Email Communication Best Practices for Coronavirus Information

email-covid-image.jpgBetween social distancing and stay-at-home/safer-at-home orders, face-to-face interactions with residents are becoming few and far between. However, just because you aren’t seeing residents doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be hearing from you. In fact, it’s more important than ever to continually update shareholders or unit owners on news regarding the coronavirus as it relates to their buildings and homes.

During this time, email communication is extremely important for sharing crucial updates and information on COVID-19 with your residents and renters, regularly planned maintenance or repairs and even some much-needed good news.

Here are some email communication best practices for your building to use when sending out communications regarding the current pandemic.

Designate a communication team.

First things first, you’ll find the process to be more effective if you assemble a great team. This team can be made up of board members, volunteers from the building, or you can choose to hire staff. It doesn’t have to be a large team, but make sure you have the following people identified:
  • Researcher: When sending out emails regarding COVID-19, it’s imperative that the information you’re giving residents is accurate, up to date and relevant. The person designated as the researcher should be adept at finding and verifying information as it pertains to the coronavirus and your building.
  • Writer: The quality of writing in your email is just as important as the information it contains. Typos and grammatical errors are embarrassing and undermine the credibility of your communication. A well-written email will be grammatically correct and clearly communicate the information collected by the researcher. Your writer and researcher can be the same person if you choose.
  • Editor: No matter how good your writer is, it’s important to have a second set of eyes on anything your board sends out to residents. No one is perfect and an editor is there to catch any inadvertent mistakes that the writer may have made when putting the email together. The writer and editor should always be two different people.
  • Sender: The person sending the email has access to whatever email marketing system your building uses and the technical expertise to set up the email and ensure it gets sent to all subscribed residents in the building. It can be one of the other people involved (the researcher, writer, or editor) or even the property manager.
  • Graphic Designer (Optional): It’s not required to have a graphic designer working on your emails, but a nicely designed email is more likely to have higher engagement than one without any design to it.

Agree on what to communicate.

It’s important to agree internally about what will be communicated before any announcements are made to assure that messaging will be consistent throughout any emails sent. Consider when legal approval of statements may be necessary and be sure to involve your attorney when that is the case. Never equivocate in any emails. If an answer is not yet clear, do not send emails with estimates or “best guesses.” If you don’t have the answers to the questions residents are asking, be honest and tell them that the board is looking into solutions or answers and will follow up when there is more concrete information.
Be prepared to provide timely updates and inform residents where to go for additional information or questions.

Ensure contact information is up to date.

What good is an email communicating new information regarding coronavirus if it’s not reaching your residents’ inboxes? “The best communication in the world doesn’t matter if no one can reach their residents,” says Jeremy Cohen, business development director at FirstService Residential New York.
When residents contact the office for any reason, take a minute to make sure their contact info is current. This will help maintain a clean and up-to-date email list and ensure as many residents as possible are receiving your email updates.

Make sure the information is accurate.

To communicate more, some boards may share too much information too quickly. Right now, with information surrounding the coronavirus coming in fast and changing daily, it’s easy to inadvertently include information that is inaccurate or outdated. Before you charge ahead and send an email to the residents, take some time to verify with your property manager and your attorney that what you are about to share is accurate and appropriate.

Be clear about who the email is from and what’s inside.

When sending emails to shareholders or unit holders, use the name of the property in the “from” section of the email to make sure it’s clear that the email they’re receiving is from the building’s board and/or property manager. Don’t risk the chance of someone not recognizing the sender and glazing over the email. In situations like this, clarity is the number one priority and being consistent will help you achieve a clear message.

Provide clear, succinct subject lines. Now is not the time for flowery subject lines. For any COVID-19-related emails, use simple subject lines such as “Cleaning Efforts in Response to COVID-19.” This very quickly tells readers what to expect when they open the email and will increase the likelihood of it being opened, if relevant.

Keep transparency a priority.

As regulations shift and expectations begin to change surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, residents will look to you for information surrounding their building. While you want to make sure you’re always presenting them with accurate information, it’s important not to hold too much back when communicating about any new house rules and regulations as they relate to coronavirus.
While not all of the news you’re communicating may be good news, it’s better that residents are aware. Take time to explain why the new rules exist and how it will benefit everyone in the building on the whole.

For example, some residents may be itching to start using the buildings amenities after they’ve been closed for the last couple of months and may be upset at new rules surrounding amenity use. Communicating to them that reopening amenities must be done carefully and safely to keep all residents safe will let them know why such decisions were made.

Keep your emails clear, transparent and accurate and your residents will be thanking you for continued communication throughout this pandemic. As always, when it comes to email communication best practices for anything related to COVID-19, many of the same general best practices that you would apply to any email communication apply to these specific emails as well, including consulting with your attorney when appropriate. Please note that the categories above are not exhaustive and there may be other practices you may want to consider when communicating with residents.

Want to learn more about communicating during the COVID-19 crisis? Download FirstService Residential’s Crisis Communication Guide.