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Pig Kissing and Your Reputation

Free Exposure?

If I told you that I could get your name in front of thousands of local, potential customers, for free, would you be willing to kiss a pig in exchange for the publicity? I made that decision this year when I volunteered to raise money for the local county fair. In return, I had stories written about me in the local papers, was covered on local radio, and garnered some name recognition. I also got to stand in the center ring at the Fair and introduce myself to everyone there.

It’s been three months, and I still have people seeking me out to see if I did, in fact, kiss the big, dirty pig. (Seriously, I didn’t ‘win’… so I didn’t have to kiss it. And that was really okay with me when I saw that pig.) But folks that didn’t know me before recognize me now, and the people that I already knew in the community? I had an excuse to call them and remind them I’m still alive (and selling real estate). Some agents told me I was crazy, but to me–it was just good public relations.

Protect Your Offline Reputation, Too

The best listing agents spend tons of time crafting marketing plans to promote the homes they are selling; well thought out, strategic marketing to put each home in its’ best light. How many agents spend as much time and energy to market and promote *themselves* as a brand? Shouldn’t you have as clear a focus on how to put yourself out there, how potential clients should perceive you? All major companies and corporations have someone managing their public relations. As an agent, how are you incorporating a good public relations strategy to manage your public perception and reputation, and help bring in future business? Someone recently said to me that communication all comes back down to public relations…your face, your personal brand, within your community, is what brings you business and success. Beyond guarding your ‘online reputation’, guarding your business reputation and your place in the local community is just as important.

It’s about having goals in mind for how you want to be perceived, and which audiences you want to reach. (While I don’t want to be perceived as a pig kisser, being perceived as supportive to the local fair and 4H programs is a good thing.) Are you trying to place yourself as the expert for the huge active adult community nearby, or are you looking to position yourself as the most knowledgeable agent for first time buyers? You’ll need to have very different activities in mind for each niche market you are working with.

The Long Tail…in Real Life

At REBlogWorld in Las Vegas last week, I learned from Jim Duncan that you can (and should) establish relationships with local media outlets so that they turn to you when they need a quote from an expert. I have also heard successful agents talk about taking the time to get to know the builder’s representatives in different new construction communities: keeping your ear to the ground with them allows YOUR clients to know about good deals before they are gone. Nicole Nicolay talked at Inman Connect about working with your local school’s PTA to meet people and build a network for the long term. The “long tail” is not just an online term…apply it to your offline marketing plan, too.

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So I’m not saying everyone needs to kiss a pig to grow their business..but I think it’s important to not get so wrapped up in your online presence that you forget to have a real presence in your local community, too. What are you doing to interact locally?

Written By

Heather is a Realtor with Century 21 Redwood Realty in Ashburn, Virginia. She's also the 2008 VARBuzz Blog Brawl Champion, mom to four fantastic kids, and the wife of a golf professional. If she had free time, she'd probably read a good book or play golf. You can find her on twitter, @hthrflynn, or writing on her blog,



  1. Jay Thompson

    September 27, 2008 at 11:26 am

    I’m bummed my contribution didn’t help you “win” — I would have liked to seen a photo of you and the pig in a lip lock…

    “What are you doing to interact locally?”

    What is weird (to me at least) is that since I started accepting advertising in a limited fashion on my blog, it has opened up connections with local businesses that I never had before. I’ve had some amazing conversations with local business owners (FWIW that vast majority of whom do not advertise on the blog) and really “connected” with several. A couple of those have lead to client referrals.

    I do virtually all my real estate marketing and PR online. But you make a great point Heather – it is really important to connect in the “real world” too. is also a wonderful place to find local people that share similar interests.

  2. Nick Bastian

    September 27, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    I remember reading about your contest and thought it was a great idea. I bet there were a lot of guys in your community wishing they were that darn pig… Glad to hear the media picked it up, that kind of thing can go a long way.

  3. monika

    September 27, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    LOL…I’m glad you didn’t have to kiss that ugly pig but what a great gimmick for you!

