With agents trying to differentiate themselves from other real estate professionals, personal branding has become a popular DIY marketing skill for many. And yet a lot of them seem to get it wrong. Like every other real estate professional I spend a certain amount of time in real estate centered Facebook groups. In one of them, I started seeing a lot of conversations about agent’s personal logos, and a lot of “Which logo do you like?”. Being a fan of crowd sourced opinions, and always having an opinion or two to share, I would take a quick look, and I noticed that most of the logos, and most of the branding presented by a lot of these agents were violations of state law and NAR’s Code of Ethics. The problems seemed to boil down to a few thing that were more misunderstood than willful violations of these two sets of standards, and it seemed to result from a lack of information on the part of the individuals involved.
The sticking point are two. Most state regulations require that you name your employing broker so the consumer knows who you work for and who to complain to (or about) if they have a problem. Since most state regulations require the broker to be responsible for the licensees in their company, this is a simple common sense aproach. Secondly, Article 12 of NAR’s code of ethics states. “REALTORS® shall be honest and truthful in their real estate communications and shall present a true picture in their advertising, marketing, and other representations. REALTORS® shall ensure that their status as real estate professionals is readily apparent in their advertising, marketing, and other representations, and that the recipients of all real estate communications are, or have been,
notified that those communications are from a real estate professional.” It would seem that telling people who you work for is a pretty basic truth to tell a consumer. But just in case you’re still confused, Standard of Practice 12-5 says “REALTORS® shall not advertise nor permit any person employed by or affiliated with them to advertise real estate services or listed property in any medium (e.g., electronically, print, radio,television, etc.) without disclosing the name of that REALTOR® ’s firm in a reasonable and readily apparent manner. This Standard of Practice acknowledges that disclosing the name of the firm may not be practical in electronic displays of limited information (e.g., “thumbnails”,text messages, “tweets”, etc.). Such displays are exempt from the disclosure requirement established in this Standard of Practice, but only when linked to a display that includes all required disclosures.”
Here are the biggest mistakes most agents seem to make;
1. Advertising yourself as a Business
Real Estate Agents don’t work for themselves. I know that it isn’t popular to take this position, and I’ve been involved in any number of heated conversations around this topic, but the facts are simple and aren’t really open to interpretation. If you have your license in a company that is owned by someone else, you work for them. True, you work for them as an independent contractor, and you are responsible for your own success or failure, but according to state law, all contracts with a real estate company are between the consumer and the company, not the agent. If your broker closed their company tomorrow, you would be forced to either find someone else to work for, or to actually get a broker’s license and become a licensed real estate company. All of your exiting contracts would be disposed of in the manner determined by your broker or your state regulatory body, but certainly not by you. Therefore by definition, you work at someone else’s company and you need to tell consumers where you are licensed. Your state regulations probably require that you tell people where you work whenever you advertise yourself as a real estate professional, requiring that you name the brokerage through which you are licensed. There is a reason that they call them employing brokers.
2. Not Naming the Company Where They Work
Real estate professionals have been all over the idea of social media marketing for years. There isn’t space or time in this post to discuss all of the things the they do right and wrong, but one thing that seems to be done poorly more often than not is completing profile information on social sites with information that informs the consumer who you work for (See #1) – and that’s just not smart (or compliant with state regulation or the Code of Ethics) Take a moment and complete the information with the name of the firm, physical location, phone number etc. Someone wanting to buy or sell just might drop by and look you up. Oh, and as a bonus, it puts you right in compliance with Article 12, SOP 12-5 that I quoted earlier in the post.
3. Presenting the Wrong Company Name
I don’t know if it’s a result of different business models, or the prevalence of franchise organizations, but misnaming the organization that they belong to is a very prominent problem. You don’t work for Keller Williams or Century 21 or any other franchise organization unless you actually work for the company that sells franchises. If you work for a real estate agency that has bought a franchise, you work for a company with a name that is longer than, and different from the franchise organization. For example the agents that work at my company don’t work for Century 21, they work for CENTURY 21 Advantage Gold – a completely different organization that sells real estate, not franchises. It’s important that you use the correct name of your employing broker when you advertise or speak about where you work. It provides better information for the consumer, makes it easier to find you, and once again, makes you compliant with state regulations and the Code of Ethics.
4. Using a Personal Logo without Integrating your Employing Broker
Presenting an inaccurate picture to consumers is, as you may have guessed by now is a huge problem. Using a personal logo without integrating the name of the employing brokerage does just that. Many of the logos I see agents use would be a good logo for them if they were to open their own company, but if that hasn’t happened, the name of their employing broker should appear whenever the logo appears. And that includes all social media avatars, Facebook pages, LinkedIn profiles etc. (Back to Article 12, SOP 12-5 and the state regulations here)
So Who Cares?
Well, frankly, you should. You agreed to follow the state regulations when you got licensed, and as a member of NAR, you agreed to abide by the Code of Ethics. But let’s look at this on an even more pragmatic level. Why wouldn’t you want to leverage the value of your company and their brand when advertising or doing business with consumers? I have always taught that you need to answer 4 questions to get a consumer to do business with you;
Why should I use a REALTOR?
Why should I use your brand?
Why should I use your company?
Why should I use you?
Like any good set of sales questions, the answer to each question sets up the answer to the next question, and makes it easier for the consumer to understand all of the value that you and all of your relationships bring to their real estate need. Don’t think your company provides any value to the consumer? Maybe you should investigate their value package to determine whether you’re missing something. May you should look at affiliating with another company that does provide that value. Or maybe you should open your own company. Then you can worry about whether the associates that work with you are compliant with the law and the COE when they decide they want to develop their own personal branding 🙂