Long gone are the fear of technology, the ups and downs (pun intended) of elevator installations and the quest for an affordable solution specific to condos that were common to digital notice boards in their infancy. As the industry has overcome many of these initial challenges, the trend of condo boards swapping out cork bulletin boards for sleeker digital signage has become firmly entrenched.
This is no doubt a product of the fact that establishing good communication is a priority for board directors and condo managers. While email, websites, and management software have all helped improve communication a great deal, digital notice boards have become an integral part of a condo’s communication strategy because they offer one vital item that the others do not — a captive audience.
This means that the audience sees what the board or management wants them to see, because it is obvious, in their line of sight, available at all times. This is very important, especially when it comes to cutting costs in condos. Mr. Resident might open an email letting him know that there is an emergency water shut-off, but he is a lot less likely to visit a website to seek out the “Top 10 items not to shove down a garbage chute.”
Now that condo board directors have embraced the technology as part of their communications toolkit, the next step is to work it to their advantage. Here are the top five trends in digital notice boards in condos for their adoptees to consider:
To advertise or not to advertise, that is the question. Understandably, some condo boards wish to allow advertisers some space on the notice boards to help cover their costs. But be cautious.
A grainy, poorly crafted ad from a local used car lot posted in a high-end condo will not only offend residents, it can negatively impact the condo’s brand. When people buy a condo, they are quite often buying the lifestyle that came with it; make sure all ads complement that lifestyle. Be absolutely sure that the advertiser is relevant and carefully chosen.
A key trend: Ad-free solutions or at the very least future-proofing by keeping ad deals flexible and at the entire discretion of the board so that the board can turn ads off at any time.
As the expression goes: “Content is king.” Posting the same text-heavy content that appeared on the old cork bulletin board on the new digital notice board is a lot like skating with blade guards on. It sort of works, but not in the way it was intended.
A picture is worth a thousand words and what’s popular now are bright, attention-grabbing messages with a unique visual architecture, displayed full-screen (no more CP24-like confusing zones and competing messages).
Property managers have their hands full at the best of times, so when it comes to communication, all they usually have time for are notices about fire alarm testing, window washing, fan coil maintenance, that kind of thing. These are the basics that the typical management contract covers. In other words, managers aren’t paid to run campaigns to meet quorum at the annual general meeting, provide water conservation tips to reduce costs, or design an attractive flyer for the next resident social.
Great communication means making an investment to get it right, and that could mean hiring a service to do it. The trend here? A hybrid solution where managers can easily upload the aforementioned basics and a digital signage network operator takes care of the rest.
The current hardware for elevators is sleek, like a giant tablet, while lobbies generally sport a 40 or 42-inch LED display. The elevator models can be touch-screen or not, and the best way to determine which one to choose is to go back to the board’s communication goals. Does the board wish to entertain residents or educate them?
Touch screens may provide news, weather, and notices, but are subject to the whim of the resident, so the benefit of a captive audience may be lost. Touch screens can also lose their calibration over time, which can be frustrating. However, if the board’s goal is to cut costs by informing residents about all aspects of life at their condo, retain the captive audience and opt for a non-touch display instead.
The current (and positive) trend is for board directors to take stock of their communication goals first (i.e. entertainment or education) before making their selection.
Display interactivity can have different applications in the digital condo. Digital displays should be versatile enough to schedule different items at different times, go full screen with one simple message during an emergency, and even interact directly and instantly with residents in an elevator if required.
The ability to schedule many notices in advance is a must (think fire alarm testing). Though rarely required, getting the resident vote on things like carpet colour in the lobby might be useful, and can be achieved with SMS text or even Twitter apps on the displays, no longer relying on touch. Resident classifieds are also popular.
The trend here is that boards and management teams are beginning to see the vast potential of digital displays. They are looking past the physical features of the displays and focusing more on what they can actually do for their condo corporation.
What’s next for digital notice boards in condos? Cost conscious boards realize that the time and money saved by a well-run communications network positively affects their bottom line — by as much as 40 to 60 per cent, according to preliminary client surveys.
The future should see an even more proactive approach as boards and management identify key issues, initiate notice board campaigns with appropriate reach and frequency, and then follow them up with a measurable return on investment. For example, boards and management might run campaigns to reduce water use in which they set a target, provide conservation tips and then report results to owners.
Digital notice boards are the gateway to a thriving and fiscally healthy condo corporation. Communication remains the key!
Sue Langlois is the founder/CEO of Diginotice, a digital notice board communication service for condos seeking to improve their bottom line. A pioneer in the digital condo landscape, Sue serves on the communication committees for both CCI-Toronto and CCI-National and contributed the communications chapter of CCI-T’s Board of Directors’ Tips, Tools and Techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]