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Opinion Editorials

I Wasn’t Campaigning, I Was Prospecting



Viral Marketing?

I’m the gal that was busy begging everyone to vote for her in the Virginia Association of Realtor’s Blog Brawl last month.  You might have read about it on Twitter, on my blog, or gotten a personal email from me asking for your help and support. You might have seen it on Facebook as an ‘event’ and were prompted to vote from there, or saw it as a bulletin on MySpace. I even held up signs on DailyMugshot (that’s the picture above.) You might have been annoyed that I asked, or you might have been happy to help me out.  A few fantastic friends created “Vote for Heather” videos! Some people were helpful enough to ‘re-tweet’ my request, forward the email, invite their friends. (Is that ‘viral’ marketing?) It must have been thorough enough, because I won the brawl and spent last week at the Inman Connect Conference in New York City on VAR’s dime.

You Heard? Then It Worked

So that makes me kind of like a politician, right? Campaigning? Covering all the bases? Welcome to a functioning public relations campaign. Reaching out to my audience in many different ways to get the message across. I used the same methods when I did the Kiss a Pig contest last summer, although I thankfully didn’t win that one.  I got a lot of the ‘I voted for you!’ while I was in New York…but now that I’m home, I hear the “I voted for you” in the grocery store, at work, at the golf course…

It was a reason to reach out to my sphere of influence that was not real estate related. It wasn’t the “Hi, how are you? How’s the family? Still liking your house? Are any of your friends looking to buy?” conversation. It was a “Hi, can you help me out with this?” with my real estate contact information at the bottom. It conveys the message that I’m still alive, working on something fun, and still selling houses, without pushing the salesy pitch on my contacts.  Since the contest ended, I have received emails from people that I never thought would have paid attention or taken the time, to let me know that they voted for me three or four times, and that they were tickled for me that I won.

Building a Brand

I confess that being known as the Kiss a Pig girl isn’t my favorite thing, so if I can usurp that with being the Blog Brawl Champ, I’m happy. Giving people a reason to come up to me when I’m out in town and say hello and congratulations is priceless. It’s not just about the votes, it’s about the contact. And the contact leads to referrals, which leads to sales. (Which, at the end of the day, is why we all do what we do. Putting food on the table and all that.) Attending the conference and gleaning tons of fantastic ideas is the icing on the cake.

Aren’t we always looking for ways to distinguish ourself from the competition in a crowded marketplace? Could you do the same thing yourself? Reach out to your clients to benefit a local charity? Create an event that you could invite your sphere of influence to? Spread the word about something happening locally? The results from unconventional marketing are undeniable.

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,

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  1. Tim McDonald

    January 13, 2009 at 9:42 am

    Congratulations on the win, both for the trip and the great exposure you created for yourself. I was glad to be a part of it, especially from the way it opened my eyes (and hopefully others) to a way to create so many contacts in such a fun and engaging way.
    Keep up the great work and I hope to solicit your support once I find my “campaign”. Strike that, I mean prospecting event.
    Your fellow tweep

  2. Bob Carney

    January 13, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    How about that Blog Brawl gurl kiss a pig and went to New York. LOL… You did a wonderful job at promoting yourself. MWa

  3. Derek Overbey

    January 13, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    This is funny Heather because it brings me back to my brokerage days. I would meet with agents to map out their marketing plan and I would always start off by asking them how they were marketing currently. Nine times out of ten they would say they were sending out Just Listed, Just Sold or Market Update cards. It is situations like yours that removes you from your role as a real estate agent and makes you a real person. This is what builds long lasting relationships and I would bet that these efforts you put forth for the Blog Brawl will provide benefits long after this post. I’m so glad you won because I was able to hang with you in NY but I know you will be glad because it will pay huge dividends to your business in the future.

  4. Craig Barrett

    January 13, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    I didn’t think you were begging. You politely asked and graciously thanked folks for their participation. Your delivery was genuine and included us in the excitement. It made me want to help you and I suspect others felt the same.

    I learned some things from this and from you. Things I’ll use in my local events we have coming in May and October. Thanks for the lesson and great job!

  5. Paula Henry

    January 14, 2009 at 4:27 am

    Heather – Congratulations, again! I agree with Craig – I didn’t see your emails and blog posts as begging – it was you and your personal style which had people (me included) wanting to go vote, then happy our vote counted when you won. Way to go market yourself!

  6. Missy Caulk

    January 15, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    Kissing pigs…

    New York…

    Reminds me of Green acreas, “darlin I love you but give me Park Avenue”.

    Congratulations !

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Opinion Editorials

Online dating is evolving and maybe networking will too

(OPINION EDITORIALS) How has the online dating industry been disrupted during the pandemic? And can we apply a few pointers from this evolved model to networking?



Woman networking through Zoom video call with two other women.

We are often reminded that hindsight is 20/20 – a proverb that means “it is easy to understand something after it has already happened”, and how ironic that is since we are in the year 2020 and not sure we can fully comprehend all we are learning and what hindsight this will bring.

