Community and communication11th Feb 2019
It is one thing to sell the concept of community living, but creating a real community among a large group of diverse human beings can be a tough challenge. An estate with a strong community keeps the value of the property high and the residents happy, so building a healthy community is a vital component of estate management.
How do you create a successful community?
A community is built on the relationships between residents, estate managers and the HOA, and like any relationship, communication is the key to success.
A happy community is one that is dynamic, where information is transparent and easily accessible, and all parties play a role in the responsibilities and decision making to achieve a common goal. It has functional structures to share knowledge and to air and resolve grievances.
Effective communication with busy consumers who live in a world of information overload and instant gratification is difficult to achieve.
The benefits of using a community portal
Traditionally, residents of an estate could be part of a Facebook or WhatsApp group, both of which are fine for commenting or airing one’s views, but are not good mediums for actually solving real issues. This often creates a disconnect between residents and the estate management, and, like all social media, can become very antisocial and not conducive to promoting harmony. These groups generally do not grant the estate management any control over the content shared.
‘When setting up a portal, the estate management can create a structure of various portfolios to cover all the components of their estate. Residents’ forums can be set up that enhance reputation management and allow estate managers to appoint moderators to keep the conversations relevant and respectful, and to resolve issues before they become major dramas. If managed correctly, these forums become a positive problem solving space and merge the residents and the estate management into one group with a common goal, which is a well-run and happy community,’ adds Basson.
A portal reduces the burden on the estate manager by opening the gateway to automated processes such as supplying the vast and varied information required by a new resident. It streamlines the process of finding and retrieving information and facilitates document control.
A portal design should be user friendly and work efficiently in both a desktop and mobile environment, making it compatible with the demands of the modern lifestyle. Functions such as a dedicated emergency channel ensure clear, concise communication, and platforms to conduct polls or voting are conducive to higher levels of engagement by residents.
A well-utilised portal is a central database that can store the history of all aspects of the property. This database can be used by estate managers to select and control the flow of information. Estate management can perform all administrative functions and communication with all stakeholders via the portal.
How to promote buy-in to the portal by the residents
When introducing residents to a portal system, it is crucial to stress how this will streamline the flow of information and put control of the type of content received into the hands of the resident.
The portal becomes the 24/7/365 go-to digital channel for all things related to the estate, from utility bills and notices to events, meetings and interest group updates.
A good portal system will give residents the ability to decide how they’d like to receive communications and notifications, e.g. mobile app, email, text messages or a combination thereof, allowing the resident to structure the communication they receive to their individual requirements.
Encourage interest groups to create forums; this builds community, and the content is user generated, taking the burden off the estate manager.
A community portal and application, correctly implemented, provides a digital communication and delivery channel, anytime access to relevant community information and services, and goes a long way in helping to create a healthy, vibrant community.