Communicating Clearly: A Guide for Your HOA Board

Posted on Wednesday January 25, 2017

how to communicate effectively with your hoaBoard members, among all the other things they do, must make sure 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. "Communication between the board and its members are key in any association," said Susan Strickland, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, Senior Community Manager for FirstService Residential in South Carolina.

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. Do you have updated contact information?
It’s critical to make sure that you have 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.
 
Announce the process for updates in each issue of your community newsletter, on your website and at events and board meetings. Post a flyer in a community common place. Most importantly, designate someone on the board or management team to be responsible for making sure that updates are entered into your database on a regular basis.
 
2. Do you 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. Once you know that directions 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. Do you have a printed newsletter? Email blasts? Can you post flyers in common areas? Put a notice on your website? Make announcements at meetings? Send text messages or use social media?

Once you know how you want to communicate, decide what kinds of messages are most effective to send via each channel. For example, a guest lecture 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 the association annual meeting. Knowing which messages should be communicated by which means is key to communication that is effective but not disruptive.

“Having those communication tools and using them on a regular basis will put your homeowners at ease knowing they are being informed and that the board is being transparent on the matters of the association,” Strickland said. “When Hurricane Matthew hit South Carolina, I was able to email blast, via the association's website, the latest updates on the hurricane’s path. Once the storm had passed, I was able to provide pictures of the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in the community. Part-time owners and owners who decided to evacuate were able to keep up with what was happening in their community, which made for happy homeowners.”
 
If you’re not sure how your residents want you to reach them, ask! Take a poll at the annual meeting or conduct an online survey. 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.
 
3. Do you have a social media policy set?  
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.
 
Before diving into social media, know its strengths and weaknesses. Spend a little time and create an official social media strategy that defines the following:
  • Who is responsible for managing your social presence?
  • When should social media be used?
  • Which channels are best for your community? 
  • How should it be used?
  • How should feedback or negative comments be handled?
For more detailed information on best practices for social media, read our article here.
 
4. Do you know how to utilize your board committees?
Make use of your committees in communication regarding their specific projects and agenda. For example, if you have a committee that executes social events, that committee should also work on communicating those events to the residents, in partnership with your management team and social media committee, to spread the word via newsletters, website updates, email blasts, social media posts and flyers. Get your committee members in the mindset of putting events on the calendar and working back from them to schedule these vital communications in advance so that they work with the overall communication strategy.
 
5. Know when to bring in professional assistance.
A solid management company will allow you to enable 24/7 availability through a customer care 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.
 
It’s impossible to overstate the value of clear communication from the HOA board to residents and the management company. The strategies outlined above will help your board be able to send messages that work for your community and keep everyone better informed. For more information about how a professional management can help you refine your communication strategy, contact FirstService Residential, South Carolina’s leading community association management partner.

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