like yourselves were to reimagine their organizations in this way, um, that then creates a collective step change. So you’ve asked as if why might you want to start to reposition how your sector is viewed? Well it might be that people have an outdated or incorrect vision of your sector or the products and services that you offer. This therefore is acting as a barrier to entry for both new business and attracting new talent to coming to work for you.

John Neugebauer (12:26):

So to give you a real life example, in the housing world, we offer a product called shared ownership. Now research tells us that at least 25% of people aren’t actually aware of what shared shared ownership is. And many of that segments have the false assumption that their shared elements means they have to share with another person rather than the correct understanding, which is that it’s a shared part of the home that you’re buying instead. So that’s a big chunk of prospective market we’re missing out on as they’re instantly dismissing the product. Now, r h p, um, we have over 40 million pounds worth of shared ownership homes to sell within the next year. So suddenly that 25% seems really quite vital to engage with. So because of this knowledge, it’s actually influenced our marketing output around shared ownership. Um, we’re making sure that we’re directly dispelling this myth right away from the textual reading on our website through to our social posts, our marketing literature.

John Neugebauer (13:26):

So I challenge you to think in your own sector what common barriers to entry might you have and how can you overcome them? And when it comes to the, how can I make a start? Part of your question, of course you’ve got our trusted friend such as sports and peal. I’d personally really recommend social listening though as a way of finding out what people think of your sector on a larger scale. Um, an online tool I’d definitely recommend is answer the public and shout out to head Reynolds for first, um, switching me onto this. Um, so with this, with Answer the public, you simply put in the keyword and then the most frequently asked questions around that word or term they come up. So you can use this then to create content that’s, um, around these questions to help counteract what you are seeing. So for example, why are housing services slow is a more negative question that comes up when searching housing.

John Neugebauer (14:22):

So in response to this, we can put together an infographic showing rhp facts, um, around our fast response times, across all our different channels and show that we aim to respond to a hundred percent of our customer contacts within the same day. I’d also encourage collective cross sector thinking as well. Again, an example of this from my side, within the past year or so, the councils within our operating areas have started up communications groups, which allows comms experts from all walks of life to talk about the latest services and events that are open to customers within their related boroughs. This is great in terms of adding value to customers’ lives. So I definitely recommend to get in contact with your local council’s comm, uh, team if you haven’t already, and finding out if they have similar external groups like this too. Another example, looking back at the shared ownership challenge I’ve touched on, we now have, as you wanna know, as if we have a cross sector shared ownership campaign, which really helps with giving a collaborative collective message to the widest audience possible. And just finally, so in the computer study, so, um, here’s one made earlier, you’ve taken all these steps, how do you know if it’s worked well for this, I’d definitely recommend looking at your brand sentiment scores. This way you’ll be able to check what’s been said about you and if there’s been a positive shift within that relating period of time.

Asif Choudry (15:48):

That’s excellent John, and thank you for thank you for that. Some, some really good tools. So answer the public Yes, courtesy of Helen Reynolds. So thank you Helen for that. And that’s, uh, I’ll share that. I have to admit I didn’t know about that one, so, um, I’ll be codling that one and having a look. So great bit of insight there. Um, so thanks for sharing that and nice to hear CM will be pleased to hear we’re talking swap pestle. Um, we can throw in a few peas as well, I’m sure and amongst all of that. So, um, good for all us. Um, yes, CM Connoisseur will be nodding with agreement and either, uh, switching off because they’ve been, uh, reminded of a tool that, um, may have haunted them from an exam or, or reminded of one that they’ve been able to use successfully in the workplace. So no, that’s great. Great. Um, good insight there, John, to, to share with people and there’ll be stuff people take away from that. So, so John, how have you attracted customers to R H P Group who might not typically know about your products using shared ownership homes as an example?

John Neugebauer (16:49):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Well, I think our secret source has been making sure we’re going to where we think our prospective customers might be rather than just going to where we know they are. And we’ve done this through a lot of different ways. So if we start with shed ownership, it’s trying to find that 25% of people who I mentioned who don’t know about the products but falls within our target markets. And I say this as their captive shed ownership audience are largely really alert and on it actually. Um, and we’re able to capture them through more traditional methods. So for starters, we look for opportunities happening within the relating local community that we know are gonna bring out large members of the public in that appropriate catchment area. So everything from some affairs to fates through to careers fairs have been successful for us. Um, we’ve also appealed on local radio stations to talk about shared ownership, describing how it works and taking listener questions.

