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Taking the I Out of Blog

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no i in the blog


(Okay, so there’s no ‘i’ in ‘blog’ to begin with. Work with me here.)

This week on the Housechick blog, posts may not use the word “I” or “Me.”

Working through my feed reader this morning, there was a post that started, “I just listed a home at…” and that’s as far as I read. I don’t care that she listed a home. I don’t care about her, at least not in any specific manner. It turned me off big time.

So I decided, this week, there is no “I” in my blog.

It’s harder than I anticipated.

I tend to tell stories on my blog: ‘I’ve noticed that…,” “My client said to me…,” and so on. The point of the story is to elaborate some kind of real estate related idea, but it’s all framed with an ‘I.’ And the stories usually aren’t even about ‘I’, they’re about them. The clients. The buyers, the sellers, the other agents, the lenders, the other folks.

And I think it’s okay to use the I voice. That’s part of what individuates one blog from the other, it’s a direct view of the author. But I still think that the new visitor cares first about the information and it’s relevance, and second – if at all – about the author.

It’s not about me, it’s about them. Duh, right?

As a writing challenge to myself this week, I’m making a concentrated effort to put the focus back where it belongs – on contextually relevant information. With no mention of ‘I’ or ‘me.’

I’m working on a couple drafts to be published later this week, and so far, this is hard. I’m writing what I want to say, and then I have to go back and heavily edit, reword, rephrase, re-perspective. But it’s an interesting exercise.

Anyone else up for this challenge too? Here, I’ll give you a couple of “yous” to start with.

you you you you. also, yours and you’re. they. ‘us’ and ‘we’ are acceptable, if ‘us’ and ‘we’ is me and the reader.

There. Off you go. Happy editing. I’ll see you on the other side of this challenge.

Kelley Koehler, aka the Housechick, is usually found focused on her Tucson, Arizona, real estate business. You may also find her on Twitter, where she doubles as a super hero, at Social Media Training Camp, where she trains and coaches people on how to integrate social media into successful business practices, or at KelleyKoehler.com, a collection of all things housechick-ish. Despite her engineering background, Kelley enjoys translating complex technical concepts into understandable and clear ideas that are practical and useful to the striving real estate agent.

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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Benn Rosales

    June 29, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Kelly, I hope you’re blending in the middle some posts about you you you… one of the things that is so brilliant about you is your ability to connect on a personal level. When you went to town with a saw, hammer, and nails in your own home, it grabbed me personally as a do it myself sort of guy and it is a quality I most admire about you on a really personal level.

    I totally agree about getting to the goods and balancing it with not being a salesman of the in your face kind, but if I were buying real estate in your neck of the woods, I would use you just because I like and admire you, and the great agent part would just be the topping.

  2. John Lauber

    June 29, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    You’ve certainly made an interesting challenge that many us can learn from.

    Thank YOU.

  3. ines

    June 29, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    I’ve been doing this for a while and it’s not easy, but discovered early on that you have to write as if you are talking to a particular person. I use “I”, but try to limit it. We even got rid of our picture on our home page and on our business cards because it IS about the client, not us.
    Great challenge!!

  4. Lisa Sanderson

    June 29, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Great tip. I think this is a great way to make you stop and think about your focus. I’m going to try this exercise for awhile and see what happens. Challenge accepted!

  5. Bill Lublin

    June 29, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    OK Kelley – I’m going to take your challenge – I won’t write about you this week 😉

  6. Barry Cunningham

    June 29, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    This is really not so hard to do…it’s just hard for most agents to do. For some reason the culture for so long has been about an inner embellishment. Now it is obvious that it is all about the clients.

