Have a clear and consistent policy regarding acceptable public communications
More so than in most professions, the business of real estate significantly overlaps with REALTORS®’ personal lives. Clients are friends, family members and neighbors, and you see them in your daily lives, connect with them on Facebook and keep in touch with them well after any specific home sale or purchase is complete.
Due to this overlap, it is essential that you and your team members are mindful of the impact that personal posts, videos or other communications can have on your business. This is true in any time, but it is especially important during an election year rife with significant social, health and economic issues. Accordingly, it is wise to have a purposeful discussion with your team about what messages are acceptable for public consumption.
Please note: this article will not judge specific issues or opinions—it will simply provide a few topics for consideration and discussion with your team.
Strong opinions, especially about current events, often find expression through social media. Whether done as a comment or by sharing the thoughts of others, what may seem either obvious or totally acceptable to one person may be offensive to someone else.
Decide with your team how you view individual stances on certain topics being taken via social media. Common areas to consider are politics, social dynamics, family issues or community issues. All of these may or may not have direct connections to real estate, but as they inherently can be sources of conflict, you need to decide whether your team will encourage your team members to voice their opinions or whether you would prefer that they avoid publicly choosing stances. The ultimate choice will still likely rest with the individual, but if it will potentially affect your work and your working relationship, it is best to have a discussion about mutual expectations ahead of time.
Verbal and Written Communications
The same decision-making about social media topics and posts applies to other daily communications. Whether opinions or comments are made purposefully, off-the-cuff or in jest, agents need to know that their words about controversial topics can be received in a wide variety of ways.
It should go without saying that anything communicated at a company function, in the course of your real estate work, and/or through company email or letterhead should be subject to a higher threshold of review as to the appropriateness of the message.
Legal and Professional Responsibility
Sometimes the prism through which messages or opinions are viewed is not simply a matter of personal comfort level; it may also be subject to legal and industry scrutiny.
Take some time to review the National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics & Standards of Practice (e.g. Article 10) and Equal Housing Opportunity Laws, and ensure that no communications run contrary to legal and professional regulations. Also, consider that while some publicly shared opinions may not explicitly violate these regulations, they may still be interpreted by others as being questionable, especially when dealing with particularly touchy topics. Simply put, be smart and follow all legal, professional and moral guidelines in all forms of communication and business practices.
In the end, only you can decide how to balance personal opinions and real estate professionalism in your communications. The answer may be that team members should openly speak their mind however they want, and that’s fine. Whatever you decide, be sure that you have the necessary conversation with your team to make sure that you have a common understanding, and that you will have honest and open expectations with which you all can be comfortable.
To view my exclusive webinar “How to Leverage Social Media” to maximize your digital presence and earn more business, click here.
Sherri Johnson is CEO and founder of Sherri Johnson Coaching & Consulting. With 20 years of experience in real estate, Johnson offers coaching, consulting and keynotes, and is a national speaker for the Homes.com Secrets of Top Selling Agents tour and the Official Real Estate Coach for McKissock Learning and Real Estate Express. She is also an RISMedia 2020 Real Estate Newsmaker as an industry Influencer. Sign up for a free 30-minute coaching strategy session or visit www.sherrijohnson.com for more information.