John Neugebauer (17:43):

And then geo-targeting digital marketing has been a great way for us to engage with our target customers too. So for anyone who hasn’t heard of it, in a nutshell, geotargeting is a way to specify the location we want our digital ads to show. So in as Opel where it’s worked really well for us, we had a development based in Feltham and we targeted the nearby HETO airports so that people who worked there were seeing the ads for this development regularly. And then we later went on to find out that there were a couple of buyers actually found out about their new home through these ads. And even better, they weren’t aware what shared ownership was before. So that was really gold dust in terms of, uh, engaging with customers like that. And we’ve tried to think creatively, um, with third party opportunities too. So for example, we’re going to be working with an online lifestyle publisher called Sherlocks Soon.

John Neugebauer (18:33):

And despite the fact that they have a property page, they haven’t actually featured anything about Shell ownership before, but we both agree that their customer base is exactly our target market. So looking forward to seeing how that opportunity performs for us. And then more generally as a housing group, we’ve been so proud that our marketing has helped our sector being seen in a different way. A good example of this being we developed our new brand called Connect with Home All in House. And to launch it, we made a short film and this short film was actually ended up being picked up by the drum and they featured it on the out of the day feature. And this was their first out of the day to actually come from the housing sector itself. And I don’t say this to be saying, oh look how great we are.

John Neugebauer (19:20):

Uh, it was more, look how great the sector is. So we felt like that was a real win for all of us collectively. Um, and I see our peers constantly doing amazing things to, to showcase the housing sector in UA that cut through. And you’ll be able to tell me more about, about this one as if, but I have to, um, mention the Astro groups take over Waterloo Station as a best in class example here for, so from what I saw online, um, it looks incredible and truly experiential. You had everything from a gospel choir to all the digital billboards taken over. Um, it’s so great to see and and typically you might think only a blue tip organization would do a full takeover like this, so it’s a real great statement of intent to see a housing group doing it.

Asif Choudry (20:05):

Yeah, no, it’s important cause you you’re competing with the same audience, aren’t you? So you’ve got to, um, you have to offer campaigns in the same way. And that, that one funnily enough was, um, it won 2019 C Im or 2020 c i m awards, um, integrated campaign, large category up against the likes of, uh, Sony and um, uh, rolls Royce were two of the, the brands that were in that category as well. So to come up against those for a a housing association to be able to do that was yeah, was phenomenal. So it’s good. It shows that the sector can, uh, compete with, uh, some big brands as well. Yeah,

John Neugebauer (20:44):

Incredible work. Incredible work. And yeah, just finally I, um, touch back on developing the look and feel of Connect With Home. We looked beyond the sector for inspiration and tip point is from everything for the banking through to travel sectors. And this led us to having branding first within our sectors, within our sector. So we were the first housing group to be using neon style elements with our key branding. And those extra layers of personalization with our output within our outputs has really helped us st stand stand out.

Asif Choudry (21:17):

No, that’s brilliant John, that’s a really good example there for people to, uh, take away and irrespective of your sector, there’s some some good insight there for people to, to just, you know, even if it’s just reaffirming your own understanding or actually giving you some new understanding. And it’s a great example, um, to check out RHP groups, um, connect with Home brand. So tell us, John, how does thought leadership then play a role in all this that you’ve, that you’re talking about?

John Neugebauer (21:43):

Yeah, thought leadership has been a really big one for us. Um, with this, I’m a firm believer that it’s stronger to be leveraging those individual voices rather than putting out content from the company as a whole. But fortunately, uh, r h p our leaders, um, have always lots of interesting viewpoints to share. Um, so that’s definitely my first recommendation. Find those leaders in your company have something compelling that they want to share and then help them nurture that. So in terms of pr, one of the first things I did when I started at R H P was deciphering what the, the top three topic areas, um, that we wanted to be known for were. Um, this was especially fresh in my mind as, uh, previously, uh, the job before I was working on a news floor and seeing the journalists working next to me, they were time poor, very pressing deadlines.

