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HUD Reaches Out to Empower Americans

August 9, 1999

by Candi Harrison and Cynthia OíConnor

The Departmental Web Team at HUD manages three web-based information products: HUDís award-winning Homes and Communities web page, the HUD Next Door Kiosks, and HUDís Answer Machines, which provide free access to the internet in every HUD office. But they knew you canít just create a new product and expect it to sell - you have to market it! So HUD became one of the first federal agencies to develop and implement a marketing and outreach plan, to let audiences to what HUD has to offer and - just as important - to get their feedback.

HUDís marketing and outreach strategy has 3 major components:

  1. Go to the audience: HUD seeks opportunities to demonstrate its web-based products all over the country, at major professional conferences, such as the National League of Cities and the Urban League and at public events, such as State Fairs, Home and Garden Shows, and Homebuying Fairs. HUDís staff can schedule five colorful traveling versions of the HUD Next Door Kiosk to take to public events and meetings, on which they can demonstrate both the kiosk and HUDís home page. In the past 6 months, the traveling kiosks have appeared at more than 60 events around the country, including the Maine State Legislature.
  2. Leave a calling card. A brochure describing HUDís web products is sent out, handed out, and set out in public places, all over the country. Small tokens - magnets and bookmarks with HUDís web address - are distributed at conferences and public events. And HUD pioneered an automated tour of its Homes and Communities Page, distributed on CD ROM. Community Builders and Web Managers throughout the Department use the CD tours to help them do presentations to client groups; and HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo sent copies of the CD tour to every member of Congress, to help them use HUDís web site.
  3. Listen to the audience: To make a product better, you need to ask the users if it does what itís supposed to do - if itís meeting their needs. So HUDís Web Team conducts focus groups with the public and with business partners on a regular basis, to get feedback on their Homes and Communities Page. These informal demonstrations serve both to show focus group members how the web page works and to get ideas for ways to improve it.

What Are the Results?

And what are the results of these efforts? In the past year alone, monthly use of HUDís Homes and Communities web page has gone up by 70,000, from 330,000 visitors per month to more than 400,000 visitors per month! Interest in HUDís kiosks has been overwhelming, as a result of the displays of the traveling kiosks. At one meeting alone, the Web Team collected more than 100 business cards from mayors and other local officials who want a kiosk in their own cities and towns. As important, the public perception of HUD is enhanced.

David Gallian from HUDís West Virginia Office promotes the fact that HUD has become as convenient as the local 7-Eleven store. HUDís kiosk provide citizens with access 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A recent visitor to the kiosk commented, "I canít believe I was able to get help in finding housing information right here (at the LaRaza conference), yaíll (HUD) have come a long way toward getting more information into the hands of those in the community who need it, but donít know how to find it."

Bonnie J. Peak-Graham, a Community Builder in HUDís New England Region offers this comment, "Our ability to bring HUD and the resources of the agency closer to the end-user is greatly enhanced by the presence of the kiosk in a community. The kiosk assists Community Builderís in our efforts to underscore the multi-dimensional nature of HUD as a community partner. Providing and disseminating information is the core of any successful community empowerment strategy. The kiosk provides such a vast amount of information in places of familiarity. We were consistently told that the kiosk at City Hall and on site at HUD funded developments made the user more comfortable and feeling that they understood that HUD was about them. If we are achieving this kind of response it really does mean that HUD is Ďnext doorí".

About the Authors

Candi Harrison is Web Manager and Cynthia OíConnor is the Director of Marketing and Outreach for the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C. You may reach them at (202) 708-1547 or Candis_B._Harrison @

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