A How-To Guide for an Effective HOA Board Communication Strategy
Great communication matters. The residents in your community association need and rely on consistent, clear information communicated from their board members and management associates. That includes everything from upcoming events to new policies. Effective communication facilitates the answering of questions, the overcoming of challenges and the deepening of community ties. A good flow of communication gives residents, management and board members the chance to exchange ideas and information, leading to chances to enhance the lifestyles of everyone in the community. If communication is done poorly, havoc is more likely than harmony.
What are the critical elements of clear, effective communication? Read on for basic guidelines to make it easier.
1. Assess your resources.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. Remember that some residents may not have email and only a home phone, so flexibility is key. "Knowing your community's communication needs is imperative. The most popular form of communication these days seems to be electronic,” said Ana Smith, community manager for FirstService Residential in North Carolina. “But when an emergency arises and you need to reach the whole community, will the internet reach all the residents affected? We need to be prepared and think outside the box to truly fulfill this essential task."
What resources do you have available to communicate to your residents? A printed quarterly newsletter? Email blasts? Flyers by mailboxes? Text messaging? Announcements at meetings? Phone calls? A website? Social media? 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 Memorial Day picnic is perfect for social media, newsletters and flyers, but may not be something that you want to send a text message about. Text messages are great for reminders of the annual meeting 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.
2. Create a social media policy.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, it’s a good idea to invest a little bit of time in creating a strategy for official use of social media.
- Who is responsible for managing it?
- What channels will your association use?
- When should social media be used?
- How should it be used?
- How should they respond to negative comments or feedback?
3. Update your contact information.It is imperative to maintain 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.
Remind residents to keep their info updated in each issue of your community newsletter, on your website and at events and board meetings. Post a flyer in a community common place. Don’t forget to delegate entering the updates into your database so that it gets done!
4. Empower your committees to assist.Board committees can help let residents know about the items that they are in charge of. For example, if you have a committee that executes social events, they should also help with communicating those events, working with your management team 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.
5. Consider getting professional assistance.The right community association management company can assist your board in creating and executing a cohesive communication plan that includes all of the points mentioned above and more. A solid management company will have the availability for 24/7 support via a customer care 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, North Carolina’s leading community association management partner.