I heard last week a director of a large housing provider rejected Quids in! magazine for its tabloid style. I guess he thinks it's a bit low rent.
Of course it is. That's the whole point. 'Just like your housing,' I want to respectfully point out.
Sometimes I read it in the eyes of comms officers we present our products to, recoiling in horror at wideboy Delboy, minted guitar-twanger Dolly Parton or a soppy puppy on our covers: 'What on earth has this to do with good money management?'
At every Money Advice Service (MAS) I've been to in the past couple of years, the question repeatedly asked is: 'How do we engage these people?' It's the same issue I've been banging on about in this blog for years now, whether in the context of the general election, or the referendum, or now Brexit. The suits can't see the simple truth: They're not like you, they have different lives and needs. And reads.
The Quids in! Readership Survey goes a long way to demonstrate not only these differences between metropolitan policy-makers and the rest but also the widening gap between various status low income households too.
MAS has gone to lengths to include behavioural economists in many of its presentations. Their insight illuminates the Quids in! approach and makes it more than about emulating Take a Break to appeal to a similar audience. It explains the influence we exert by including readers' voices, snappy 'salient' headlines, and top tips ( that work like 'heuristics').
My go to papers on this stuff are the RSA's Wired for Imprudence and Institute for Government's public policy document MINDSPACE. Both highlight the need to engage people with simple messages from trusted sources, independent and preferably familiar. They lay down the challenge for interrupting habits and short-term thinking with promotion of different perspectives and easy, impactful tasks.
All this means speaking the right language, presenting the right messages and engaging. The government has (and will always) fail to connect in this way - it's best instrument is legislation, like changing drink-driving or seatbelt habits or even subcultures. I don't believe landlords can do it because (a) they're not independent and (b) their comms officers sometimes don't understand that Dolly Parton will get people reading something that otherwise risks appearing dull or presumptuous.
MAS cannot do it either because it is a public service and has no authenticity when it comes to telling people straight. Take their Universal Credit Guide. Simple it may be, but only in presenting how the system is supposed to work. Compare that to Quids In's UC Guide with its underlying 'this has proved tough for many claimants but here's how you avoid the pitfalls' message.
This is all borne out by the Quids in! research. More than half of readers rated the magazine for making them feel less alone. This is an under-valued aspect of our work where people are feeling isolated and, unsurprisingly, anxious, frightened and depressed, (see the full report). Just 11 percent said they didn't really find the magazine useful, while 17 per cent said they did 'all the time'. (41% said 'often' and 31% said 'sometimes'.)
It's a huge vote of confidence in our approach, (one MAS declined to echo as they turned down our funding bid to do more of the same). That we can show people feel more inclined to look after their money after reading, that many recognised a money problem they'd been ignoring, many of them deciding to find help and many of them accessing advice, proves our low rent approach might just be thing low income households want right now.
The question for us is not about winning the trust of low income households, it's about how to engage those comms officers, CEOs and metropolitan policy-makers.