How Do You Measure Up?

There’s an old expression about the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. (I admit to some degree of madness myself as my frizzy hair persists long after the umpteenth bottle of hair product 🙂

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

Property managers are super busy; these days even more than ever as new properties are developed and “21 and done” has led to retirement for those not opting for licensing. Great communication really makes a difference in a manager’s life – they get more done, answer less repetitive questions, and see more of their own bedroom than the condo’s boardroom. Why then, when it comes to communication in Condoland, are the same old practices still being followed?

For years now, the number one method of communication has been email, fired off in due course by harried property managers dealing with a pile of topics and mostly just trying to keep up with busy schedules for alarm testing, generator testing, fan coil maintenance, garage washes, stack cleaning… the list goes on. It’s pretty straightforward; dust off last year’s letter template, change the dates, and fire it off again in another email. The announcements have been made, the details provided, the proverbial butt covered.

Now while email “blasts” (want to drink from a firehose, anyone?) might work for some topics, many condo resident email open rates (the percentage of emails that actually get opened – and hopefully read) are so low that email is often a very ineffectual tool for dealing with bigger issues and topics – the stuff that impacts the bottom line, affects property value and even life safety.

That’s where digital signage comes in, usually in the form of elevator and/or lobby screens. It’s there, right in front of the audience every day as they are coming and going and everyone who takes the elevator every day sees the same info as everyone else at roughly the same time. It’s very effective, but even digital displays aren’t much help if they aren’t paired with a communication strategy that includes measuring results. (They should also be ad-free unless your goal is to annoy rather than educate.)

It could be argued that the only communication that counts is… communication that counts. Condoland is severely lacking when it comes to statistics, but each property can easily start keeping tabs on loads of different things that in the end will contribute to a more efficiently run property, a not-so-burned-out manager and a confident, less-worried board of directors.

Most managers that I have interviewed over the past 10 years readily admit that communication in condos tends to be reactive not proactive. Dogs make a mess, an email gets fired out. Cars parked in the towaway zone; bigger signs go up. Pizza box jams the chute, more emails, more bold letters, more exclamation points. Does it work? Who knows? The notices come down, the problems recur, the crazy cycle continues.

There’s a better way. It’s proactive, it’s methodical and it works. I have a client that was spending $250K per year on water; we ran a water campaign (and by campaign I’m talking 30 pieces of creative designed to raise awareness, provide tips and educate residents on the importance of turning off the taps) and ultimately cut back water usage by $25K per year. Create a campaign, cultivate the topic among the audience, count the results.

Another property was worried about their hydro bill when they heard that rates were going up. A campaign of energy saving tips was posted to their digital screens, along with a challenge to beat the previous year’s bill. The result? Five thousand saved, in just one month. Create, cultivate, count.

And by count, I mean count. How many times was the chute jammed? How many times did false-alarm fire trucks arrive? How many times did garbage spoil the recycling bin? How many residents have read the fire safety plan? Know what to do in an emergency? Feel confident dissuading tailgaters? It’s not always about money; safety and security are even more valuable.

The last set of condo “comprehensive” general rules that I looked at had 329 items in the index. That’s 329 things that can be created, cultivated, counted. It’s the only way to make communication work, and to know indeed that it is working. It’s a little bit of work upfront that saves a ton of time (and sanity) in the end.

This stuff works… and I’m not crazy (well maybe aside from the hair 🙂

Property managers and condo board directors can have shorter meetings, less headaches and more time on the patio this summer.

 Contact Digi-Notice to prepare your communication strategy today. Contact phil@digi-notice.com or sue@digi-notice.com