Communicating Major Condo Association Projects to Condo Owners

You’ve got your technical representation.  You’ve designed and bid out your project.  The next step in managing a major project is one of the most important – communicating major Condo Association projects to your Owners.  This is a task that is both simultaneously easy and hard.  It is relatively easy to do, but it isn’t always a fun experience for the Board.  That said, you need to be a leader in a transparent and open Association, and strong communication is key.  

A strong communications plan is key to effectively communicating a major project.
A strong communications plan is key to effectively communicating major Condo Association projects.

You need to keep a few key things in mind while you are in the communications process.  First and foremost, unless you have an unusually active Association, chances are that 80% or more of your Association may be oblivious to what’s going on.  Even if you’ve published the information in meeting minutes, assume that everyone knows nothing.  The next thing to keep in mind is that by contrast, your Board and Management are deeply steeped in this issue.  You’ve likely been spending substantial time pouring over documents and working with vendors.  Keep this disconnect in mind when you’re dealing with your Owners.  Because you know so much, and they know so little, you need to be very patient and mindful when engaging with communication.  Bringing them up to speed is your job and more importantly, will make your life easier in the long run.  

The goal of an effective communications strategy is to fill in the blanks for Owners as to why a given project is important, and to make them feel comfortable about the project and its importance.  Comfortable and happy Owners are supportive Owners.  Confused and unhappy Owners get cranky and (rightfully) will complain.  When preparing your communications campaign, focus on creating documents that provide actionable information that makes Owners feel invested in the process.   Depending on the size and disruption of the project, you will want to scale the outreach activities accordingly.  At a minimum, every project should have an information packet.  

Information Packet

The information packet is a printed set of materials that you will provide to every Owner, including investor Owners, who will need to receive the materials by mail.  This document is the foundation for effectively communicating major Condo Association projects.  At the highest level, this packet will cover what you’re doing and why, and what impact it will have on Owners.  When crafting this document, always have an executive summary that captures the most important information and is no longer than two pages.  You can go into greater detail after that, but give people what they need up front.  If you bury the important information in the document, people won’t read it, and instead they’ll ask you the same questions.

Be sure to include the history of the project within the packet.  For a roof project, for example, you might discuss how the roof was leaking regularly, the Association paid for an inspection and found it was end-of-life and repairs were not as cost efficient as replacement.  You will also want to address the engineering studies the Association performed that led to the project at hand.  Provide a high-level summary of any relevant reports in the document, but also include the full reports as an attachment to the report.  You’ll also want to clearly quantify the impact to Owners.  If it will be noisy, say when it will be noisy.  If Owners will lose access to amenities, say when this will occur.      

Town Hall Meetings

Allow Owners - and the Board - to speak their mind at a town hall meeting.
Allow Owners – and the Board – to speak their mind at a town hall meeting.

A robust packet of information is a strong start, but often you’re going to want a human touch and to give your Owners a chance to talk to both the Board and your technical representation.  As awesome as you are as a Board, people like to hear it from professionals too.  As part of an effective strategy for communicating major Condo Association projects, you should hold town hall-style meetings with your engineers and project performers.  For the meetings, you should solicit your Owners for questions – both in email ahead of the event and during the event.  You should provide any advance questions you get to your technical representatives so they can come prepared.  If you have any key questions you want addressed (i.e., certain aspects of the project), you should put the question in as a Board if an Owner doesn’t ask it.  Don’t feel guilty seeding questions for points you want to drive home.

One thing to keep in mind – depending on circumstances, people may want to vent.  This often happens when there is a major inconvenience in a project.  It’s OK to let people vent.  But you also need to keep the meeting moving and cut them off once it’s no longer productive.  

Other outreach ideas

There are a few other things you can do to support an effective communications strategy.  These include:

  • Investing in poster boards and other materials that outline the project which can be posted in common areas.  These don’t have to be fancy, but special signage will keep people well-informed.
  • Make sure to provide concise updates at monthly meetings.  Consider a special section in your minutes to clearly provide updates on an ongoing project.  Include updates on schedule and budget.  
  • Consider having times where the Board is available for people to ask questions outside of the regular meetings.  Once or twice a month after the project is announced but before it has started, have Board members (always in pairs) in a common area like a lobby ready to answer questions.

Conclusion

An effective outreach strategy makes projects go smoother.  Owners who know what is going and why are going to be more tolerant of the challenges that inevitably occur during a major project.  A final thing to keep in mind is to expect an uptick in Owner communication during any project – both to Management and to the Board.  Make sure you have a streamlined process for handling inquiries so Owners aren’t left with long gaps.  If you have a plan for effectively communicating major Condo Association projects to your Owners, you’re going to be better off for it.  


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