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One of the primary responsibilities of a community association board member is to ensure that residents are properly informed about happenings in the community, upcoming meetings & events, policy changes and more. Knowing what information needs to be communicated and how to make sure your announcement reaches everyone possible can be a challenge. Here are a few communication tips that will help keep the residents in your Homeowners Association (HOA) well informed.
Keep residents “in the loop”

“Clear, concise and proactive communication will help the residents of your community feel connected and eliminate confusion,” says Ray Jaklitsch, president of FirstService Residential in San Antonio. “When residents do not have a clear understanding of what is happening they tend to make their own assumptions about how the association is operating and often it does not play in the favor of the HOA and its board members.”

Jaklitsch also recommends balancing the types of communications to residents. “There are certain necessary communications to community members about things such as violations or overdue fees that, while necessary, may be perceived negatively,” says Jaklitsch. “It’s equally important to make sure residents consistently receive communications about positive events, property updates and other beneficial information to highlight the value of living in the community and how they can connect with their neighbors.”  

How to get the word out

Now that you have established what information should be communicated to residents, it’s time to decide how you will get this information into their hands. If you’re not sure how your residents want to receive information, just ask! Simply take a poll at the annual meeting or conduct an online survey. You may find that the residents in your community prefer one method over another. That being said, we still recommend communicating through multiple channels to ensure your message reaches as many people as possible.

When selecting your method of communication, you may have more resources available to you than you realize. Here is a list of the most common outlets associations use to provide important information to their residents:
  • Newsletter: Print or digital - this is a popular way to distribute multiple updates at one time.
  • Email: Many people are on the go and prefer the quick access of reading an email. Consider itemizing your email with particular topic headlines or bullets to make it easier for the reader.
  • Flyers in common areas: Post colorful, eye-catching flyers in frequently used areas of the HOA to remind readers about special community details or to publicize an upcoming event.
  • Website: Either on a homepage or other specific area of the site, many people will turn to a community website for helpful information and other timely news or events happening in the neighborhood. 
  • Direct mail: Consider sending a postcard or including a flyer in a dues statement mailing to promote key information you don’t want to get lost in the shuffle.
  • Phone calls & text messages: A quick phone call or text message is often the easiest way to reach people. With the right technology like FirstService Residential’s Resident Alert, board members and managers have the ability to mass-communicate via pre-recorded phone or text message to reach all recipients quickly with the click of a button.
  • Announcements at meetings: HOA meetings are the perfect platform for making community specific announcements.
  • Social media: Consider social channels to make announcements about community happenings, meetings and other important information regarding the HOA. A well organized social site can be a helpful tool to strengthen community engagement. For more details, be sure to download our infographic below. 
No matter how you choose to communicate announcements, it’s important to point out that it may also take some repetition across multiple channels to make a real impact in awareness. Additionally, take the time to assess each situation separately in order to determine which lines of communication are appropriate for that announcement.

Communicate what matters most
Now that you know what channels you will use to get the message out, it’s time to determine what information is distribution-worthy. In short, if it’s important for homeowners to be aware of, it’s probably worth communicating. Here is a list of common topics you might want to consider sending out to the residents in your community:
  • Regularly scheduled and annual meeting details
  • Community events and social gatherings
  • Seasonal violation enforcements such as tree trimming or holiday d├ęcor policies
  • Road closures or construction projects that might affect daily life or travel 
When making an announcement of any kind, be sure to include specific details to provide clarity to the reader about how they can apply the information properly. For instance, if you plan to enforce tree trimming community-wide during the appropriate season, you will want to give homeowners enough notice to comply before enforcement. By offering a date that violation notices will begin, you will keep things aboveboard and help residents understand upfront consequences of non-compliance. 
Be sure to include the details
When communicating to your homeowner base, make sure to include these key elements:
  • Current contact information for your community manager or after-hours support such as a 24/7 Customer Care Center
  • Event/meeting dates, times and locations, including a physical address
  • Compliance deadlines and specific details – when in doubt include an excerpt from the governing documents outlining the policy in question 

Emergency communications and responsive service

A good communication plan allows for an alert service in case of emergencies to help ensure resident safety. Tools that make it easy to reach residents via phone or email during critical times will provide peace of mind for both board members and homeowners.  The right association management company will provide tools to help you stay connected to your residents 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Communication is often an issue communities struggle with most. A conscientious management company can help create and execute a comprehensive communication strategy that includes all of the ideas listed above – and then some.

For more information about how a professional management company can help you refine your communication strategy, contact FirstService Residential, Texas’ leading association management partner.

Tuesday December 19, 2017