Communication Impacts Every Part of Your Community: Do You Have a Plan?
Why is good communication so important?
The main reason to ensure your board is communicating effectively is trust. The community must be confident the association fees are being used for the betterment of everyone who lives there. A lack of communication can result in misunderstandings and rumors which tend to be negative and may cause an increase in late payments as people lose faith in the board and management team. People may even withhold payment entirely because they don’t think the board is using the money correctly. As a result, they may take less pride of ownership and the sense of community will diminish. Don’t let people think decisions affecting their home values are being made ‘in secret’ or without their input. When you have a community that isn’t happy with where they live, it will directly affect your home values.
Learning to communicate more effectively is what will ultimately assist board members by creating strong relationships with homeowners and residents. Plus, great communication will help the management team create a memorable client experience.
How can you create a good communication plan for your association?
1. Identify the primary goal of your communication. For example, to make the community aware of their homeowner assessment increase and explain why it is necessary.
2. Break down your objectives in attainable goals. What do you want your communication plan to accomplish? Outline your steps within the SMART format (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Bound).
- Speaking of timeframe, start communicating new issues or ideas earlier rather than later. Allow time for discussion and digestion of material (but not too much time).
3. Think of your audience. What it is their current understanding of the situation?
- How knowledgeable are they?
- What information would you want if you were in their shoes?
- Remember that your residents haven’t been dealing with this item on a daily basis like the board has and may need basic background information.
4. How controversial is the item? If you feel it is more controversial, then address it head-on. Hold town hall meetings to address homeowner concerns. Partner with experts, including vendors or local officials, and invite them to these meetings. Allow the homeowners to ask questions of the experts.
5. Determine which communication channels you have available. For example, e-blasts, newsletters, billing statements, announcements at meetings, social media and Connect, FirstService Residential’s proprietary mass communication platform.
- Choose more than one method. Choosing only one method of communication may cause you to miss a segment of your community. It may be helpful to conduct a survey to find out your community’s preferred methods of communication. It doesn’t matter how great your message is if people don’t see it.
- Refrain from using personal or work email addresses to communicate association business. Create individual email accounts for your board members to use to communicate with residents, management staff, vendors and other board members. The board member email accounts can be created by using your community’s domain name or a free email service.
What topics should you be most concerned about communicating well?
Every area of your community is impacted by communication. For example, community members can’t be held responsible for complying with policies if they haven’t been told about them. Frequent reminders, especially around seasonal items like snow removal, are important. Rules and regulations need to be reiterated regularly so that all residents are aware of them. If your community sees a higher than normal resident turnover, that’s a great time to send a communication reminding everyone of policies that need to be followed. An increase in violations, especially those that impact the community’s aesthetics, can cause property values to decline.
When it comes to architectural modifications, communication matters. Residents need to be aware of the process and all steps they need to take to get an architectural modification approved. Communicating the policy about architectural modifications, including any limitations or restrictions, is essential. Some communities have policies that allow residents to assume that their requests for architectural modifications are approved if they aren’t responded to in a certain amount of time. Failure to communicate in response to a request for architectural modifications can have unpleasant consequences for a community’s curb appeal and, ultimately, property values.
Communication to residents is especially important when it comes to financial matters. Boards should communicate regularly with residents about how much they owe and when payments are due. Communication about finances could be eased with an effective technology platform that allows residents to check their balances and make payments at any time. At FirstService Residential, we have found providing a condensed version of all financial reports and making them accessible on the Connect website supports transparency and engagement of association members. This sort of transparency can improve your community’s collection of association dues, because it makes residents feel more in control of their finances.
A vital part of managing your community is understanding how much communication can impact your community, positively or negatively. Creating a good communication plan, using the guidelines above, and focusing communication on the most important topics, will help keep your community on track, improving both resident lifestyles and property values.
Partnering with a quality property management company can provide your community with the resources you need to craft a comprehensive communication plan: effective board training, an innovative technology platform and guidance in creating that plan.
To learn more, contact FirstService Residential, Minnesota’s leading property management company, today.