Livv Housing Group CEO Leann Hearne talks to Housing Digital about the practicalities of becoming one of the first housing associations to rebrand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dilute, delay or do it. These were the three practical decisions I faced as our 12-month-in-the-making rebrand ended up on a collision course with the start of a pandemic lockdown.
The 26th March was the date planned for our big reveal. It was the calendar marker for our staff conference that would unite our employees behind our new identity, our look, our feel, our tone of voice, the unveiling of our whole new vibe internally ahead of our customer launch on 1st April.
Our Livv Housing rebrand was about our people and our future. It involved hundreds of hours of working group contribution with our employees, board members, stakeholders, and the partner organisations who work closely with our communities to create something fresh, simple, and authentic to take us forward.
From defining our core values – making a difference daily, being positively open, forging the right way, and being together as one – to picking colour palettes and shaping our strapline (Positive Impact, Flourishing Communities), the connection to our new identity was down to our people.
The staff conference was the point I was set to stand on the stage to lead the business into our new dawn. It was the point that I would sound the klaxon for the official launch of our three-year Corporate Plan, positioning us as a caring, confident, and clear brand. We were all set.
Then, on 23rd March, the government announced lockdown – just three days before the staff conference. While the pace of the pandemic spread meant that our business continuity planning was already signalling the strong likelihood of conference cancellation, the domino effect of lockdown on our whole rebrand was seismic.
‘Dilute, delay or do it’ came into play. Did we dial the rebrand down, just give it half a show, push it back to 2021 or would we go ahead and do it?
Dedication answered the dilemma. All who had contributed to the process had developed something that mattered. They had all put something of themselves into the new Livv Housing brand, and that determined the decision to crack on and do it.
“We were going to go ahead as planned, but our approach to COVID-19 safety and adherence to government regulation had to come first”
But back to reality. Our fleet was part-branded in new livery but had to be parked up, our office signage programme was stalled, we had direct mailers that had gone to customers teasing the rebrand, we had a new intranet and customer facing website ready to go live, we had our lovely new uniforms bagged up but we couldn’t distribute them…
All our messaging had to change at pace. We had to pivot our approach to recognise that we were going to go ahead as planned, but our approach to COVID-19 safety and adherence to government regulation had to come first.
Our new intranet was crucial to cascading the messaging we wanted to convey and to keeping us all connected as one team as we followed government guidance and moved to remote working. But it also gave us a real sense of community and a wider sense of wellbeing in the lockdown landscape.
As part of the rebrand assets, a simple yet stylish and engaging employee platform had been created. As a complement to critical business continuity updates and safety information, we have a social-media style function where staff can engage with content with likes, ‘hearts’, and comments.
In turn, a ‘picture of the day’ spot has proved incredibly popular with colleagues all too keen to share their snaps – from children painting rainbows in support of the NHS, to tots like Daisy having a go at email, and new-born puppies.
It would be inauthentic of me to deny the low points we fell into along the way, though. Cancelling the staff conference, being unable to offer comfort and reassurance to employees, and closing our buildings – these moments were some of the most difficult of my career.
But I’ve also felt such incredible moments of pride, such as the moment I saw a picture of our plasterer Craig Lawther’s one-year-old son, Coby, trying on his dad’s new Livv Housing uniform. That’s the story of a rebrand all about our people.
When I watch the fly-through video we made – dubbed Livving after Lockdown to deliver key messaging about our new ways of working as our employees came back to the office on 20 July – it moves me to see all we’ve achieved together.
Our new brand has joined us on this journey, and it has become intertwined with our organisation’s history.
Main image: Leann Hearne, Chief Executive, Livv Housing Group