Some HOAs may be skeptical about launching or reviving a newsletter. “No one reads it.” “It’s too much work.” “We can’t afford it.”
We’ve heard all of these concerns before, and they are valid points. But, a well-written, well-designed newsletter can be both affordable and engaging.
This article aims to give you some original ideas and help make your HOA newsletter a hit.
Why bother with a newsletter?
Newsletters can play a big role in building community. Unlike social media, they ensure all recipients (in this case, owners) see the same things. Newsletters provide important updates, news and stories in an accessible format. They are more appealing and more friendly than a formal notice or email, and they can incorporate multiple voices in one document. Newsletters can also be used to motivate your owners to take action or get involved. Encourage them to do something as simple as take garbage cans in on time, or something as big as run for a spot on the board.
Consider taking your newsletter online
Almost everyone and everything is online. It’s easier, cheaper and faster to post and find information on the web. If your community doesn’t use the web often, then stick with physical newsletters. But if your owners are comfortable online, take your newsletter there.
Communication experts understand the value of a good newsletter, and they have found that email marketing has proven to be significantly more successful than social media marketing. It’s impossible to tell how many owners read a paper newsletter, but many online newsletter platforms tell you exactly how many recipients opened the digital newsletter. Having access to this information helps you determine if people are reading what you write.
Not your average newsletter
Building an online newsletter from a premade template is sufficient for many HOA communities. However, creating a truly unique newsletter can yield exceptional results. The downside is that designing something more creative will take time and effort. But, if you’re willing to put in the work, your audience will appreciate what you produce.
Infographics are accessible, attractive and versatile. They use engaging visuals to communicate information quickly and clearly. They are great for sharing “how-to” advice about maintaining a lawn or fixing a leaky sink, a quick overview about how to run for a spot on the board, simplifying complex processes, or displaying data or survey results.
There are several free and low-cost programs that will allow you to make captivating infographics that can be incorporated into your newsletter.
News from owners
Consider soliciting news from the people who live in the community. You could devote a section entirely to HOA owners, and have dedicated themes for each quarter. Pet pictures are easy, and most pet owners will be more than happy to share their cutest pet photos. You could also feature photos of HOA-approved renovations or architectural changes that owners have recently completed.
Communities have been unable to get together because of the global pandemic. Give them a chance to connect by sharing recommendations for books, movies, baking recipes, etc.
Don’t let this medium intimidate you. Short videos can engage your owners in ways that text simply cannot. The key is to create videos that are easy to make, and easy to view.
Not all platforms will allow you to embed video directly into a newsletter. The best option is to upload your video to YouTube (it is free and fairly easy to use), and add a static image of your video with a “play button” overtop. Link the image to your video on YouTube so readers will be redirected to the video you want to share. When your owners click on the play button, it will open up the video on YouTube.
If you’re concerned about privacy, you have the option to create unlisted YouTube videos. This setting only allows people with the url link to see the content.
Whether you’re seeking input about a particular project or want to get a better sense of how happy owners are, surveys can be an effective and familiar tool for generating useful information and data. Surveys give owners a chance to anonymously offer their feedback, which means you’re more likely to get honest information. Like the videos, the easiest way to incorporate surveys is to add a photo with a “click here” button, and link it to the survey page.
Tips to get owners to read your newsletter
If you’re looking for a little extra help to boost readership, feel free to borrow some of these tips:
Get specific. Tell readers exactly what will be in the newsletter by sending out a teaser email a few days beforehand. Get them excited about what’s coming out in this edition.
Don’t neglect subject lines. How likely are you to open an email entitled “HOA Newsletter”? If you wouldn’t open it, your owners probably won’t either. Some marketers try increasing familiarity with their subscribers by keeping the subject line the same. But those subject lines get old fast. There’s no incentive to open up the email and see what the newsletter has to offer. A better approach is to use a creative, personalized subject line for each newsletter.
Keep design and copy minimal. Newsletters can be messy. Like most things related to design, simplicity and space are important to keeping aesthetics clean and attractive.
Concise copy is necessary because few owners will read a 10-page newsletter. The great thing about online newsletters is that you can include links that provide additional content or information if owners are looking for it.
Space is equally important because it makes the newsletter easier to process and read. This is particularly important if owners will be reading the newsletter on mobile.
Mobile considerations. More of us are reading emails on mobile devices. If your owners do this, and will be reading the newsletter on their phone, your design will need to translate on mobile.
Make it clear that a real person is sending these newsletters. Instead of making the HOA the sender of the email, add a name that will be familiar to owners. This could be the president, another board member, or even the HOA’s mascot (if you happen to have one). Adding a real sender’s name to the email makes it more personal.
Try new things. We know you don’t have a ton of time on your hands, but it’s important to keep in mind that something that worked really well for one HOA might not work for yours. As such, experiment with different things. Maybe your owners like reading more than others, and don’t need so many photos. Take note of the newsletters that were opened the most, and which ones received the fewest views, and try to figure out why some were more popular than others.
Newsletters can serve multiple roles in an HOA development. They can be used to inform, motivate, entertain, and connect owners. Newsletters may not work for every community, but sharing creative, visually appealing periodicals can certainly help to boost readership and engagement.