How to Communicate so Condo Residents Listen
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When your board clearly and effectively communicates with residents, it has a positive impact on the overall wellbeing of your condo corporation. Open and honest communication creates the perception of transparency and facilitates a feeling of community.
Poor communication, on the other hand, can negatively impact your corporation’s reputation and even your operating budget and property values. “When there is a lack of communication, you get what I call a ‘black hole’ or a ‘silent spiral,’” says Clare Jackson, Vice President, Human Resources at FirstService Residential. She explains that corporation members will often fill that void with misinformation and rumors. “That negative word of mouth spreads faster and further than people realize.”
“People may begin to think that decisions affecting their condo values are being made in secret or without their input,” Jackson says. Ironically, that belief can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. “When you have a community that isn’t happy with where they live, it will directly affect their home values,” she points out.
Start with a communication plan.
- Break down your objectives into attainable goals. Outline what you want your communication plan to accomplish using the SMART format (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timeframe).
- Think of your audience. Consider their current knowledge and understanding of the issue, and if necessary, simplify complex concepts.
- Use all available communication resources and channels. Residents have different preferences when it comes to receiving communications, so use as many as you can to be sure you’re not missing anyone, including e-blasts, newsletters, billing statements, announcements, reminders at board meetings, social media and resident alert systems.
Ideally, you want members of your community to be informed about everything that’s affecting them, but if you have limited time or resources, what should you focus on first? Your board has to make sure it is complying with legal requirements and corporation bylaws, such as notifying residents about board meetings, so these communications are non-negotiable. However, there are other topics that you should prioritize.
For example, communicating about financial matters is particularly important. This includes general communications regarding the condo corporation’s overall finances as well as those about individual accounts. It’s always a good idea to remind residents when their assessment fees are due and the amount they owe.
You should also reiterate rules and regulations regularly so that everyone in the community is aware of them. Members of your condo corporation are more likely to comply with policies if you provide them with frequent reminders. If your community experiences a period of higher-than-normal resident turnover, that’s a great time to send out a reminder of your policies. This will help prevent excessive violations, which can cause property values to decline – especially if they affect the community’s aesthetics.
Architectural modifications are another area that requires adequate communication. Residents need to understand your policy, restrictions and process for requesting approval. Even if your governing documents clearly spell this out, residents may still make assumptions based on past experiences or hearsay.
Communicating openly and effectively with residents takes time, effort and careful planning. But it pays off. Residents will feel better about the community if they are kept in the loop, and they are more likely to follow the rules if they are reminded regularly. All of that contributes to the success of the corporation, the satisfaction of residents and the value of everyone’s property.
Does your association have a plan for after-hours communications?
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