how to communicate effectively with your hoaBoard members, among all the other things they do, must ensure that residents are properly informed about happenings in the community, upcoming events, policy changes and more. Community residents rely on that information and it needs to be clear and consistent. When communication is done well, it provides a community the opportunity to face challenges, answer questions and ultimately grow closer. When communication is done poorly, chaos is more likely than clarity.
Follow our guidelines below for a roadmap to great communication that will keep everyone on the same path.
1. Know how you want to communicate.
“Most association communications flow along one of three paths: from the board to the community, from the community manager to the community and between the board and the community manager or management company. This closes all of the loops and keeps all interested parties informed,” said Robert Teeling, Senior Vice President in the East region of FirstService Residential. “What we have found is that when the community does not know what is happening in their own community they ‘fill in the blanks’ with what they think is happening and are usually wrong.” Teeling also recommends that, in addition to the necessary “negative” communications to community members about things like violations or overdue fees, that boards and managers make an effort to send positive communication about events, safety tips and other beneficial information. Once you know what direction the communication needs to flow, how will you send it?
Once you know that paths that your communications need to take, and the kinds of messages that you need to send, think about the methods you will use to send those messages. You may have access to more resources than you realize:
  • A printed newsletter
  • Email blasts
  • Flyers in common areas
  • Website
  • Phone calls
  • Announcements at meetings
  • Text messages
  • Social media
If you’re not sure how your residents want you to reach them, ask! Take a poll at the annual meeting or conduct a survey online. There are plenty of free tools to do that, some with social media sharing to help you get more responses. If the responses show that you need to use a channel you aren’t currently, do that. Your messages, no matter how great, are irrelevant if no one sees them.
Once you know how you want to communicate, decide what kinds of messages are appropriate to send via each channel. For example, a July 4th barbecue announcement or wine tasting is perfect for social media, newsletters and flyers – but you shouldn’t send a potentially intrusive text message about it. On the other hand, text messages, are ideal for making sure that people see urgent or truly important information, such as reminders for association elections or severe weather alerts. Knowing which messages should be communicated by which means is key to effective communication that isn’t needlessly disruptive.
2. Know how you want to use social media.
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. Announce your social presence at every opportunity by putting the logos, handles and links on all printed pieces and your website. Mention it at every meeting.
Social media is fun and trendy and it can be a fast and easy tool for communication too. Take some time and create an official social media strategy that defines the following:
  • When should social media be used?
  • Which channels are best for your community? 
  • How should it be used?
  • Who is responsible for managing it?
  • How should negative comments or feedback be addressed?
For more in-depth information on social media best practices, read our article here.
3. Know that your community contact info is current.   
Do you have the best contact info for your residents in your database? That means more than mailing addresses and home phone numbers. Both cell phone numbers and email addresses are critical for rapid communication, especially in an urgent situation. When you collect information for your community, make sure you include all residents, including rental tenants. Make it easy for people to let you know when their information changes.
Announce the process for updating contact info in each issue of your community newsletter, on your website and at events and board meetings. Post a flyer in a community common space. Most importantly, make sure that someone on the board or management team is responsible for entering those updates into your database on a regular basis.
4. Know when to utilize your board committees.
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.
5. Know when to bring in professional assistance.
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. 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.
Clear, complete communication from the HOA board to residents and the management company that serves them has a value that cannot be overstated. The strategies defined above will help your board be able to craft messages that work for your community. For more information about how a professional management can help you refine your communication strategy, contact FirstService Residential, Pennsylvania’s leading community association management partner.
Wednesday January 25, 2017