Communication is the root of most legal problems.
Lack of communication, miscommunication, and incomplete communication spark controversy and light the fires of conspiracy. When owners feel like they don’t know what is going on, they start to imagine things like dark, smoke-filled rooms where the board is hashing out rubbish contracts and construction deals with Don Corleone and Whitey Bulger. When the board says one thing but does another, owners wonder who is getting a kickback. And when the board shares only part of the story and owners learn more, they start to wonder what else the board is hiding from them. These situations devolve into boiling tempers at meetings and claims of directors breaching their fiduciary duties.
The board’s authority to lead the association is a function of the level of trust it has among the owners. Poor communication destroys trust. Some communication will maintain the status quo. But for directors to gain the greatest authority to lead their association, boards must strive to provide exceptional communication. What does your board want to accomplish that will make your community a better place to live? How much more easily could that be achieved with a greater mandate to lead?
We are all bombarded daily by information. To manage the onslaught, we all filter information in a variety ways. What communications does your board send that owners don’t filter out? How many different media does your board use to communicate to owners? Do you know whether owners engage with your communications?
Improving communications builds trust, empowers boards, and reduces legal risks.
How to Communicate Effectively with Your Owners
It’s not about what you say, it’s about how you say it. How you say something matters; it can even change the entire meaning of what you’re saying. “Let’s eat, Grandma” has a very different meaning than “Let’s eat Grandma.” This is an example of syntax differences, where missing a comma is a matter of life and death. How you literally say something matters and so does the means of saying it. Here are some tips on communicating effectively with your owners.
1. Mix up the media.
Different demographic groups communicate in different ways. For instance, younger people frequently prefer texting to other forms of communication, while older people may relish the personal touch of a direct phone call. It’s a good idea to offer multiple channels of communication to make sure that you reach all of your members easily.
2. Don’t ignore social media.
Social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and the like, can be invaluable in communicating with your owners. By creating private groups, you can make sure that your owners are notified of new policies, dues, and events without the information being shared with the general public.
3. Keep it fun.
Too often, communications from boards are staid and boring. Consequently, they don’t get read as often as they should. Making your communications fun with things like videos of the neighborhood, or of board members, and using pictures can greatly increase your owners’ engagement level.
4. Increase owner participation
The more owners who are involved with your communications, the more effective they will be. Consider inviting owners to contribute to your communications or to greet new owners and share information about the association. The more owners, both new and established, understand about the way the association works, the smoother the entire community will run.
Crafting effective communications with your owners doesn’t have to be difficult. Develop a communications plan that incorporates multiple outlets and media. Be sure to include measurement tools in the plan so that you can track how owners engage with your communications. With a strong communications plan you can reach the maximum number of people in your association without expending unnecessary time and money.
DeVries & Associates PC is Hawaii’s leading law firm for protecting Condo and Homeowner Associations in the courts of law and public opinion. They protect directors’ reputations and increase trust by helping boards communicate effectively. Learn more and get a FREE book entitled “Top Mistakes Made by Directors” at www.DeVriesPC.com/counsel-plus