The decision to start a community newsletter opens an exciting new chapter for a condominium, homeowner (HOA), or townhome association. A newsletter can help promote neighborhood events, provide updates on association projects, and encourage owner engagement. But where do you start?
If board members, community leaders, or property managers do not have experience creating a newsletter, it can seem overwhelming. Whether you’re beginning the process or working to improve an existing association newsletter, this article will provide a few ideas and highlight some best practices.
1. Roles and responsibilities
Board members, long-time residents, and engaged owners can contribute to an informative and engaging newsletter. Content creator and editor roles can be assigned by the board to different association members to maintain accountability and allow for different perspectives.
2. Simple but stylish
You don’t need to be a design expert to create an effective newsletter. But appearance does matter! A good newsletter is eye-catching but not an eyesore. Inconsistent or cluttered design can distract from useful information.
Here are a few “less is more” suggestions:
- Make sure the text is large enough to read
- Choose two or three legible fonts
- Choose an appealing but controlled color palette
3. Shine the spotlight on your neighbors
Newsletters are the perfect way to recognize the efforts of association members. Residents are more likely to read the newsletter if there’s a chance they might be featured. Home and unit owners may also be more apt to volunteer in the future if they know their hard work will be appreciated.
For example, the newsletter can highlight neighbors who:
- organized a food or coat donation drive
- planned a garage sale or block party
- volunteered for a committee
- haver just moved into the association
- have an upcoming birthday, retirement, or wedding
4. “A picture is worth a thousand words”
Adding graphics and photos to your newsletter will break up blocks of text. It will also provide visual appeal. Here are a few ideas:
- Ask residents to submit photos of community events
- Share “flashback” photos of the community and residents
- Share progress photos of association construction projects
5. Change it up
While regular sections like association projects and resident announcements can be community newsletter mainstays, it’s always good to keep the content fresh. Variety keeps people turning pages! Here are a few ideas:
- Add an advice column with DIY and gardening tips
- Create a holiday decoration contest
- Include blurbs on energy-saving tips
- Incorporate an owners-only classifieds section
6. Keep it local
Association newsletters can also be a great way to share information about the surrounding community. People don’t want generalized or vague content that barely applies to them. Reminders about local family-oriented activities, crafts fairs, elections, farmers markets, can be relevant to residents. You can also share information about upcoming construction projects that will affect traffic near one of the entrances to the neighborhood.
7. Don’t squash participation
When owners are encouraged to contribute and submit original articles, they feel valued and heard. A newsletter that includes different opinions is unlikely to ever be dull. By only representing the views held by Board members, a newsletter can disappoint or alienate the community, and it’s hard to recover readership if that happens.
8. Get permission
It’s exciting when a resident of the community starts a new business, retires, or has a new baby. But make sure to ask for permission before you share it in the newsletter. Better to be on the safe side when publishing any information or pictures involving an association member than violating their desire for privacy.
Whether you live in a sprawling suburban HOA or a downtown condo high-rise, some local vendors are willing to pay to advertise their services to association residents. These services can encompass common owner needs such as landscaping, pest management, dry cleaning, home repair, or food delivery. Accordingly, some associations sell advertising space in their newsletters to cover printing and production costs.
The ideal ad-to-content ratio will vary. But you certainly don’t want your newsletter to look like junk mail. After all the work of creating a newsletter, you don’t want it to end up in the trash!
10. Rules reminder
A newsletter can include links to frequently requested association items such as community bylaws, property improvement request forms, and the association’s assessment payment website.
While the newsletter can serve to remind residents of the rules and regulations, it should not used to publicly harass or confront owners. There are ways to point out recurring issues, reiterate enforcement policies, and offer solutions without humiliating members or turning a friendly bulletin into a shame-laden scold report.
11. Content standards
Standards should be established to specify permissible and prohibited content. Examples of prohibited content should include, but are not limited to:
- confidential association business
- personal or privileged information
- neighborhood gossip
- political bias
- copyright/trademark infringement
12. Not a Substitute
An association newsletter should not be used as a replacement in delivering formal meeting notices. While it can be a helpful tool to keep owners aware of the news of the day, it does not absolve the board of its obligation to hold properly noticed meetings to transact association business.
The newsletter should also not supplant policies and procedures in place for the delivery of association related communications by the board to the owners. The newsletter should strictly serve as a centralized location where owners can quickly locate information between meetings.
Referring to these best practices as a guide, the task of creating or refining an association newsletter should seem a little less daunting. If you’re worried you might not be able to generate enough content for a monthly schedule, consider a quarterly newsletter. There is a lot of room for creativity and customization. Your newsletter can be just as unique as your community!
If your association has questions regarding your newsletter, communication strategy, and/or social media policy, do not hesitate to contact our firm. Call 855-537-0500 or visit www.ksnlaw.com.
Since 1983, KSN has been a legal resource for condominium, homeowner, and townhome associations. Additionally, we represent clients in real estate transactions, collections, landlord/tenant issues, and property tax appeals. We have four office locations, serving hundreds of clients and thousands of communities throughout Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Our attorneys are also licensed in Arizona, Florida, and Missouri.
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