|Posted on December 2, 2013 at 12:45 PM|
One of the biggest challenges to making newsletter publication easier is just finding the time to do the newsletters. A portfolio manager handles anywhere from a couple to too many associations, all of which have different board meeting dates that have to be scheduled and attended. Then there are board packets to prepare and once the meetings are over, the action-lists to complete. In between those duties are business partner coordination, bid solicitations, property inspections and association correspondences to complete. Add to that the daily fires that pop up that need to be taken care of and all of the other time-consuming tasks that are too numerous to mention.
I don’t know one manager who wouldn’t give their board president’s eye tooth for more time. Trying to schedule newsletter preparation (and publication if you don’t have a production company or support staff at your disposal) is nearly impossible. Or is it?
The key is not to create your newsletter on the fly, so to speak. Lay the groundwork necessary and when it comes time to put the newsletter together you’ll be way ahead. Another key is to schedule your newsletter preparation work, don’t just assume it will happen when the time is right. For the community association manager is there ever a “right” time?
Let’s break down task of publishing a newsletter from the beginning and see how it can be done simply and effectively:
Believe it or not, although this first task seems the most daunting, it can actually be the easiest to accomplish. Let’s review:
a. Create a word processing document for each association and name it “community-name newsletter.” For example, if I want to get a newsletter out for the Sleepy Hollow Community Association I would name the file “Sleepy Hollow Newsletter.”
b. As you receive phone calls or correspondences about an association issue that would be of interest to all residents, vendor status reports or ideas from something you read or saw, add it to the file and save it. Continue this process every time something of interest comes up in the course of the day/week/month.
c. Add a “Newsletter” agenda item for the board of directors meetings and note issues that the board wants to add to the newsletter. Add those items to your file when you get back to the office and save it.
d. Contact your committee chairs a week before your newsletter preparation deadline and ask them for an update report for the newsletter. Be sure to let them know the date when you need to receive it.
e. Contact your business partners a week before the newsletter preparation deadline and ask them for community updates or other relevant information they would like to share with the residents. Again, be sure they understand when they need to get you their information.
(Here’s a hint: when requesting information from board members, residents, committee chairs or business partners, kindly request the information be sent in a digital format so that you can easily paste it in your newsletter file and don’t have to have anything retyped. Most people use a computer to generate their information anyway and are happy to provide it to you as a text or word processing file – if it is a word processing file, make sure you have the right program or filter to access it or request a specific format, i.e., Word.)
f. If your newsletter allows classified advertising you should have included the ads in your newsletter file as you received them, if not then now is the time to add them to your newsletter file.
2. Research Information
Often times you will have to do a little research for a particular newsletter article. For example, the board would like an article on who to call for graffiti cleanup in the City’s office. You will have to find that out. Another example may have to do with social events around the community. Some managers like to add a “What’s Going On” type of article in their newsletters that lets residents know of any local community events, such as picnics, concerts, art shows, etc. The manager may have to contact the local Chamber of Commerce or other civic organization to obtain the latest event information.
Sometimes the research may come in the form of looking up specific sections of the governing documents in order to back up an article that has to do with reminding owners of a specific rule or restriction. Once you have collected all of your information in step one you will know what articles will need some extra research. If the manager has an assistant, delegating some of the research duties would be an excellent idea. Remember to add everything to your newsletter file on your computer and save it.
3. Write articles
With all the information and research completed, now comes the actually writing of the articles. Open up your newsletter file on your computer and start at the top. Some articles will literally write themselves but it is important to remember some of the advice offered earlier about the most effective tones and writing strategies that will invite participation in the reading of the newsletter. In other words, don’t lecture, talk down or judge. Put yourself in the shoes of the residents and write what you would want to hear in order to pay attention.
Board members, committee chairs, residents and vendors may have submitted articles already completely written. It is a good idea to go over them to make sure that they have no errors and fit in with the overall “feel” of the newsletter that you are trying to achieve. Make whatever editorial changes you think are necessary.
4. Prepare draft
You can use any word processing program to create your newsletter draft. The quality of the presentation will naturally depend upon your expertise in using the program. In a perfect world the manager would have access and the knowledge to use a professional typesetting program. If your management company recognizes the value of communication then providing a professional looking newsletter to reflect their professional image is probably very important to them and they may have dedicated staff to help you or contracted with a newsletter publishing company that can take your articles and create your newsletter.
However, the world is not perfect and most managers are probably on their own when it comes to preparing their newsletter. Just remember, any newsletter is better than no newsletter at all. Presentation, graphic layout, images and clipart certainly make for a more inspired newsletter and reflect more favorably upon the association representatives, but ultimately the strength of the newsletter will lie in the quality and relevance of the information it contains.