    I throw away all the postcards I get about “i just sold this house”…it’s completely inane. It’s not marketing..not by any stretch of the imagination. It fails marketing 101 on that premise.

    glad to hear that you get it. Wonder if others will. I know one guy for sure who does not. (and it ain’t Bill..not picking a fight bud :)…I bet Jay knows who I’m talking about)

  7. Bill Lublin

    June 29, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Kelley ; Just kidding – you and Benn form a perfect dichotomy here – How do you keep it personla and yet write in an articulate manner that is not about meme or II – The post will help me remember and write more effectively , I hope –
    Thanks

  8. Faina Sechzer

    June 29, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Blog authors in this regard are similar to book authors -they have to decide in whose voice to tell the story. What is important is not so much what voice it’s written, but what the story is about. If this agent was saying she listed the house and here is what her readers could learn from this -IMO it’s fine. If she was saying “I listed the house” to say how great she is, it’s a totally different story.
    On my blog I ( first mention of I in this comment:) speak in the first voice, as if I was talking to someone. Will have to double check how many “I” such writing produces:)

  9. Kelley Koehler

    June 29, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Benn – there’s definitely a middle ground here, but I’m exploring erring on the other side for a week! I went back and looked at the posts on my blog last week – and nearly every one started with an “I” sentence. I think the regular reader might be okay with that – that reader and I already have a connection – but I can imagine new visitors being turned off, potentially. It will be interesting to see if I can tweak my language but keep the style and feeling.

    Ines – I’ve always had a specific audience or person in mind for each post, but I tend to hedge my information in the context of a story or event – as if to rationalize why I’m writing that particular piece. Looking back, it’s not always necessary.

    Barry – I think that was a compliment. 🙂 It’s not hard to not write about myself, it’s hard for me to change my writing style so that I’m not framing everything in the context of my experience. I tend to lead with some story or tidbit that justifies the rest of the post.

    Bill – well, I’m not going to write about YOU either!

    Thanks for the support guys. It’s been a long time since I read through my own blog and in retrospect, there are aspects of the style and focus that I want to tweak somewhat. I like my writing to sound like how I talk, and I realized that when I talk to people, I never preface advice or information with the context of “I know this because…” as I do on my blog. There’s a place for that – and it’s not at the start of every post.

  10. Kelley Koehler

    June 29, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Faina – you make a good point. And that particular post was just an advertisement for her listing, which is a different topic alltogether! But at the same time, what if she had said, “There’s this amazing house over in XYZ neighborhood where as soon as you walk in, you can see all the way to the mountains without another house in sight, blah blah blah…” and at the end, say that she has the pleasure of listing it. (which is extra-cheezy example copy, but a different approach to the same post). It’s still first person, still conversational, but there’s no “I.”

  11. Elaine Reese

    June 29, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    Well … let’s count the number of I’s and me’s in the above post. 😉

    I tend to write as if I am speaking directly to a particular person so I use I’s and me’s when I’m telling the story. Eliminating that manner of speaking, would IMO, lose the personal aspect. I’ve had quite a few people tell me that they feel like they know me. So, I’m not sure I want to lose that.

    Depending on the writing style, heavy usage of the other pronouns, like you’s, might come off as sounding “preachy”.

    Now if an agent is saying they’re the greatest, then that’s an entirely different matter!

  12. Tom Vanderwell

    June 29, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    I think that this is a very healthy discussion to have. My English prof in college would find it enlightening as well. A couple of thoughts:
    1. From my standpoint, the thing that is most important is the attitude, not the individual words. I believe that many of the people who stop by my blog do so because they want to find out more about my thoughts and perspectives on the mortgage world, so it’s okay for me to say, “I read this…..”

    2. The fact that we’re having a discussion about this means that everyone who is reading and participating in the discussion is thinking about their writing style. That in and of itself is a good thing.

    Thanks for listening!

    Tom

  13. Jay Thompson

    June 29, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    “I bet Jay knows who I’m talking about”

    ya think? 😉

  14. Steve Belt

    June 30, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    “I think” there are certain times when you MUST use I. It’s when you share a personal opinion. If we opin about the market, make predictions about the future, or do anything else that isn’t fact based, I think we must be careful to clarify that as a personal opinion. This is the #1 place I use I. At least, I hope it is…I know I struggle with that part of my voice, in large part, because this engineer isn’t very well trained as a writer.

