If you are a condo board director or property manager seeking to really make communication work in your condo building, you can’t get much better than digital elevator screens. They are by far the most effective tool to reach the most residents, the most often. Especially when it comes to the important, “healthy” info that residents need to know in order to keep costs down and fees stable.
Why? Because it is the one tool that has what is called a “captive audience”. That means the audience is in front of your message, and they don’t need to actually do anything to see it. No need to click, open, surf, tap, etc. They just need to stand there, and since most residents need to take an elevator to get to their unit, it’s a golden opportunity to reach them.
Before you make the commitment, think about the following and your buying decision should be that much simpler:
#1 – Hardware
Price – Sure, a consumer grade screen will work just as well as a commercial grade item… or will it? The cost of a consumer screen may be a lot less, but if it’s not built to run 24/7 or 16/7, then where does that leave you when it fails? With a focus specific to condos, my own mandate has always been to source products that will meet the unique needs and budgets of condos. I can tell you that the most successful applications for condos are quite often a mix of both commercial and consumer grade technology. 22″ or 23″ consumer grade monitors are great on a P level, but a 46 – 55″ lobby screen mounted 8-10 feet up the wall are best supplied by the commercial grade. Avoid the trap of getting the best deal and be sure to consider not only price but total cost of ownership.
Location – A major hardware trap is to rush out and buy the biggest screen that the budget will allow and then mount it in a low traffic area like a lobby. Remember, location is more important than size. Many condos don’t even need to bother with a lobby screen at all. If you’re in a suburban location with residents who drive and rarely see the lobby, save your money. The elevators will likely make the most sense.
Vendor – Choose your vendor carefully, and consider asking a specialist for help. There are many digital signage hardware purveyors out there, but one who is used to the condo environment will help you make sure that you get the most value for your dollar. Does the company that sold signage to the ACC or Rogers Centre really understand the budgets of a condo? Is your condo having a mod job done? Elevator companies sell screens, but the price is usually a lot more than the technology warrants, and again, you need to consider total cost of ownership. Flush-mount screens offered by the elevator companies can look pretty sleek, but a 1.5″ surface mount version means you can stay sleek and avoid having to call an elevator mechanic to service your communication system.
#2 The System
As long as the screens have power and internet, they should be working. Screens should be remotely accessible and built to withstand the hostile environment of an elevator shaft/car. (WARNING: To would-be do-it-yourselfers – this is pretty niche-market stuff – it took us 10 years and a million bucks to perfect it!)
Is the system browser-based or a software program? Who will need access to it? What is the cost of the learning curve, especially when manager turnover is so high these days? To eliminate the learning curve and ensure top-notch content, many boards are opting for an all-in-one hardware/notice design and scheduling service so that their manager can manage the process instead of waste time with the tool.
WiFi can often be unreliable. It might seem cheaper to set up a display using your lobby wifi, but what if someone changes the password? This sort of thing happens all the time, and it will usually mean a (chargeable) site visit! Depending on the size of your condo building and complexity of your network, it might be better to spend a bit up front and make it less expensive in the long run. Ethernet is solid and more reliable. Again, think total cost of ownership and decide what’s right for your building.
What about in elevators? If the elevator screens only update every few floors, that isn’t very effective. What if there is an emergency? Elevator screens should be able to update in seconds! I once visited a condo that had a board member sit in the lobby and wait for the cars to come to ground floor and then he updated them (hopefully) before they took off again. Call me crazy, but I’d say his time is probably worth more, and better spent.
A good internet connection is critical, especially when it comes to providing residents with more elaborate content like video. Speaking of content….
If you are using the same tool that you use to email residents to also upload to the screens, you may want to think again, because if you are putting pdfs and word docs on a screen, you really are wasting the power of a digital display. If your residents don’t bother to read a word document tacked to a cork bulletin board, a digital elevator screen displaying the same document is not going to help with that.
Even the best-intentioned boards and management teams usually start off with great enthusiasm to post notices and then lag as times goes by. Sooner or later the content starts getting stale. A digital display is a beast that must be fed! And while some board directors might feel that it is the job of a property manager to do this, in reality, it is outside their scope of work. A manager does not usually have the time, skill set, or experience to plan, create, and execute a communication strategy. Handing a digital display over to a condo manager and expecting great communication is a lot like handing a wrench to a manager and expecting every plumbing issue to get fixed.
And some campaigns can take a lot of effort…. if you really want to save water for instance, you will likely need a month-long campaign of 30+ pieces of creative all carefully designed and scheduled for maximum impact. It’s not unlike how ad agencies create and plan content for TV. (Read more on this in Mad Men in Condoland)
Hope this helps. If you have any questions, feel free to comment here, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy shopping!