Communication is the glue that holds anything together. It's about being proactive and getting the word out about what's happening in your community. With more than 5 million people in Canada living in a condo, the need for effective communication is critical to the success of your organization. Stratastic had the opportunity to sit in and listen to “Put a Bow On It!” at the ACMO / CCI Condo Conference 2022. and we're reporting on the strategies that this seminar shared.
The panelists discussed communication strategies, the importance of reaching your audience, and tools that will help with achieving effective communication. Ari Soroka (Nadlan-Harris Property Management Inc.) explained that it is vital for all parties to communicate in the condominium industry.
Beyond making communication fast, it is important to ensure that it is also effective... but how can managers and boards achieve this goal?
Sue Langlois (DigiNotice Inc.) compared how the property manager is the messenger in the communication triangle in a condominium corporation. The property manager is the messenger with the board of directors, residents, and contractors; everything goes through the management office. Before managers can communicate anything, they really need to know their building's audience and demographics, Sue explained. There are different ways to communicate with different people in a building. Managers must know if they have a majority of tenants, if the community is an older population, or if there are more millennials. The communication has to be geared to that specific audience; “for boards and management teams, it's really important to take that few minutes, go through your audience, figure out who they are, and then it leads to the rest of the things,” Sue added.
Furthermore, beyond taking in consideration the different demographics, managers must also know the way they can disseminate information. Ari mentioned the four basic social styles: the driver, the amicable, the analytical, and the expressive, and explained these different styles by using a common example. For “the driver, the task is to get to Ottawa by 6:00 PM Saturday, I don’t care just to get there. The analyst will say, I want you to get to Ottawa by Saturday at six o'clock. I would like to see a map of the route you're gonna take. The amicable will say, hey, could you get there by Saturday at six? We'd be really good friends if you could, I'd appreciate him. And the expressive says, I need you to get to Ottawa by Saturday at six o'clock. And if you do, your name will go up on the board. We will be responsible. We have a lot of pride and that we get there”.
People will usually communicate depending on their social style and they will absorb information differently. This is why when communicating to different people, they will not fully understand the information because if you're communicating in “the driver style” and the person receiving the message has an “analytical style” some information necessary for them to fully understand is not available. Ari noted that it's really important to be versatile and be able to go back and forth and communicate in different styles.
There are different tools used for effective communication (emails, bulletin boards, newsletters, etc.), and managers should consider which method will work best for them and their community. For example, some residents do not check their emails, but may read notices when waiting for the elevator. Therefore, it’s good to have an understanding of the different tools that may help managers reach a wider audience.
With written communication, Sue recommends keeping it simple because managers should want to ensure that the audience receives a direct message. There are other platforms that can be used like digital platforms, such as social media.
Danielle Casha (DEL Property Management Inc.) explains that she believes that digital signage is the most powerful communication tool in the condominium industry. It gives managers versatility by having the option to upload notices remotely, to program, and to plan ahead. Digital signage is a great way to communicate with residents and visitors alike. It can be used to display notices and updates, community announcements, information about events and activities, or even reminders regarding safety protocols.
It all goes back to knowing the audience to be able to determine which communication strategy is likelier to be successful within the community. Processing all the information and data available and developing a channel that can be used to communicate issues going in the building. Danielle mentioned that when communicating to a younger population that are mainly tenants, it helps to explain that if they keep jamming the chute the fees will go up. Ultimately, looking for the adequate messages can help change the behavior for residents. Effective communication in the long run will help managers and boards save costs in their building.
Frequency is another aspect that is key in effective communication. As explained by Ari, frequency is a vital factor in changing behaviors or really engraving a message that needs to be received. “We're communicating for the purpose of getting a reaction and an action,” Ari added. Another aspect that goes hand in hand with frequency is continuing education. The information provided to residents to keep them informed and educated on how the condominium industry works.
Danielle mentioned that residents slowly start to learn about what is and isn’t a standard in the community. It’s important to take advantage of opportunities where property managers are able to educate residents. “Educate your residents. When you do that, you empower them. And when you empower them, they are gonna be able to make better decisions for your community and everybody benefits from that,” Danielle noted.
Adding creativity to messages will also aid in adequate communication. For example, many notices that require urgent attention will usually be in red text that is also highlighted in yellow. This will get the attention of the residents, but also communicate an urgency to them beyond a notice intended for maintenance or to request residents to provide an action.
If in the parking levels the main audience is residents and not visitors, managers may consider placing a kind message that welcomes them to their homes. Adding visuals to messages also helps get the message across; think of it as supplemental to the content - some people are more visual than others and therefore retain more information when visual elements are provided. Furthermore, be creative with different strategies that will enable the residents to participate more within the community, such as hosting a trivia night where gifts or wine is offered to residents participating, Ari suggested.
Last but not least, make sure that managers are measuring the communication, going back and analyzing what has worked for the corporation and what needs improvement. For example, when launching a campaign to save water, look and see if the campaign really helped reduce water bills. Getting to really know the audience will help establish that connection between management and residents.
To communicate effectively, managers must find the balance to communicate frequently, efficiently, and objectively. Communicating regularly with residents isn’t a waste of time because in the long run, it prevents residents from calling due to a late notice or insufficient information in one of the communications. Being consistent and thorough with what works with the residents is the way that a community will be informed, educated and this will enable participation and compliance within the building.
We hope this post has shared some insight into how to communicate with your community, and what you can do to help residents stay informed and educated. All of these tips are important, but keep in mind that the most important thing is to be proactive and consistent.
We've covered a lot of different ways that you are able to connect with your audience – hopefully you've found a few ideas that will work well for your condo corporation!
Authored by Nabiel Ordonez, edited by Stratastic Inc.
“Communication: Put a bow on it” addressed the importance of effective communication and the different styles you are able to communicate with residents in a condominium corporation. This session was moderated by Carol Dirks (Fogler, Rubinoff LLP) with panelists Danielle Casha (DEL Property Management Inc.) , Sue Langlois (DigiNotice Inc.)and Ari Soroka (Nadlan-Harris Property Management Inc.).