  15. Paula Henry

    June 30, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    Kelly – An interesting challenge! Looking at my posts, it is something I can improve on – I will definately be checking myself now.

  16. Eric Blackwell

    July 1, 2008 at 10:32 am

    OK, Kelly! Good challenge if for nothing else just to “switch hats” as a writer. I will be giving it a try on EricOnSearch….grin

  17. Mack in Atlanta

    July 1, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Several years ago a very wise gentleman told me to write the about page on my site in a more personal manner leaving out the I as much as possible. Thanks for the reminder and the challenge for the blog.

  18. Holly White

    July 1, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    Nice challenge Kelley. I’ll give it a whirl. Wait a minute I just said “I’ll” and “I”. Crap. Does it count here? Whew, this is going to be harder than “Holly” expected. 🙂

    Seriously though, I think we should keep our blog posts informative but at the same time, keep readers on the hook. Sometimes that means putting yourself into the post. People want to read about your experiences as it could relate to them. So talking about something you did in your own home as do-it-yourselfer would make me want to read on. Telling me about all of your accomplishments in blog posts is a turn off however. Using I and me in moderation is probably the best directive.

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Point & Purpose

What makes a top producer in real estate?

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What makes a top producer?

Stop and think for a few minutes about who the top producers are in your market?

Ok, now think about what they doing that has allowed them to continue to consistently produce in a down market, when everyday REALTORS are throwing in the towel.

Every day I scan the MLS to see, what has sold, what is active, and what went under contract (I assume that is something most agents do every day.)

Over and over again the same names pop up as the listing agent with the home that sold or the actual buying agent that sold the home.

Teams

Except for one agent in my area, all the top producers have teams. Now it may be a two person, husband and wife team or a well oiled team with a team leader, several assistants, a listing coordinator or a closing coordinator. But, they all have HELP.

In my area, the names that keep popping up are on Teams. I believe it is virtually impossible to be a top producer without help. Well, you could do it alone but if you do how is that effecting time with your family? Realistically how many transactions can you juggle and give good service?

Running a Business

The second thing I notice about those top producers is the fact that they treat their business like a business. Real Estate to them is not just selling a house, but something they brand, allocate resources for, grow and manage. Not only are they thinking of ways to grow their business but they also thinking of the future and how to sell it down the road.

I remember being told by a entrepreneur friend of mine years ago, “all businesses are built to be sold.”

Far to many REALTORS, think of Real Estate as a job they do and someday when they retire then all the hard work of creating and nurturing relationships they have built is gone. (I’m outta here)

Focused and Positive

One other observation I have observed with top producers is they are focused and positive. I never see them “hanging out at the office”, or attending broker opens, or really for that matter, serving much at all on their local boards. Oh there are a few, but really very few.

Finally, I don’t see many top producers in my market on Twitter, Facebook, Empire Avenue or other social media sites during the day. I don’t see them at every conference known to man around the country.

What I do see is they work everyday, on their business and in their business.

How ‘bout you?

Think of the top REALTORS in your market, what characteristics do you see?

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Point & Purpose

Is requiring Realtors to obtain a college degree smart?

The idea is constantly thrown around of raising the bar in real estate, but let’s take a look at why requiring a college degree may not be the answer.

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Last week we brought up the topic of requiring Realtors to hold a college degree as a means of minimum standards for licensing. Any time we discuss with agents what the best thing to do for improving the industry and the image of the industry is to raise minimum standards with most people agreeing that a monkey wearing an eye patch can get a license.

I shared with you what I learned and didn’t learn in college and reasoned that requiring a degree wouldn’t likely improve the industry as many basic business skills are not taught in universities today, barring the business schools.

