The Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) provides subsidized rental housing and rental assistance to nearly 36,000 people in Seattle with low incomes. As the largest affordable housing provider in Seattle, SHA plays a critical role in preventing and reducing homelessness. SHA ensures that thousands of families, seniors, veterans, people with disabilities and others in the community have a safe, stable home and the opportunity to improve their lives.
Susanna Linse, SHA’s communications manager, is part of a small communications team that advises and supports other agency departments, manages centralized communications, and builds story, video and photography assets. Sharing stories of SHA tenants helps inspire others and enhances the connections, funding and partnerships SHA needs to fulfill their mission.
How do you even begin to convey SHA’s impact? By letting the people they serve speak for themselves, of course. SHA’s visual storytelling spotlights tenants and their incredibly moving stories of struggle and success. Creating these stories requires a large amount of visual content, including images, audio and video footage.
Beyond these tenant stories, SHA’s communications team uses visual content in almost every aspect of their work. The team creates content for the website, annual report, press releases, media engagement and social media, and oversees production of two e-newsletters for SHA tenants and the community at large. They also provide support to SHA programs such as JobLink, which provides career and educational services, and Community Services, which coordinates a wide range of community engagement activities.
When Susanna started at SHA, she took on the challenge of finding a way to organize their visual assets. “We had thousands of images in numerous files and folders on our internal network and in a cloud storage drive,” says Susanna. “It could take us hours to find photos and then we often wouldn’t know anything about the subjects, rights or releases.”
Keeping track of photo release forms for their images was also slowing the team down. “One of the things we really needed was a way to connect photo release forms with the photos themselves,” says Susanna. “With Canto we are able to relate files and easily access the associated documents through the asset’s information page.”
As an independent public corporation funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, SHA has limited dollars and must spend them wisely. They chose Canto as the best bang for their buck.
“Canto was the best solution to help us meet our goals while using our limited resources efficiently,” says Susanna.
A single source for assets and metadata
The communications team creates a variety of content to tell the story of SHA and its tenants, and communicate the agency’s impact on the Seattle community. This comes in many forms, from e-newsletters to feature videos and agency reports. Canto is the central hub for the tens of thousands of digital assets that the team generates, including photos, audio files, video files, PDF files and other documents.
“We need compelling photos for many of our projects and we can’t afford to spend hours looking for the right photos. After assigning metadata to our digital assets, the team can now just go into Canto, enter detailed search terms and easily find what they need,” says Susanna.
It’s not just having all their assets in one place that makes the difference. For Susanna, the big benefit is that many years from now, anyone will be able to open up an image in Canto and see everything they need within the system.
Sharing images with ease
The communications team generates and provides photos for other departments within the organization, often under tight deadlines because of the fast-paced nature of their work. With Canto, the team fulfills image requests faster, which keeps the broader organization running smoothly.
“Since launching Canto, we can better support requests from other departments under tight deadlines because it is no longer a trial searching for photos,” says Susanna.
It’s also easy for the team to get photos from external photographers or staff members who can upload directly to Canto via a unique link. Then, the team can decide which assets they want to move over to the main library.
SHA often works with community partners or other agencies on programs and events that help their tenants access the tools and resources they need to succeed. When SHA needs to share images with their partners, they can send them a unique link to Canto where they can view a curated collection and easily download selected photos.
Dedicated customer support
Susanna’s team is never on their own when they need help; a dedicated Canto customer support representative is just an email away.
“My account rep is fantastic to work with and very responsive to my questions. I really value the opportunity to have a real person to speak with – especially in an era that seems to devalue human customer service,” says Susanna.
Susanna points to SHA’s annual report as the perfect example of the difference Canto has made. The annual report summarizes significant milestones achieved during the year.
“It used to be very time-consuming to come up with a small collection of photos for our annual report,” says Susanna.
Now, as part of her production process, she creates a collection of photos for each section or page of the report then sends a link to her colleagues to review. It all takes much less time and she’s able to find more photos thanks to Canto’s easy search and filter capabilities.
“Photos can often help communicate messages more powerfully than words. Easily finding photos with specific criteria is where Canto shines for us,” says Susanna.