Property Management Issues
7 Effective Communication Tips for Condos
From the Winter 2018 issue of the CCI Toronto Condovoice Magazine.
Great communication takes both planning and work. This is true for most businesses, but especially for condominium corporations where communication is a daily necessity to keep things running smoothly and costs at a minimum. Yet while many condos have upgraded the communication medium, using tools like email, digital noticeboards and websites, the message has quite often sadly stayed much the same – a dense collection of words that people barely notice, much less bother to read.
The benefits of good communication include lower costs, reduced legal liability, improved lifestyle and more time for a manager to focus on proactive management instead of reactive troubleshooting. It is worthwhile to put some effort into the message to make condo communication and management much more effective!
Make a Plan
At the beginning of the year, decide what topics to tackle. Set some goals. For example, lower the water bill by 5%, reduce outdoor cleaning by 30%, implement a safety and security plan, reduce wear and tear caused by pets – the list goes on. In a condo environment, it is much more effective to communicate each topic one at a time, rather than all at once.
Think like an Advertiser
Most of the things that need to be communicated to a resident are not what a resident is likely to care about. Sure, people will usually want to know about when the pool is going to re-open or when the elevator is going to be repaired, and water shut-offs and power outages are certainly attention-worthy, but the majority of notices, the ones that need noticing in order to save the corporation money, generally consist of rules and regulations. These can be rather boring at the best of times, so think like an advertiser – figure out who the audience is and create notices that will appeal to them, in a catchy way that they have not quite seen before.
Know Your Audience
Young or old? Owners or renters? English speaking or English-as-a-second language? Tech savvy or not? Make a list of as many attributes possible that best describe the audience. The communication to them will vary depending on the results. Older folks may not have email. Younger folks may prefer texts. If a large part of the audience doesn't speak English, consider notices that use pictures and very few words. Posting notices in different languages is not recommended. Canada's official languages are English and French. However, a simple notice that states "This is an important notice – please get a translator" in various languages can be helpful. (Several government documents often make use of this.) To build community, a "Word of the Day" campaign with "hello" showcased in the various languages at the property can go a long way to engaging residents.
Get on the Tech Train
It's 2018, so there are numerous methods to use to reach an audience. Email, text, e-newsletters, and websites are all great tools and there is still a place for good old face-to-face as well as door-to-door.
If a condo comes with elevators, the most powerful tool is by far the digital display. It's the only tool that has what broadcasters call a "captive audience" which means people are likely to see it because they are not busy doing something else. With a digital display, residents do not have to point, click, open, scroll, or do any work at all to see your message. They stand there, and they see it. The majority of residents have to take the elevator to get to their unit, which means they will see what the board of directors and management team needs them to see.
There is an expression "you can attract more flies with honey than vinegar". It is a good idea to remember this when dealing with people and reminding them of the condo corporation's rules and regulations. Notices with big red letters and numerous exclamation points are the visual equivalent of yelling at someone and they are not likely to get the desired result. The posted notices should quite often be all the things that residents never got around to reading in the status certificate – this is the key to using communication to cut costs – so it is important not to alienate viewers. It can be quite challenging to be creative enough to make an impact and actually change behavior, but it can be done.
Reach and Frequency
Making sure that notices get viewed is critical to success. The "reach" is the size of the audience and the "frequency" is how often the message is sent out to that audience. In a condo environment, the use of the many tools mentioned above will increase the reach and frequency can be adjusted accordingly. For example, a notice sent via email about window washing dates may get missed if sent just once, with just one medium. If the reach is improved – an email, a text, a notice on the bulletin board – more residents will be likely to see it. To improve the frequency, it can be sent/posted a month in advance, two weeks in advance, a week and then the day of the event. That is four times the frequency than just sending/posting it one time.
Like any corporate project, the results of condo communication campaigns should also be measured to see if they produced the desired results and achieved the goals outlined in step one. Email blasts are great, as long as residents opened them. Email software usually has a feature to help determine the "open rate". Year over year comparisons can show water bills before and after a water saving campaign that will determine whether it needs to be run again or if congratulations to the diligent residents is in order. Some things are less tangible but still measurable – talking to cleaners and supers before a property clean-up project gets underway gives something to compare any changes to.
Great communication requires some thought but when properly planned and executed, it has a positive effect on the entire condominium.
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