Effective HOA Board Communication: A How-To Guide
“When it comes to communication, it is important that it is consistently delivered and the information is relevant, not just weekly fluff to fill the page. Being able to deliver it through several different types of channels is also very important,” said Trent Harrison, president in the East region of FirstService Residential. “Some of our residents don’t have email and they only have a home phone, so we need to be able to have flexibility in how we communicate to reach a wide audience of residents. What also drives how the message is communicated is predicated on what needs to be communicated and how urgent the issue is. If the issue is urgent, such as a water leak, we use our ResidentAlert system, a robocall blast message system, to get an urgent message delivered quickly and the resident will listen to it.”
What are the critical elements of great communication? Let’s take a look.
1. Know how to reach your community.It’s critical to make sure that you have a record of the best, most current ways to reach your residents. That means collecting more than a physical address. Keeping updated cell phone numbers and email addresses is more time consuming, but these methods of rapid communication are essential in any urgent situation. When gathering the information for your community association, make sure that you include all homeowners and residents, including rental tenants, in the process. Keep that process simple and make sure that residents know how to notify the board and management company in the event of a job change, new cell phone provider or email switch.
Announce the process for updates in each issue of your community newsletter, on your website and at events and board meetings. Post a flyer in a community common place. Most importantly, designate someone on the board or management team to be responsible for making sure that updates are entered into your database on a regular basis.
2. Know how your community wants to be reached.What resources do you have available to communicate to your residents? A printed quarterly newsletter? Email blasts? Flyers by mailboxes? A website? Social media? Text messaging? Announcements at meetings? Phone calls? When developing a communication strategy, first list all of the means that you have to communicate with your community. Next to each one, list the types of messages that are appropriate for that channel. For example, the community holiday party is perfect for social media, newsletters and flyers, but may not be something that you want to send a potentially disruptive text message about. Text messages are great for reminders of the annual meeting and elections and for emergency situations in the community. Knowing which kinds of messages you want to communicate and how you want to communicate them is key to clear, effective communication. If you don’t have a type of communication available to you and want that, explore it. Make sure that you know the best ways to reach as many of your residents as possible.
3. Make use of your board committees.If your community is very large, committees can help with communicating to residents about the items that they are in charge of. For example, if you have a committee that executes social events, they should also be in charge of communicating those events to the residents, working with your management team and social media committee as appropriate to spread the word via newsletters, website updates, email blasts, social media posts and flyers. Committee members should calendar events and work back from them to schedule these vital communications in advance so that they work with the overall communication strategy, rather than conflict with it by requiring too many messages at once.
4. Use social media wisely.Social media can be an effective tool for communication, but it has the potential for problems if it is not managed appropriately. To that end, the board should invest a little bit of time in creating a strategy for official use of social media. When should social media be used? How should it be used? Who is responsible for managing it and how should they respond to negative comments or feedback? It’s important to know why you are using social media and how. Choose which channels you want to use carefully, considering the demographics of your community. These are the basics of a solid social media policy. Build followers by announcing your social presence at every opportunity. For more in-depth information on social media best practices, read our article here.
5. Bring in a professional.The right community association management company can help you and your board create and execute a comprehensive communication strategy that includes all of the ideas listed above – and then some. A solid management company will allow you to enable 24/7 availability through a customer call center, alert service in case of emergencies, surveys that invite feedback for improvement and tech-forward solutions.
Don’t ever sell short the value of clear, comprehensive communication from the HOA board to both its community members and the management company that serves them. The tips outlined above will help your board be able to create effective messaging that draws your community together. For more information about compelling communication and how a professional management can help you carry it out, contact FirstService Residential, Maryland’s leading community association management partner.