John Neugebauer (22:32):

So with the articles they had in their inbox, they had to have those two to three organizations that they knew they could contact straight away and they’d give them a good quote in relation to their subject. Um, so for example, the journalist might be thinking, ah, yeah, the organization is a thought leader in sustainability within agriculture, I’m going to contact them. So, um, when you can get to that place with your short leadership, that’s the sweet spot and you’re generating organic pr. I would say though this can only be achieved through by being really consistent and putting forward these chosen topics and weaving them into all of your PR focused output. So for us, flash forward for years and our leaders have, uh, written pieces for publications such as the New Statesman, the Guardian, the Telegraph, p Plenty of other trade publications, and we’ve made sure to have some fun along the way as well.

John Neugebauer (23:24):

Um, so we actually, um, did a piece with Stylists magazine and their day in the life of future and, um, because stylists magazine has such a massive reach, it’s given out in the underground, um, that’s actually one of the PR items that we’ve had most feedback on. So again, you, you never know what’s gonna engage, um, with the, with the wider community and the wider public and events have been really valuable to us too. Um, and as great as our sector events are, we’ve made sure to look beyond it for speaking opportunities. So we’re attracting different types of prospective customers, investors, and employees. So to give you a flavor of that, we’ve successfully pitched our chief executive to speak at events such as the London Tech Week and the Institute of Customer Service events as well. And then just finally dovetailing, um, with this, when looking at your award plan for the year, look for out of opportunities to go forward too and one better, the awards might be tied to magazine or newspaper, meaning guaranteed positive PR if you’re shortlisted and or win. I’m sure you saw that with, um, the CM with Asta,

Asif Choudry (24:31):

It’s phenomenal to, to out of sector. I think there is, um, it is important John, it’s a very valid point to step out of your comfort zone of just entering, obviously you’ve gotta start with awards in your own sector, but then from a comms, selfishly from a comms point of view, you want to, uh, put yourselves up against out of sector and see as just as a benchmark if anything else, just to see where, where do we sit, where, where’s our benchmark to, um, compare against, you know, can we go up against the likes of Rolls-Royce and um, Sony who have, uh, fantastic marketing and comms resources and the answer’s absolutely yes. You know, the proof is in the Asta group, uh, gladi campaign going up against you, um, those brands and you can do it, but you, you’ve got to be ready and you’ve got to be in the right position to be able to do that for sure. So John, that’s fascinating insight again there. So tell us how has organic PR been generated through this approach?

John Neugebauer (25:29):

Yeah, I’m pleased to say that there’s been plenty of organic PR that’s helped us both commercially and open up further conversations that have benefited the organization. So if we start with commercially first, so back in 2021, Teddington was named as the best place to live in London by the Times. And it just so happened that we had a block of shared ownership homes for sale in Ellington at that time. And then a digital publication called The Insider chose to do a follow-up piece and highlighted the unique features of living in Teton. And long story short, it turned out the only reference to actual homes within this, within this article was our block of apartments and the relating photo within it showed our hoardings with further contact details placed on them. Now the insider has over 1 million followers on social, so that many eyeballs seem such a positive piece that’s positive PR that you just can’t buy.

John Neugebauer (26:22):

And we did see a number of high quality leads come in off the back of that. So yeah, it makes you think, would our previous hoarding designs have caught the journalist eye or was it those neon elements that I mentioned earlier that caught her and made her think, okay, this, this is different. So yeah, if it was the latter, then our fresh design approach acquired us millions of impressions and completely organically. And then when it comes to creating relationships, PR has unexpectedly helped us do that too. So I remember the first article I pitched and wrote once I started rhp, it was for a trade publication and um, at that time our chief executive had been trying to set up a meeting with the head of council who we were potentially interested in working with. And yeah, for one reason or another they were particularly hard to get hold of.

John Neugebauer (27:12):

So what actually ended up happening was that the head of, uh, the council ended up seeing the article and he was so impressed by what he saw, he ended up contacting our chief executive directly off the back of reading it. So as we’ve already mentioned it, it just goes to show you never know who’s reading your outputs and um, yeah, in the housing sector we obviously have lots of different stakeholders, one segment being mps and counselors. So when our chief executive David was asked to write a piece for the parliamentary re review, we knew it was a great opportunity. Um, this is a publication that gets delivered here, every MP desk in the House of Commons directly, so there’s a great chance to be seen. And true to form there was some positive follow up conversations with relevant mps. So if this sounds good to you, then the Parliamentary review does special supplements for all sectors throughout the year. So I’d definitely recommend getting in touch with them if this sounds like a good opportunity for your organization.