Keep in mind that when preparing the draft that if you will have a four-page (or more) newsletter that you may want to keep the bottom half of the last page blank. When printed and folded it can then be folded in half and this blank section can be used for the application of mailing labels and postage. Doing so saves the expense of an envelope and having to insert the newsletters into them.
5. Proof draft
Once the newsletter draft has been completed, read it over and correct any glaring errors. If the board adopted a policy in which it must also be reviewed by a board member then distribute it to them for review. If the board doesn’t have to review the newsletter it is still a good idea to get another set of eyes to look it over. If you have an assistant have them proof it. Not only will they probably catch some errors that you didn’t, but it will keep them informed about what information is being sent out to the community in case they have to answer any resident questions after publication.
6. Make changes
Make all the changes you have found, your board has submitted and/or your assistant has noted and give the newsletter one last look before printing.
Unless the association has a large printing budget dedicated to the newsletter the “printing” of the newsletter will actually be photocopying. Depending upon the number of pages of the newsletter instruct the person who will be copying the newsletter what you want. A two-page newsletter would be copied on both sides of one 8 ½” X 11” paper. A four-page newsletter would be laid out to be copied on a 11” X 17” sheet of paper and then folded in half. A six-page newsletter would use both a 11” X 17” sheet of paper and 8 ½” X 11” sheet of paper for each newsletter with the 8 ½” X 11” pages inserted in the middle…and so on.
Remember to have as many newsletters copied as there are Members of the association AND tenants. Renters can make up a large percentage of residents in the community and their involvement in the community should not be overlooked.
After printing, the newsletters will need to be folded either for insertion into billing statements, separate envelopes or as a standalone mail piece with mailing labels and postage applied directly to the newsletter.
Distribution can be in several different forms:
• Inserted into billing statements: If the management company uses a mailing service or stuffs their own billing statements in-house, then make sure the newsletters are given to the proper people to ensure that they are included in with the billing statements. Inserting the newsletters in with the assessment billing statements is a good idea because every owner will be sure to open their statement and that increases the opportunity to have the newsletter read.
• Inserted into separate envelopes: If the association is on coupon books and it is only a two-page newsletter (or longer without space dedicated for labels and postage), then chances are the newsletters will have to be inserted into separate envelopes for mailing. It is a good idea to use envelopes with the associations name and/or logo on it (or the management company’s) so that it is not confused as junk mail and thrown away before being opened. After insertion into the envelopes, mailing labels and postage will need to be applied.
• Mailed separately without an envelope: If the association is on coupon books and does not receive assessment statements and the newsletter is four pages or longer, and the bottom half of the last page has been left blank, then mailing labels and postage can be applied directly to the newsletter and will save the association the expense of having to use envelopes.
It only makes sense that those associations that send out monthly assessment statements schedule their newsletters to be finished so that they can be inserted in with the statements so that the association doesn’t have to incur the expense of using additional envelopes or postage. Most associations send statements out between the 18th and 25th of each month. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that if you insert the newsletter in with the assessment statement, it probably won’t be read until after the first of the month when the owner is paying their bills. That is because most people don’t open their bills until they are ready to pay them and old habits are hard to break so it is likely that the assessment statement won’t be opened and the newsletter read until the owner is ready to write the association a check…which is usually after the first of the month.
Keeping that in mind, be careful about promoting events or announcing meetings in the newsletter prior to the end of the month. Owners may not read about them in time to attend. Always plan ahead and look 30 days down the road when determining what events to announce in the newsletter. That way the owners are sure to know about them ahead of time. Nothing is more frustrating then learning about an event or meeting that you wanted to attend after it has already happened and the newsletter should be all about easing frustration not contributing to it.
If the association is on coupon books and does not receive a monthly assessment statement, then they will need to be mailed out separately. If you have the freedom of not having a newsletter deadline tied to assessment statement mailing then a good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that the newsletter should go out to the owners and residents approximately one week after the last board meeting in order to keep the information in it fresh and relevant. This also allows board members and committee chairs a couple of days after the board meeting to get any newsletter articles to you that they would like to include in the newsletter.
For HOA/Condo newsletter design/typesetting help, visit the Newsletter Wizard on the menu bar at the top of this page.
Help Create Community in your HOA, download a free version of "Creating Community: The Art of Empowerment in Community Association Living" at http://myhoa.webs.com/creatingcommunity.htm then order multiple copies for use in your HOA education program in hardcover, softcover or ebook at all online booksellers or at http://myhoa.webs.com/creatingcommunitybook.htm