Today's blog will focus on the steps you need to take to build a brand that will make you proud to call your community home.
- One of the easiest things you can do is to secure your community's web address which is also known as your URL (Uniform Resource Locator). Securing your association's URL is relatively expensive and prevents others from using that URL to either create confusion or, worse, set up a site which denigrates your community. Once you do set up a website for your association, you will find that site to be useful in terms of disseminating information about ongoing community projects, increasing transparency in your association operations and facilitating participation by your members. The most successful association websites have residents coming back again and again to check on news, list items for sale, download requested information and to participate in surveys about ongoing and upcoming projects.
- Take a look at your signage both physically throughout the community as well as your letterhead, your website and all other printed and electronic material. What kind of image does your font and logo portray? Is there consistency throughout all your communication portals which convey a consistent and polished image or are there varying approaches which create disparate and even confusing images?
- Speak with your association attorney about the types of policies you wish to create to support the brand you are building; these policies can pertain to security, occupancy, volunteerism, common area usage, civic involvement, ecological sensitivity and more. You will also need legal assistance to trademark your logo, craft an employee handbook and create the proper protections on your association website and other communication portals.
- Decide if Social Media is something you could manage to further enhance your brand. A Facebook page, Instagram andTwitter accounts might attract new purchasers and employees but they can also detract from your brand if those channels are left to languish. Social Media is not something which can be managed sporadically; successful use of this medium requires constant tending and the right tone. The effective use of Social Media can portray your community as a harmonious, well-run neighborhood and it can do this in a fraction of the time that old-fashioned networking and social events would take to build a similar image. The point of Social Media should be to start a dialogue not to make a point. Social Media portals are becoming more and more important for communities with a significant percentage of absentee owners as a necessary tool to keep those people informed and involved. If you do decide that Social Media is right for your community, your association attorney can assist in ensuring that your passwords and accounts are owned by the association.
- If your community is professionally managed, address your branding expectations in your management agreement and revisit those expectations on an ongoing basis. In fact, your choice of management company and other professional advisers also contributes to your community's branding. A self-managed community will naturally present a different image than a professionally managed one. A folksy feel in a 15-lot HOA might benefit from a brand perspective from self-management. However, a high-rise tower's brand might suffer entirely in the absence of professional management. An on-site manager, a portfolio manager, a handyman who lives in an empty unit, a bookkeeper sitting in the association office and valet and concierge service all bring different aspects to your brand. A community lacking in retained advisers such as attorneys and accountants can also detract from your brand building efforts. Finally, it is important to remember that the reputation of the advisers you choose also contributes to your brand so choose them wisely.
It is no coincidence that the communities with the most positive brands are also those with the greatest level of volunteer involvement, the highest property values and the most membership satisfaction. Successfully branded communities also enjoy greater involvement with local public policy makers. Your community's branding (or lack thereof) will go a long way towards attracting or repelling the purchasers, renters, employees and vendors you want.