Asif Choudry (28:12):

Thanks John. And, um, so tell us now moving on to, uh, recruitment marketing. Do, do you believe that recruitment marketing plays a role in this too?

John Neugebauer (28:23):

100% find surprisingly, housing still has a bit of a best kept secret in terms of being a great sector to work in that as you know, as if it’s a sector that’s full of purpose driven organizations, you have great cultures and put people first and it’s also a brilliant training ground for anyone slotting out in their career. So we’ve put, um, a lot of work into grabbing people’s attention through our recruitment marketing to help us attract people who might not have thought about our sector previously. And we’ve done this through developing a strong brand personality that manifests through both tone of voice and design that runs through our job adverts and job descriptions. Some people have misconceptions about housing that it’s old fashioned, however, those of us who work in it know it can be further from the truth. So our brand personality aims to bust the myth with a fresh, modern and dare I say, quirky approach.

John Neugebauer (29:16):

And we see our adverts as the first filter in our recruitment process as they not only help attract the right people who connect with our values, but they also tend to put some people off who we aren’t the right choice for as well. And that’s totally okay. And going back to the awards again, we’ve found they’ve helped shape the narrative around our organization and a way of showing external credibility to emphasize what’s important to you. So a lot of people tell us that they didn’t know much about housing, but when they saw things like we’re an investor in people platinum organization, then they almost do a double take and take another look at the adverts. Um, and a really important thing to note and to make sure you’re doing is, um, to make sure external employee brand is consistent with what people experience when they join.

John Neugebauer (30:04):

If there’s a gap, then yeah, you’re losing trust with your new employees already. And one of the best compliments we get from these starters is what you put across externally is exactly what you get internally, in fact is even better than I expected. So yeah, always music to ears when we hear that. I would just say ultimately though, the foundation of our recruitment marketing is diversity. We always want to make sure we’re getting as a wide range of applications possible. So for example, we search around to find job boards that are catering to those in the global majority. And yeah, we want to make sure those people who haven’t previously considered working in housing and to make sure that we, um, ensure all candidates get the fairest opportunity to come and join us.

Asif Choudry (30:49):

Yeah, great. And then you, you working quite a regulated sector, John, so what top tips do you have for those, um, who are trying to cut through in equally regulated or even more tightly regulated sectors even?

John Neugebauer (31:04):

Yeah, I can really empathize them. I, I’d say firstly I’d say don’t worry about making small steps first. So when I first joined R H P, our leaders were understandably slightly tentative about joining Twitter. So a way around this I put together a monthly publication called the Rhp Opinion. Um, this was a really straightforward graphic where each of our executive directors commented on trending stories, um, that month and that were relevant to their business area when posting this graphic and made sure the original journalists were tagged in the graphic and other publications that we wanted to work with. And this was successful for us for two reasons. So firstly we did start to see those journalists come and approach us for further comments. And then also when our leaders saw that it was so successful, it made them feel more encouraged to go on social media channels themselves.

John Neugebauer (31:53):

And that includes our chief executive who enjoys regularly tweeting now. Um, so if you have leaders who say no when you approach them about joining social, let that be an inspiration for you. And if you do find yourself in that situation, I find the following example might help sway things. And this is an example from a favorite leader of mine, Sarah Walker Smith, who Id definitely recommend giving a photo on LinkedIn. Uh, Sarah is CEO of the law firm, Shakespeare Martinu. So the legal sector, one of the most regulated sectors of all, and she’s been named the number one social law firm leader in the country. And that’s despite the fact that other law firms are 20 times larger than Shakespeare martinu. So automatically that’s giving her company competitive advantage. So it just goes to show getting your authentic voice out there is immensely important for cut through and standing out from the crowd and ultimately be encouraged to know that your customers now expect you to stand for something.

John Neugebauer (32:49):

The consumers have moved away from status symbols and towards status stories, so they want to have that feel good factor when doing business with you. So look out for those opportunities and shout about them. It could be the bank that you work for has paid for the hanging baskets and the high streets that you serve or the university you work for is providing free training to key workers. Whatever it is, get the good news out there. Look for user generated content opportunities to have your customers done something that’s particularly standouts and they’re happy for you to share it. When the story is coming from the customer themselves, it’s always so much more powerful and last, but by no means least they forget about the power of internal word of mouth. So for example, after launching Connect with Home, we saw a rise in our internal survey scores and the understanding our purpose and the work that we do makes a different categories. And we believe this increase came from a clearer storytelling aspect that was enabled by the function of Connects with home and launching regular features like no letting up, which highlights the stories of new customers who are moving into our homes. That positive feeling has a domino effect with our people and they go on to tell their family and friends about how we’re making a difference as an organization. And yeah, who knows, people within their circle might want to come and work for us or even become a customer.

