Many of our friends in the industry, including my friend Tony at MHLivingNews, have questioned why MHI hasn’t made a strong rebuttal response to the PBS story.
There are good arguments that we should respond to every story, refute every statistic, and make our case to the public. Certainly we can make the case that the PBS story was not fair and balanced reporting. Just one example is the interview with Dick Ernst. Dick spent several hours with PBS representing our industry as an official spokesman. The reporter had about one hour of taped interview with Dick and used only 45 seconds of that interview.
We can also make a case to counter the segment addressing manufactured home site rent increase. No one from MHI was asked to comment on the segment and the allegation that consumers become trapped in their homes. The reporter did not make any effort to understand the cost of operating a manufactured home community and why those costs must be passed on to the tenants, even though MHI provided ample evidence and information to assist the reporter in his research.
The reporter did not attempt to compare site rent increases to apartment rent increases. Just last week, the Wall Street Journal ran a Section C front page story about apartment rent increases. The annual rate of rent increases has averaged 3.93% over the last 4 years. This is a greater rate of increase than cited for lot rent in the PBS story where leader/actor Ms. Burr was complaining about her site rent increasing just over 3% per year.
So why not respond with our good facts?
The PBS story ran on a date where everyone was busy with the holidays and very few people saw the story. The last thing we want to do is bring more attention to a negative story about our industry.
The other problem with responding is the selective nature of what the press will print when you know they have an agenda. If we submit the above paragraph where I acknowledge Ms. Burr’s site rent increases on average more than 3% per year, what do you think PBS will print? The risk is that they leave out the comparison to apartment rents that increase nearly 4% per year and print our acknowledgment that manufactured housing community site rents increase over 3% per year as they repeat their assertion that manufactured homes depreciate and residents become trapped in their homes.
I understand the argument that we must work harder to tell our story and emphasize the advantages of manufactured homes. We have a good product and a good story to tell. We don’t need to tell it to people with an agenda who will only tell half the story. MHI has been focused on communicating positive messages about manufactured housing’s benefit. We are targeting media sources that will give us a fair hearing and policymakers in Washington. This effort to drown out the negative media attention has been steadily increasing and we are pleased to have so many members willing to highlight the positive message of manufactured housing in this effort. We believe this is the right approach for the industry. Make no mistake, MHI issued a strong response to the PBS story by going straight to its producers. This targeted approach has yielded the opportunity for MHI to receive fair airtime on that program at a future date, and we are currently exploring this opportunity.
Additionally, MHI President/CEO Dick Jennison is in the process of hiring a seasoned media relations professional. This position was approved by the MHI Board for the position to begin in March 2016, but at the request of Dick Jennison, the MHI executive committee approved bring on this position as soon as the right person can be hired.
It is the intent of MHI to broaden its public relations/communications focus to include positive consumer stories including testimonials on why people choose to live in and how they benefit from manufactured homes and living in our communities.##
President/CEO 21st Mortgage Corp.
(Editor’s Note: the link to the PBS story in the first paragraph was not in Tim Williams letter as submitted, rather, that link was provided so that those not readers not familiar with the PBS story could be up-to-speed on the issues he raises. You can see PBS video and the transcript, complete with the MHLivingNews response, at this link here.
Addtionally, please note that the headline submitted by Tim Williams read, Responding to PBS. Traditionally in media, it is the editor who selects headlines, and we modified his as shown to make clear the issue being addressed, and frankly, for better SEO on this important topic.
Other perspectives on this or other issues facing MH are encouraged.)