Reflecting back to six months ago, there were many of us that didn’t have much of a clue about what the rest of 2020 would look like and how we would have to adjust to a more virtual world. We’ve updated our ways of working, connecting with colleagues, socializing with friends, networking with those in our industry, or looking for a new job.

Microsoft suggested that we have seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in about five months. For example: MS Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet have become the new way to host networking sessions, work meetings, and “chats” with colleagues; Tele-med appointments became the norm for routine or non-911 emergency doctor appointments; curbside pickup at grocery stores and food to-go orders via online ordering became the new normal (they existed before but saw tremendous growth in number of users).

We also had to learn how to create engaging and interactive ways to connect solely through a screen. We are already Zoom fatigued and wondering how online meetings have zapped our energy so differently than in person. It turns out, looking at ourselves and trying to talk to a group is a lot for our brains to process.

The Atlantic shares a great article about why the Zoom social life might feel so draining, saying that “Attempting to translate your old social habits to Zoom or FaceTime is like going vegetarian and proceeding to glumly eat a diet of just tofurkey”. No offense to vegetarians, of course.

You could argue though, that we’ve all been interacting via screens for years with the dominance of social media channels – whether it was posting our thoughts in 140 characters on Twitter, or sharing photos and videos of our artisanal sandwiches/cute kid/pet pictures on Facebook. But this seems different. Times are different and we will not be going back soon.

In this interim, many people are trying to make the best of the situation and are figuring out ways to connect. We will always need human connection (and without the germs, even better).

What about our single friends? If they don’t have anyone in the house to already drive them crazy, then where can they go to meet new people and/or possibly love interests?

While many experts are trying to predict the outcomes of this global shift, it may be hard to know what will change permanently. We know many industries are experiencing major disruptions – online dating apps being one of them.

According to Digital Trends, Tinder still ranks as one of the top dating apps. However, now that people are sheltering in place and/or social distancing, there’s a new app taking over as a way to “meet” someone a little faster, while also allowing you to stay behind the screen, sans mask.

Slide is a video dating app that changes your first-date frustrations into real connections and instant chemistry. Explore video profiles, go on first dates via Video Calls at your fingertips, and find that chemistry before dating IRL.”

So, while Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge play quarantine catch-up, Slide is stealing their market share.

How? With video.

Slide recognized the massive success of short-form video platforms like TikTok, and have translated it to dating. They focus on features like:

  • “Vibe Check”, which gives you the option to video chat immediately after matching with someone to see if there’s chemistry. This will save you from long or misinterpreted text conversations and money you may have spent on that first date.
  • A video-first approach that lets you see the real people behind the profiles so you can pass if they aren’t really who they say they are.
  • AI-assisted creation of “future bae” profiles that help suggest your best matches and spare you extra swipes. If Netflix can find similar suggestions…

As of August 2020, the Department of Labor and Statistics estimates about 13.6 million people are currently unemployed and searching for a new j-o-b. Is it possible that some of these newer ways of connecting online could be included in how we network for a new job/career opportunity?

For example, instead of sending a connection or networking request on LinkedIn, what if we could send a quick video about our story, or what we’d love to learn from that person, or how we’d like to connect?

Would that create a faster, better, possibly more genuine connection?

This would seem worth exploring as many job connections are created by in-person networking or reaching real people vs. solely online applications, behind a screen. Some other formats that have seen increased use are Marco Polo for video chats (you don’t have to both be available at the same time) and FaceTime group calls.

It might be worth exploring how short-form video platforms could assist job seekers in networking, outreach, and connecting with others. These are just some ideas as we continue to watch this digital transformation unfold.

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Opinion Editorials

Minimalism doesn’t have to happen overnight

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Minimalism doesn’t have to mean throwing out everything this instant – you can get similar benefits from starting on smaller spaces.



Minimal desk with laptop, cup, books, and plant.

Minimalism. This trend has reared its head in many forms, from Instagram-worthy shots of near empty homes to Marie Kondo making a splash on Netflix with Tidying Up with Marie Kondo in 2019. If you’re anything like me, the concept of minimalism is tempting, but the execution seems out of reach. Paring down a closet to fit into a single basket or getting rid of beloved objects can sometimes seem too difficult, and I get it! Luckily, minimalism doesn’t have to be quite so extreme.

#1. Digitally

Not ready to purge your home yet? That’s fine! Start on your digital devices. Chances are, there are plenty of easy ways to clean up the storage space on your computer or phone. When it comes to low stakes minimalism, try clearing out your email inbox or deleting apps you no longer use. It’ll increase your storage space and make upkeep much more manageable on a daily basis.

It’s also worth taking a look through your photos. With our phones so readily available, plenty of us have pictures that we don’t really need. Clearing out the excess and subpar pictures will also have the added bonus of making your good pictures easily accessible!

Now, if this task seems more daunting, consider starting by simply deleting duplicate photos. You know the ones, where someone snaps a dozen pics of the same group pose? Pick your favorite (whittle it down if you have to) and delete the rest! It’s an easy way to get started with minimizing your digital photo collection.