Asif Choudry (34:13):

That’s so brilliant John. And those questions have brought out so much invaluable content and I’m sure people will be jotting down, pausing, rewinding, listening back to take up a lot of those points. But just around things up then, what would your top three tips be?

John Neugebauer (34:31):

Definitely, firstly, I’d say thank you for saying that as if, and I did warn people to grab a cup of tea at the start, so you can’t say I didn’t warn you <laugh>. So yeah, to wrap up I would say Holy trinity of tips are number one, collaborative working. How can you get together as a sector to overcome barriers including challenging those outdated or incorrect views of your sector? And then look for ways to positively, positively turn those notions on their head. Number two, think left of center. Where is your perspective audience? And even think about where your lapse customers may not expect to find you and make them think, oh, okay, I need to take a fresh look at them. When doing this, look outside your sector for inspiration. You might be seeing a clothing brand smashing it on social or a phone provider putting out an ad that you love.

John Neugebauer (35:16):

Think about what it’s like, um, about, think about what you like about that chosen outputs and why you think it works. You can then take the function behind that content and think how you would apply it into your own content that you’re putting out there. And then number three, make sure you’re clear on the top three topic areas that you want to be known for as an organization. Keep repeating those messages clearly and think of ways to get those topics under key journalist noses until you are one of those top three companies that they’re approaching for quotes. Mike Drop, that’s, that’s

Asif Choudry (35:51):

Been, that’s that’s, listen, there’s, there’s tons for people to take away from that and uh, um, some really good insight there for, um, for the listeners. So John, you’ve been part of the com zero community for, for a number of years now and you’ve attended events and got involved and you’ll be getting involved even more, uh, this year. Um, so tell us why is Comms Zero important to you and would you recommend people working in comms and marketing to be part of it?

John Neugebauer (36:20):

Oh man, I could talk all day about this as if for real. So I’d say the really special thing about Comms Zero, it almost feels like a chosen family. You know, one big fun, I know the best way Dysfunctional family <laugh>. Um, and it gives you that real sense <laugh>, it gives you that real sense of belonging. Um, I think ironically our discipline is particularly bad at doing PR for their own work. I think that’s partly due to us wanting to tell other people’s stories. So to have a place to see best practices and get a chance to celebrate our peer successes, it’s really amazing. Um, it’s also got to meet one of the most supportive communities I’ve had the pleasure of being part of. So if you have a question or want to run a an idea past somebody, then you’re safe in the knowledge that you are with a group of experts who always do want to help. So yeah, long Live comms hero and if you’re not following the accounts yet, what are you waiting for?

Asif Choudry (37:16):

No, thank you John, I appreciate that. And um, uh, it’s been a, a great interview, loads of stuff for people to take away. I know the Comms Hero listeners are gonna enjoy that. We, uh, want people to connect with you and enjoy content from you long after listening to the podcast. So where will they find you, what your social handles, John?

John Neugebauer (37:36):

Yeah, absolutely. So probably best to contact me on Twitter. My handle is at j the Marketer. Always happy to hear from my comms fan. Um, yeah, get in touch,

Asif Choudry (37:48):

Thanks. Excellent. And uh, we’ll share John’s details in the show notes as well, but you’ll find this podcast on Spotify, apple and on our website com And you can follow us on Twitter at com zero. If you do listen on Spotify and Apple, please do leave a rating and review and hit the follow button as well and subscribe so you can get up to date with lots of new episodes that are becoming your way this year. And if you do fancy getting into that guest hot seat as John’s just done now and you’re passionate about a comms subject, then drop me a line. Ask if Chowdry DM on LinkedIn or Twitter or via comms here as a contact us form on the website. Put forward your topic and you could be in the hot seat, um, uh, with these questions being asked to you. So John, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much. And can’t wait for EV to share this with all our listeners.

John Neugebauer (38:39):

The pleasures being on mine as thank you so much again for having me.

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