There have been a few blog posts recently that struck a nerve with me. Enough to make me take a step back to look at why I was reacting so viscerally to what was written by folks that I have a tremendous amount of respect for.
Being A Little Defensive
Teresa Boardman’s Drinking on the Internetpost talked about online reputation management, and the importance of remembering that photos (taken by yourself or by others) can affect the professional reputation of your peers if posted online. Marc Davison wrote last week about the Trouble with Twitterand how many real estate professionals would do better to contribute something more professionally meaningful than cocktail party banter to the twitterstream. (I’m oversimplifying here, a bit.) These aren’t the only posts written recently about reputation management, but two that stand out to me as being particularly well written.
All Professional, All The Time?
I was already writing a post in my head to respond to Marc (although I think I have been adequately beaten to the punch with that) when I read a comment on the post by Rob Hahn. In it, he queried:
Could the challenge going forward be to let the professional mask slip a little bit? To stop worrying about “brand image” (as I am also wont to do, being a marketer) and worry more about exposing the authentic person (or persons, in the case of a corporation)?
I’m going to come back to that in just a second. As a Realtor, I am in the position of being a professional, providing a service, meeting someone in their home. It is incumbent upon me, whether representing a buyer or a seller, to put myself in their shoes and connect with the person in front of me. I have to be an expert at what I do, sure, but I also have to be a real person who they interact comfortably with to get through a complex life transition. I have to be a real person they can trust.
I don’t want to be a slick, shiny, well packaged piece of marketing material on Twitter. Or on Facebook, or anywhere else, including real life. I am who I am, whether it’s with my Realtor hat on or off. There are clients that I will sit and have a margarita with as we discuss whether now is the right time to sell off their rental property. There are other clients who I wouldn’t consider meeting for drinks, but I don’t mind eating pizza on their coffee table with their five year old.
Not Apologizing For Being Myself
Real estate agents are in the public eye all the time; that’s a fact whether you are online or in real life. I don’t believe agents fall into the same category with politicians; people have the right to choose to work with me, or the right to choose not to. Whether I’m seen in public having a glass of wine with my husband should have no bearing on my negotiating expertise. And if I ‘tweet’ about putting on a pitcher of margaritas in the evening, it doesn’t make me instantly incapable of being a good agent. It makes me a real person who doesn’t have a problem with that level of transparency.
Back to the ‘mask slipping’ question. Rob asks whether we should “stop worrying about ‘brand image’” and “worry more about exposing the authentic person.” My contention is that brand image and the authentic person don’t have to be mutually exclusive. My brand is my authentic person. Or, more correctly, my authentic person is my brand. For me, that means my clients do get a glimpse into my life, and occasionally I’ll be photographed with a margarita in my hand.