  4. Missy Caulk

    September 27, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    This is the first year I haven’t had kids in high school where it was so easy to network, volunteer for homecoming float building, prom committee, you name it.
    I am going to have to get out in more unnatural environments, going to a Chamber meeting on Tuesday. It was so, so easy when my kids were younger.
    Many at the school know I blog, (on Saline Schools and events) so now they are bugging me to buy a place on the scoreboard for 3500.00 for 5 years, ouch… I don’t like that kind of branding, what are your thoughts?

  5. Jonathan Dalton

    September 27, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    What I do in the community doesn’t translate too much too my business. One transaction in five years at my shuel, and my presidency probably costs more business that it creates. Coaching YMCA is another thing, but that’s never paid off in anything other than skin-cancer to come from walking around in 112 degrees yelling at kids who can’t hear me.

    I’ve debated starting a beagle meet-up but the time’s a little thin.

  6. Jay Thompson

    September 27, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    “I don’t like that kind of branding, what are your thoughts?”

    My gut instinct Missy is the odds of someone seeing your name on the scoreboard, writing it down, going to the site when they get home, and deciding to use you as their agent, are remote.

    Networking at school events is vastly more personal than a name/site/number on a scoreboard. Besides, at least at my kids high school, the audience in the seats consists of 85% students, and 15% parents. Half of which are band parents that arrive shortly before halftime and leave immediately after. The demographics of a high school football crowd don’t seem to fit well with real estate.

    In other words, I suspect the ROI is low.

    Then again, some people swear by billboards which are much more expensive and require a similar effort on the lead/prospect/visitor/potential future clients part.

  7. Cheryl Johnson

    September 27, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    To Missy, 3.5K would be a little too rich for my taste, too. But whatever, it’s not your name on the scoreboard that matters. It’s the parent or Board member that ~sold~ the advertising to you remembering what a great, smart, generous person you are….

  8. Steve Simon

    September 28, 2008 at 7:05 am

    Don’t flame me, I think charity and giving back should be done; but not to further your business.
    First I think without any additional follow-up your name on the back of a “Softball Fundraising T-Shirt” does very little to garner you any business in the community. To me the reputation you want to establish for business purposes should be “professional, hard working, successful, knowledgeable about my field”. Being known as a “Pig Kisser”, or an easy touch for team advertising, will in my opinion get you on the short list for those looking for a “Cow Milker”.
    Which as I started off saying, “Is not bad, it’s good to give. Just be giving because you want to help not profit from it…
    Just my thoughts 🙂

  9. Bill Lublin

    September 28, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Steve; I don’t want to flame you, but I think you should be kissed (though not by me)
    Networking is networking – and to me that’s working the room – charity or good deeds should be done because you want to do them or they need to be done. And except for the way you feel when you help someone, they really are their own reward.

  10. Rich Jacobson

    September 28, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    I think you need to balance the two, both online and offline branding/reputations. And they both need to be the ‘REAL’ deal. I’ve seen way too many ‘online’ personalities who claim to be one thing, but in reality, are something entirely different.

  11. Matthew Rathbun

    September 28, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    …before meeting my amazing wife, I kissed a lot of pigs. I had no idea there was money to be made doing so – had I only known!

    Seriously, the most successful agents I’ve worked with have sat down with a consultant or media adviser and established a way to get their name out. Unfortunately, we’re still trying to convince agents that not only is it ok to ask for business – it’s a requirement. The best way to “ask” for business is to show you’re willing to work for it and to educate the consumer as to why they need it. Public relations is an important part yeah

    We have given several agents lists of media contacts for our area in the past. Unfortunately we only see very few use those lists.

  12. Paula Henry

    September 28, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    Matthew – LOL – you probably just won points with your wife 🙂

    Wherever you give your time or resources, I believe you must have a passion for it. I have a special place in my heart for children. Last week is was a donation for Juvenile Diabetes because in my previous life as a Licensed Day care provider, I took care of a child who had Type 1 diabetes.
    I also donate to Riley Childrens Hospital because they once took care of my son when he was a baby. I advocate for causes I believe in; because I have passion for them.