I got a touching email of a reader that agreed with me. Sig Buster started his career in 1972, before I was even born. According to Sig, he was “broke, busted and disgusted but this [real estate] business gave me something the college didn’t give me. Hope and a chance and that’s all I wanted. I’ve seen many recessions come and go and many college boys and girls bust out of the business, but I am still here.”

Sig’s story is one of a successful agent who does not have a college degree, he is a well respected leader. I would defy anyone to argue that he is not qualified to practice because he does not have an $80k piece of paper like some of you (and I) do.

Sig’s story in his own words:

Try to read this tale and make the argument that degrees should be required. Bachelor’s degrees are nice, they’re fancy, and requiring them is a great default argument but one that I think is lazy.

“I didn’t graduate from HS anywhere near the top 10% of my class. We didn’t have a speech class, thus I was very shy and couldn’t think very quickly on my feet. The Viet Nam War was ramping up in 1965 and no one wanted to gamble any money on a college loan with a young man like me who was 1A for the draft. I did get some college, mostly English and history by working and paying my way to night classes while I worked as a draftsman with the highway department. As a draftsman, I learned how to read maps and survey plats which helped me later with selling land.

When the money ran out, I was talked into trying real estate. I knew this was the only way I would ever have a fighting “chance” to “make good” as they say. We didn’t have any real estate classes or schools, so I studied for the test on my own while working on a framing crew building houses. This taught me how to read house plans and a lot about construction which later helped me spot trouble in houses I listed or sold.

I firmly believe this hard earned knowledge has helped me better serve my clients and kept me from being sued. You know the catch all phrase lawyers like to use. “He/She knew or should have known”. Well, my experience in the field helped me to “know.”

Eventually, I took and passed the real estate exam and received my first year salesman license. The Monday morning I began work as a salesman, I knew for a fact that no one should depend on me to buy a house. I was too poorly trained to sell houses. Fortunately, I had a good sales manager who helped me, and I sold and closed my first VA loan home in 30 days- just in time to pay my rent and buy me another 30 days in the business.

I received a flyer advertising the Realtors GRI classes and I took the first class. This opened my eyes to the education provided by the Realtor association. I took advantage of every class and seminar I could find. Gaining knowledge in my chosen field every day. This specialized knowledge provided by other real estate professionals who knew the business, gave me the knowledge to better serve my clients and the money followed. I learned a very valuable lesson that is hard to teach young realtors. Provide the service and the money will follow. In other words, don’t chase the money.

To make a long, long story short, I eventually received my GRI, and my CCIM designation. I have been chairman of a planning commission and chairman of a zoning board of adjusters. Thus, I have a working knowledge of the government side of development- something they do not teach in college. I will be a guest speaker at a college in April of this year. I will be speaking to a college real estate class of fresh young faces who will graduate thinking they know it all.

As I said in the beginning, our high school didn’t have a speech class so I took two Dale Carnegie courses as well as Toastmasters and now I have the knowledge to speak in public and think on my feet.

I still don’t have a college degree so in this society, I couldn’t be hired to be a dog catcher’s helper, but I do consider myself educated. I’ve read and studied more books than all of my college educated children put together.

I have a degree from the school of hard knocks. I don’t recommend getting this type of education because it takes so long and it is a very hard road. But, this is what I would recommend if we demanded a college education for a real estate career.

1. Continue to develop the Realtor University that is provided by NAR. If possible, get Realtor University accredited as a University. Instead of building buildings and concentrating on research, continue to teach people to function in their chosen field.

2. Have a specialized tract, residential, land, or commercial. Don’t try to do it all, but know a little about all of it.

3. Know how to read plans, plats and have a knowledge of how to read a compass, GPS.

4. Learn something about the governmental side of real estate and how it works.

5. Continue using Webinars and Archived Webinars provided by NAR and CCIM.

6. Encourage Dale Carnage and Toastmasters and courses like that to develop the social skills that are necessary for this business.

