hoa-communications-best-practicesAs a board member in your community association, you're already aware of the importance of financial management and property upkeep. However, have you considered the critical role effective communication plays in achieving success?
Clear communication is crucial for the success of any organization, including your association and board. Failure to communicate effectively can lead to confusion, misinterpretation, and rumors, which can negatively impact your association's reputation and operations. Moreover, when residents don't receive consistent updates directly from your board, they may fill in the gaps with their own assumptions. This can result in the circulation of misleading or inaccurate information.
Transparent communication can prevent such issues and help your association operate smoothly. By keeping your residents informed, your board can build trust and demonstrate its commitment to transparency and accountability. Investing in effective communication channels and practices can benefit your association in the long term and ensure that your decisions and actions reflect the values and goals of your community.
Do you remember playing the old elementary school game of telephone, where the message would change from person to person? Well, when it comes to important matters like your association budget, you want to avoid that at all costs. That's why clear messaging directly from the board is crucial. By ensuring you have accurate and transparent information, you can confidently manage your budget and avoid any miscommunications. Don't let ambiguity cost you - prioritize clear communication for your association's financial success.
Creating a communication plan that successfully meets the needs of your association doesn't have to be complicated. By following these HOA communications best practices, you can set your organization on a clear and effective path for communication success starting today.

1.  Start with a good plan.

As the saying goes, "Measure twice; cut once." The same goes for your communication efforts. Before sending any message from the board, take the time to create an overall communication plan. Then, carefully plan each communication, reviewing all elements to ensure it says exactly what you want it to say. This planning will help you avoid potential problems down the road, including the accidental spread of misinformation. Don't underestimate the importance of effective communication planning - taking the time to craft your message carefully can make all the difference. 

Just state the facts. Don’t use absolutes like “never” or “always.” One HOA communications best practice your association should follow is to work with a management team who has the expertise to help you create a communication plan that works for your association. 

2.  Use the right channels.

It's no surprise that individuals prefer different ways of receiving news and updates. Some still enjoy the traditional method of receiving a hard copy while others would rather access updates online. By gathering the preferred contact information of residents upon initial move-in, you'll have a valuable resource to ensure effective communication. By utilizing their preferred method of communication whenever possible, you'll not only keep them informed, but also cater to their individual needs and preferences.

Use that intake opportunity to educate new residents on what kind of communications they can expect to see from you and how they will be delivered. It may be a legal requirement that certain communications, like annual reports, must be sent as hard copies through the mail.

3.  Keep contact information updated.

Ensuring everyone's safety in an emergency depends on having accurate and up-to-date contact information. That's why it's essential to regularly update residents' contact information, not just in times of crisis but as a part of routine operations. To make this happen, take a moment to verify residents' current contact information every time they get in touch with your office for any reason. Trust us, it's worth the effort to keep everyone informed and connected. 

4.  Choose the right tone.

Effective communication within a community is critical and should be approached with care and consideration. The tone and manner in which messages are conveyed can greatly impact residents and their sense of home. Therefore, it is essential to communicate with empathy and a personal touch to align with the values and ethics of the community.
FirstService Residential experts say that even difficult communications can be easier for residents to handle if the message is tied to a value of the community or a community survey. Some examples include, “To keep our property values high….,” or “90% of residents said they want to…”

5.  Let technology work for you.

Need to communicate with a large group of people quickly and efficiently? Discover the power of social media, mass messaging tools, and community websites. These invaluable resources allow for clear and effective messaging to reach everyone at once. One of the most important HOA communication best practices you can follow is to take advantage of these tools to streamline your communication efforts.
To safeguard your organization, it's essential to establish technology usage and messaging policies. Clear guidelines in writing can prevent misuse and unintended consequences. While social media can be useful for meeting reminders, it's unsuitable for extended policy discussions. Therefore, it's crucial to differentiate between suitable and unsuitable communication channels. For the latest communication technology knowledge and effective policy implementation, consult a reputable association management company. Their expertise can guide you in navigating new technologies and safeguarding your data and reputation.

6.  Include your renters.

One common mistake that boards make is to ignore renters in their communication plan. Communicating to renters directly makes them feel like they are part of the community, and that means they are going to have a greater investment in it. Today’s renter may be tomorrow’s homeowner.  

Tenants who are overlooked may not be aware of the rules and regulations regarding noise levels, waste disposal, and outdoor adornments. Even though it's the renter's responsibility to adhere to the guidelines, enforcing them becomes difficult if there is no clear communication or if renters feel that their rights are not being respected.
Consistent communication is one of the key HOA communications best practices for ensuring the safety of your community. This is especially important for renters who may not be aware of storm-proofing or snow removal policies. By keeping everyone informed, unintentional negligence can be avoided which can cause damage to property or even lead to injuries. Neglecting to communicate can have a negative impact on property values and overall resident satisfaction. Stay informed and keep your community safe.

7.  Make communication a two-way street.

Residents need the opportunity to voice their concerns and share their opinions. Empower your residents by giving them a platform to express their concerns and opinions. Make sure each board meeting provides time for open discussions and circulation of surveys to gain insights into their priorities. Additionally, consider organizing relaxed gatherings where residents can freely share their views with board members. It's important to create a culture of communication and collaboration to enhance resident satisfaction and community harmony. 

Clarify the limitations of the board’s authority, which is confined strictly to board meetings and the items listed on the agenda. Often, residents will approach board members separately to make requests. To handle these situations, simply direct them to the community manager.

8.  Ensure that your management team is on the same page.

You know what you want your community to be. Does your management company or team know that? Understanding your board’s vision for your community is key to your management team communicating to your residents on your behalf. Your vision will drive the priority of communication, for example. If your vision includes the community being always lushly, perfectly landscaped, then landscaping communications may take priority over others. 
Communication is an important part of making your community the best it can be. And it doesn’t have to be as complex or difficult as you might think. Building a good communication plan, keeping your communications clear and on message and always being transparent with your residents are the first steps.
Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Consult with your association attorney.
Friday May 12, 2023