    If I were recognized for doing so, great, but the reward is in the giving for me.

    I do agree we need to be active in our community to know what is going on. Find something you love and it will be obvious. Business is a by-product of the activity you love to do anyway.

  13. Cyndee Haydon

    September 28, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    Heather – I loved reading about original post about your Pig Kissing Opportunity and think you made a great point here about connecting in our communities. We are lucky as Missy said because our kids are still school age and we homeschool so there’s a close network of a couple of hundred families locally that all participate in an online forum and in weekly co-ops where we all pitch in so it’s been a great way to help our and get to know others. We also are active in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and our church. It is important to balance Online and offline – still think that Pig Kissing was brilliant – just saying (gotta keep my eyes open for something like that with great viral marketing ability – loved it!)

  14. Mark Voorheis

    September 29, 2008 at 7:14 am

    “What are you doing to interact locally?”

    I’m a big fan of walking my neighborhood, and I try to do it at least twice a year. Walking around and handing out something…usually this time of year trick or treat bags with my name/contact info on them. People always want me to stop and chat about the market. How’s it going, where do I think it’s going, etc. I think it is a great way to set yourself apart from all of the other agents mailing into the neighborhood. People have had a chance to meet you face to face.

    As for the discussion above about advertising in school/church/charity publications…I have always made a point of advertising in my church bulletin. I don’t think that people who don’t already know me will necessarily be swayed by the ad, but there may be people who do know me, but didn’t know that I was a Realtor. This type of advertising helps me make sure that people who would consider doing business with me know that I am in Real Estate. I have had plenty of calls from my church bulletin ad.

  15. Mack

    September 29, 2008 at 10:42 am

    Did someone say “Lipstick on a Pig”?

  16. Heather Elias

    September 30, 2008 at 6:39 am

    Jay: it was not a pretty pig, the pic would not have been attractive! Will have to check out, thanks for the tip!

    Nick: the other contestants thought I was a lock to win it because of the paypal account I set up to take donations! I was grateful for all the media coverage, for sure…

    Monika: I was glad too when I saw it! (they didn’t really clean him up at all!)

    Missy: I agree with Jay, I think for that cost it isn’t really going to reach your target audience…

    Jonathan: Hmm, beagle meet up? Let me know how that goes for you… 😉

    Cheryl: I think it’s a bit expensive, too!!

    Steve: no flaming! Honestly, I didn’t think that I needed to point out that community service was a good thing in and of itself, outside of the benefits it could bring your business. That’s just a given!

    Bill: agreed. It’s wonderful when you can enjoy your work and help the community at the same time… (and kisses for you, too!)

    Rich: exactly! If you aren’t genuine that will be evident no matter how much sugarcoating is put on top! 😉

    Matt: I believe that real estate agents as a whole don’t work with the media enough to shore up our perception and image as an industry…

    Paula: I love this, “Find something you love and it will be obvious.” Exactly!!!

    Cyndee: It sure caught attention! It also gave my sphere of influence a way to jump in and help me do it, too…made it their project as well as mine.

    Mark: Great to see my biz partner jumping into the conversation here on AG! (everyone wave hi to Mark, please!) I love your point about making sure that people who know you, know that you are a Realtor, in a low pressure way. That’s hitting the nail on the head!

    Mack: Nope, nobody said that at all… =)

  17. Jeff "I Should Have Donated More" Turner

    October 10, 2008 at 12:52 am

    You already know how I feel about this topic, but I couldn’t let your first post here pass without leaving a comment. All I know is I should have donated more. All this community exposure for you is nice and all, but I wanted to see you kiss the pig.

  18. A Coffey - Maximum Referrals

    June 5, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Interesting post, especially the social networking aspect of this. It’s funny, we have cells, texts, tweets, email, and more ways than ever to get in touch with people… and STILL can’t reach people when we want! 🙂 We need to stop hiding out behind the techno-stuff and get back to old fashioned face-to-face interactions.

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