I don’t have a problem with people getting a college degree but I don’t think a college degree is the end all of education. It can be a deterrent because of the cost and it will shut out people who can’t afford to pay the price. Real estate has been good to me and I have given back by serving my association as President and in many other ways. This has all been a learning experience and always will be. If we must have a degree, let it be in Real Estate.”

Sig’s accomplishments:

These aren’t your standard Realtors’ back patting, these are some serious accomplishments:

  • Licensed in South Carolina and North Carolina
  • 1972 Entered The Real Estate Business with Associated Realty, Inc in Columbia, SC.
  • 1973 Earned the GRI Designation
  • 1989 Earned the CCIM Designation
  • 1998 Co-Chair CCAR Legislative Committee
  • 1999 President SC CCIM Chapter
  • 2000 CCAR Leadership Program
  • 2000 CCAR-Certified Professional Standards Mediation
  • 2001 Co-Chair CCAR Legislative Committee
  • 2001 CCAR REALTORS Image Award-April
  • 2002 Chairman CCAR Legislative Committee
  • 2002 National Chairman of the CCIM Legislative Committee
  • 2002 Member CCAR Grievance Committee
  • 2004 Leadership SCAR
  • 2004 Chairman CCAR Legislative Committee
  • 2004 CCAR Board of Directors
  • 2004 Realtor of the Year-CCAR
  • 2005 Vice Chair SCAR State and Local Issues Working Group
  • 2005 CCAR MLS Committee-Member
  • 2005 SC CCIM Chapter-Member Board of Directors
  • 2005 CCAR Legislative Committee-Member
  • 2005 CCAR Leadership Program-Dean
  • 2005 CCAR Board of Directors-Member
  • 2006 CCAR MLS Committee-Member
  • 2006 CCAR-Secretary-Officer
  • 2006 CCAR MLS Sub Committee- Commercial
  • 2006 CCAR MLS Sub Committee-Grievance
  • 2006 CCAR Legislative Committee-Member
  • 2006 NAR- Land Use and Environmental Committee
  • 2006 SCAR Director
  • 2006 Chairman SCAR State and Local Issues Working Group
  • 2007 Vice Chairman of SCR Legislative Group
  • 2007 President Elect Coastal Carolina Association of Realtors
  • 2008 President Coastal Carolina Association of Realtors
  • 2008 Chairman of SCR Legislative Group2008 South Carolina REALTOR Advocate
  • Award (used to be the Grass Roots REALTOR of the year award.
  • 2009 Treasure SCR/member Legislative Group SCR/Legislative Committee, CCAR
  • 2011 Legislative Group Chair SC CCIM Chapter
  • 2011 SC CCIM chapter Board of Directors

Can anyone really look to Sig Buster and say that he is not doing good things for our industry simply because he doesn’t have a college degree? No. The argument is lazy and the real requirements should be (as Sig indicated) education that is focused on real estate and encouraging active leadership involvement. What say you?

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Point & Purpose

Should Realtors be required to have a college degree?

In Texas alone, barbers are required to have seven times more education hours than Realtors, and most licensed professions require more continuing education. This got me to thinking about what I did and didn’t learn in college, and what “raising the bar” really means.

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We’ve been discussing for years how to personally improve the practice of being an individual agent as well as how to improve the profession overall so that consumers have a better experience from industry insiders. Everyone has a different idea of how to raise Realtors above used car salesmen in the eyes of consumers and while social media has helped America see the personal side of real estate professionals, it hasn’t quite elevated the profession.

You’ve been to Starbucks this month, right? Everyone can spot the Realtor in the room- the hair is a little too big, the cell phone conversation is too loud and self important and the knock off Louis Vuitton bag is so far from the wrong brown it’s not even funny. As a Realtor, you roll your eyes and think “if only there was SOME way that it was a little harder to get licensed.”

We all know that gal or guy- they make the industry look horribly and in a single second undermine the entire industry. What should be done?

