communication

Communicating in an era of information overload

Technology alone won't tell condo residents what they want and need to know
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
By Sue Langlois

Many condo boards governing mid to high-rise buildings have opted for digital noticeboards in the one place that nearly every resident must occupy in order to get home — the elevator. Digital noticeboards “push” notices to a captivated audience, rather than rely on a fickle crowd to open an email with a headline that may or may not capture their attention.

However, while condo corporations still sporting a cork bulletin board may have more communication challenges than those with digital displays, even the best technology may not be much help if the message it’s used to deliver is weak or, as in many cases in condo communities, non-existent. In this era of information overload, condo residents need information designed not only to catch their attention, but to provide them with two types of knowledge: the “selfie” and the “healthy.”

Two types of information

“Selfie” information can be described as items that personally relate to residents as individuals. It’s info that they want and need, because it directly affects their personal comfort. Things like windows being washed (most residents want to know when to shut their blinds!), water shut-offs, planned power outages, even party room and pool closures; these are the items that most residents want to know because residents do not like to be inconvenienced.

The “healthy” category is best described as all the information a resident needs to know in order to establish and maintain a strong community with a healthy bottom line. Much like a serving of vegetables, “healthy” information keeps residents happy and safe from threatening situations that can put their lifestyle and budgets at risk. Examples include the rules and regulations of the condo corporation, insurance knowledge, proxy instructions and more.

In fact, the vast majority of the 10 most common condo issues listed on the Condominium Authority of Ontario’s (CAO) website can be classified as “healthy” (need to know) versus “selfie” (want to know). Rules, noise, pets, short-term rentals; these are all subjects that can cost a condo corporation a lot of money and yet many property managers don’t focus on them. Why not?

Need-to-know messages neglected

Well, for one thing, the scope of work for most property managers involves the “selfie” info. After all, it is the managers who book the window washers, the plumbers and any other contractors to the site, so it follows that the bulk of the information that they share is usually related to the daily tasks at hand.

The sharing of “healthy” information is more commonly triggered by a specific issue and is quite often a knee-jerk, reactive posting of various rules and regulations accompanied by big red and black letters and numerous exclamation points. This is when the audience can get offended and tune right out.

Sharing the “healthy” information proactively is a better approach. For example, springtime means the onset of balcony season, so it makes sense to start running a balcony campaign in April or May that shares reminders about furniture, glass, sweeping, watering plants and more. Posting a “slow-down-in-the-garage” campaign in anticipation of busy visitor days, such as Father’s Day, promotes safe driving.

Getting style and tone right

Just as important as planning notices is planning what they actually say. How they look and how they make an audience feel will help determine the impact. “Selfie” notices don’t have to be too creative, but they should be clear, easy to read, and polite. Using all capital letters is akin to yelling at the reader and should be avoided.

Since “healthy” notices often involve rules, the “dos and don’ts” nature can get tiresome after a while, so it’s important to get as creative as possible with these. A catchy headline or an interesting graphic will go a long way to capturing audience attention and engagement, and that is precisely what is required for that “healthy” info to translate to an even healthier bottom line.

In all cases, it’s important to “feed the beast.” One of the challenges of digital display technology is keeping it current with a steady stream of content, and this is especially important in a condo environment, where most residents will see the noticeboards on a daily basis.

Sue Langlois is the founder/CEO of DigiNotice, a digital display and creative notice service designed specifically for condos. Sue is on the CCI-Toronto board of directors and serves on the communication committees for both CCI-Toronto and CCI-National. She contributed the Communications chapter of CCI-T’s Board of Directors’ Tips, Tools and Techniques. Sue can be reached at [email protected]

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