There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding by the National Association of Realtors (N.A.R.) of the age in which we’re living. For over 100 years now, the N.A.R. has been perceived as a closed society, private, and secretive, and over the past year has launched a campaign to change those things by rolling into the social media era. On the surface, it would appear that transparency and open dialogue rules the day, but in actuality, it’s still in flux when it comes to membership versus the concept of brand ownership.
Search, Blogs, companies within the real estate industry, and social media all gave rise to consumer empowerment years ago, from Redfin crowd sourcing transactions with consumers to agents crowd sourcing their businesses via blogs, un-conferences and social media, giving the outcome a voice. All of this sparks growth and change that actually began with the concept of the information super highway, but I’ve fast forwarded for brevity. Consumers (whether a Realtor’s client, or customer) or even a member of an association (any association) for years (now more than ever) have related themselves to the brands in which they’re associated (by choice or not) when interacting, and expect the ability to add input and value to the brand and how they experience whether the brand asks for it or likes it. The brand ultimately makes the decision, but in the the case of the N.A.R. the membership is the brand, not the people who are in charge.
Their challenge is great, their rewards are even greater
Demographically speaking, the N.A.R. is a very wide spectrum of consumer. From the Realtor in rural Texas who’s never had a need for email to the uber tech savvy Realtor in Los Angeles, this array of constituents of the brand known as the N.A.R. all have a unique way in which they view the Brand and how it is led, and when those worlds collide, you can expect havoc, dismay, or even outrage when the idea of their brand changes. Make no mistake about it, it’s happening all the time as Realtors are adapting to very swift and seemingly radical change. To Brokers, local and state boards, N.A.R. (the organization) is seen as a tool and that tool is moving swiftly to modernity, merging many levels of ideals and visions.
Open eyes, ears, and minds
Not everyone can be on a committee within the N.A.R., and not everyone will want or need to crowd source their experience with the brand. In a sea of a purported 1.2 million Realtors, it will be a very small percentage in comparison to the whole that will actually utilize their voice in making or demanding change, and in fact, many will either love or walk away in dismay and disappointment over the choices that unseen and unknown leadership and committees make on their behalf. This is why it is so critical that associations listen to even the smallest voice, no matter how it comes, right or wrong, loud or mousy, not just those with mutual and or vested interest.
Where do we go from here?
- Recognizing the disconnect and turning on rather than turning off the dialog is the first step. Listening should never end in the social media era, because it’s about the time you think you understand everything that it all changes.
- Understanding that because you’re a thought leader and eager learners look up to you, doesn’t mean they should necessarily be adopted to a committee; otherwise, who will you have to count on when you need to hear the truth?
- Today’s thought leaders are only as good as their eyes and ears, if open.
- Just because you made a plan doesn’t mean you’ll never update or modify it- you never knew everything to begin with.
- Understand that the N.A.R. has a very unique brand and how it says it wants to relate is multi-dimensional- it cannot be a facade of multi-dimension. Consumers (Realtors) own the N.A.R. brand, which includes not only membership, but also board staff, brokers, and virtually everyone in between.
Growing pains are never easy, but they’re a part of the business for any Association, especially as large as the N.A.R. That doesn’t mean that we quit, retreat to a corner, or tear down the momentum built by our current SM leadership- this would be a crime of epic proportions. Simply put, it means we (including they) all need to continue listening, continue to dialog, even with those we may not agree with or like, if it truly is a personal, honest, and passionate vision you see for your association.