#2. Slowly

Minimalism doesn’t have to happen all at once. If you’re hesitant about taking the plunge, try dipping your toe in the water first. There’s no shame in taking your time with this process. For instance, rather than immediately emptying your wardrobe, start small by just removing articles of clothing that are not wearable anymore. Things that are damaged, for instance, or just don’t fit.

Another way to start slow is to set a number. Take a look at your bookshelf and resolve to get rid of just two books. This way, you can hold yourself accountable for minimizing while not pushing too far. Besides, chances are, you do have two books on your shelf that are just collecting dust.

Finally, it’s also possible to take things slow by doing them over time. Observe your closet over the course of six months, for instance, to see if there are articles of clothing that remain unworn. Keep an eye on your kitchen supplies to get a feel for what you’re using and what you’re not. Sure, that egg separator you got for your wedding looks useful, but if you haven’t picked it up, it probably has to go.

#3. Somewhat

Sometimes, minimalism is pitched as all or nothing (pun intended), but it doesn’t have to be that way. Just because I want to purge my closet doesn’t mean I’m beholden to purging my kitchen too. And that’s okay!

Instead of getting overwhelmed by everything that needs to be reduced, just pick one aspect of your life to declutter. Clear out your wardrobe and hang onto your books. Cut down on decorations but keep your clothes. Maybe even minimize a few aspects of your life while holding onto one or two.

Or, don’t go too extreme in any direction and work to cut down on the stuff in your life in general. Minimizing doesn’t have to mean getting rid of everything – it can mean simply stepping back. For instance, you can minimize just by avoiding buying more things. Or maybe you set a maximum number of clothes you want, which means purchasing a new shirt might mean getting rid of an old one.

The point is, there are plenty of ways to start on the minimalist lifestyle without pushing yourself too far outside your comfort zone. So, what are you waiting for? Try decluttering your life soon!

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Opinion Editorials

Your goals are more complicated than generalized platitudes, and that’s okay

(OPINION / EDITORIALS) When the tough times get going, “one size fits all” advice just won’t cut it. Your goals are more specific than the cookie cutter platitudes.



Split paths in the forest like goals - general advice just doesn't fit.

‘Saw.’ – “Vulgar, uneducated wisdom based in superstition”, according to the good volunteer compilers at Wikipedia. See also: ‘aphorism’, ‘platitude’, and ‘entrepreneurial advice’. I’m not saying there’s no good advice for anyone anymore, that’s plain not true. SMART Goals are still relevant, there’s a plethora of cheaper, freeer, more easily accessible tutorials online, and consensus in April-ville is that Made to Stick is STILL a very helpful book.

But when I hear the same ‘pat on the head’ kind of counsel that I got as a kid presented by a serious institution and/or someone intending on being taken seriously by someone who isn’t their grade school-aged nephew, I roll my eyes. A lot.

“Each failure is an opportunity!” “Never give up!” “It’s not how many times you fall!”, yeah, okay, that’s all lovely. And it IS all very true. My issue is… These sunshiney saws? They’re not very specific. And just like a newspaper horoscope, they’re not meant to be (not that I’ll stop reading them).

Example: You’ve been jiggling the rabbit ears of your SEO for months, to no avail. No one’s visiting your site, there’ve been no calls, and the angel investor cash is starting to dip closer to falling from heaven with each passing day.

Does ‘don’t give up’ mean that you use your last bit of cash to take on an expert?

Or does ‘don’t give up’ mean that you go back to R&D and find out that no one actually WANTED your corncob scented perfume to begin with; algorithm tweaking and Demeter Fragrances be damned?

This is the thing about both your goals you make and the guidance you take—they have to be specific. I’m not saying your parents can put a sock in it or anything. I’m thrilled that I’m part of a family that’ll tell me to keep on keeping on. But as far as serious, practical input goes… One size fits all just leaves too much room for interpretation.

When you’re stuck, behind, or otherwise at odds with your growth, are you asking the right questions? Are you sure of what the problem actually is? Do you know whether it’s time to give up a failure of a business and ‘keep pushing’ in the sense of starting another one, or whether you’ve got a good thing on hand that needs you to ‘never say die’ in the sense of giving it more tweaking and time?

No one should have stagnant goals. A pool of gross sitting water is only attractive to mosquitoes and mold. ‘I wanna be rich’ as your business’s raison d’être is a setup for a story about the horrors of literal-minded genies, not an intention you can actually move upon. But that doesn’t mean you need to go hard the other way and get lost in a nebulous fog of easily-published aphorisms.

To be fair, it’s not as if saying ‘Ask the right questions’ is exponentially more helpful than your average feel-good refreshment article, since… This editorial column doesn’t know you or what pies you have your fingers in. But if I can at least steer you away from always running towards the overly general and into an attempt at narrowing down what your real problems are, I’ll consider this a job well done.

Save saws for building community tables.

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