Any time we have this discussion, since the beginning of time, most people simply say that a college degree should be required. Really? That’s the answer? If you’ve been to college, you know that a lot of really, really, really painfully stupid people have graduated. It happens.

So this got me to thinking…

How would requiring a bachelor’s degree help the industry? I began thinking about my own college experience. I studied English at the University of Texas (then Spanish, then back to English, then Spanish and eventually left on year five with both).

College is supposed to prepare you for the “real world” and make you a better citizen, right? I’m not so sure. Regarding my own college experience, here is what college did do for me:

  1. I learned to hustle for myself. In a college so big, there was no accountability from anywhere but within myself.
  2. I learned how to research and how to tell junk from gems.
  3. I learned how to prioritize at my own risk.
  4. I learned how to work efficiently on very little sleep.
  5. Believe it or not, I learned the value of the professional network. If you didn’t go to office hours, your professors didn’t know who you were and if you didn’t keep up with them over the years, they couldn’t write letters of recommendation.
  6. The value of a personal network became apparent very early on as well- not just for getting into the best parties, but finding a roommate, a sofa when I needed one, a ride when my car broke down, a job when I needed cash, etc. If I’d stayed in my apartment alone, none of that would have panned out.
  7. Ultimately, I learned how to compete for my spot. UT is so big that it’s near impossible to get into if you’re not in the top 10% of your HS class. I also learned how to compete for a professor’s attention that hated teaching and was only there to research. Going to college also taught me how to compete for my spot in popular classes.

That all sounds good and wouldn’t those things all help elevate the real estate profession? Sure, why not? But it also got me to thinking about what I did NOT learn in college:

  1. Because I was an English major, I did NOT learn how to get to the point. We were required to write ten to twenty page papers several times each week and with that minimum, being concise was never necessary.
  2. I didn’t learn how to present well because the emphasis was on the information and not how it was presented. The most I had to do was read portions of my works out loud, but I could have read in a monotone voice and it wouldn’t have mattered.
  3. I did NOT learn how to work on a team. In the business school, this was a priority, but not in the liberal arts program. I learned how to push myself to be better than everyone, not how to function properly on a team… which is what most jobs require, especially real estate.
  4. I didn’t learn how to write a resume or sell myself. I now work frequently with interns and they are experiencing a similar lesson but now that social media is a part of their life, they think they know how to sell themselves because they can tweet. College does NOT prepare effectively how to sale, barring a few business courses.
  5. I did not learn money management. Again, the business school teaches this, but I left college having spoken to several financial advisors about my own loans but with conflicting information, my limited money experience was completely insane.
  6. I did not learn how to dress for success. I wore pajamas to most of my classes and the professor was lucky if I brushed my teeth or slept the night before. It didn’t impact my grade one iota.
  7. I didn’t learn how to negotiate. I knew how to manipulate and could get extra credit with some instructors, but overall, I learned nothing about negotiation, possibly one of the most critical tools in the real estate industry.
  8. I didn’t learn how to quit. In college, you keep pushing and pushing and pushing until you’re almost dead. In the real world, you have to know when to fold ’em. You have to know the signs of when a project isn’t working or when a tactic is failing, but college only prepares you to beat your head against a wall.

Most of these lessons I learned in my first jobs, not because the University helped me in any way.

So require or don’t require?

So, overall, when I think about whether or not a college degree is relevant in the real estate industry, I would argue that some of the most critical business survival skills are not taught in a traditional University unless students attend the business school (which is a minority of college students). Most colleges barely address the topic of real estate and graduate programs on the topic are forming, but going to school to be a Realtor is nearly unheard of (which would be the ultimate answer to the “what do we do?” question).

I believe that requiring a college degree would make for a beautiful Utopia and that in a dream world and on paper it looks good. Everyone with a framed BA or two would rule the world and help consumer trust levels, but I don’t believe it would actually make for better Realtors, it would just be more letters to add to the alphabet soup. What do you think?

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