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Association PR Campaigns Stress Local Market Vitality

January 1, 2007

Although some areas of the country are experiencing dramatic real estate market fluctuations, others have not been so severely affected. This hasn’t stopped the national media from painting a universally grim picture from coast to coast. So in an effort to educate their community about true local conditions, many associations are launching their own public relations campaigns.

Not only are some local markets bouncing back from fourth-quarter 2006 lows, but, according to Jill Landsman, communications director for the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors®, today’s market “reflects real-world conditions as opposed to what had been crazed conditions.” Recently cited in a local news article, Landsman commented on how the recent real estate drop is part of a natural market correction and suggested that prices will eventually stabilize and go back up.

To counteract the negative effects of national real estate news on local market activity, the Charlotte Regional Realtor® Association launched the “It’s a Great Time to Buy in the Charlotte Region” advertising campaign. Featured on local radio, the campaign emphasizes how the region has been spared the severe home value declines experienced by others across the country. According to vice president of public affairs for the organization, Lila Rash, the association is also producing a television ad with the same message. (Listen to the Charlotte radio spots at www.carolinahome.com.)

Taking a humorous and direct approach to motivating area homebuyers and homesellers, the Memphis Area Association of Realtors® recently launched HopOfftheFence.com with accompanying radio and print promotions. “Locally, consumers are hearing a great deal of mixed messages about the stability of the real estate industry on a national level. Thus, many are sitting on that proverbial fence about whether to buy or sell a home,” according to the site. “Through this campaign, it’s our goal to truly educate consumers, real estate brokers and agents, and news media about what’s happening here at home in our local market.”

A central feature of the Memphis site, which is aimed at educating consumers and members, is a collection of news stories (most featuring interviews with association President Neil Hubbard) that paint a more accurate picture of the local market. The site also includes information on avoiding predatory lending and foreclosure, details the ins and outs of credit, and explains how to find a Realtor®.

On the state level, the California Association of Realtors®’ new “Your Piece of California” campaign (see p.28) stresses that the best way to buy or sell a home is to use a Realtor® who knows the local market. The campaign’s Web site also offers tips for buying and selling, and provides links to more consumer resources on the association’s main site, CAR.org. Additionally, the Illinois association is planning to launch a consumer campaign and Web site later this year focused on promoting Illinois’ stable real estate market.?

NAR Celebrates 100 Years in 2008

In celebration of the association’s 100-year journey as a unified organization, NAR will launch a broad campaign this November. As NAR’s 2007 President-elect Dick Gaylord told an audience of association executives and 2008 association presidents at the August Leadership Summit in Chicago, the campaign will reflect on NAR’s contributions to our great nation.

The theme for this centennial campaign is “The Face of Real Estate for 100 Years.” Planned activities and promotions include an online mosaic of thousands of member and association staff faces, representing the idea that every member has an equal place in the Realtor® organization. (Upload your photos at www.TheFaceofRealEstate.com).

The centennial will launch at the 2007 Realtors® Conference & Expo in Las Vegas. Visit the NAR booth on the expo floor for materials and information on more centennial activities in 2008.

Local Market Data is Top Member Service

The Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors® recently launched a market research tool that provides free housing-market updates for 100 communities in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The tool, which is quickly becoming a member favorite, offers Realtors® and consumers data on how the changing housing market is affecting values and sales in their own neighborhood.

“The ‘100’ has become one of the most visited pages on our Web site, has received press coverage in major regional print publications, is used by our regional television affiliates for story content, and has provided another powerful analysis tool to our members,” says Erin Milburn, the association’s marketing and communications director.
MAAR also re-creates their tools for sale to other Realtor® associations. For more info, visit www.mplsrealtor.com/Segments/Realtors/the-100.htm.

Association Launches Web Site to Combat Transfer Fees

The New Jersey Association of Realtors® launched a Web site in August with the sole purpose of combating a legislative effort to permit local governments to impose their own home transfer fees on top of the state’s. At NJHomeTax .com homeowners can calculate how much higher their “home sales tax” may climb if the legislation is enacted.

The current sales tax due on a home sold for $356,700—the median price for an existing home in New Jersey—is $2,799, according to the site. With the extra local tax, the sales tax bill would increase 13 percent to $3,156.

“Most New Jerseyans are shocked when they learn that this simple fee, once used to cover the cost of recording their deed, has grown into such a large tax,” says Jarrod C. Grasso, association vice president of government affairs. “The campaign’s goal is to educate the public about the tax and encourage them to speak out against extending the tax to local governments.”

Penn. Campaign Wins Defeat of Transfer Tax

The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® marked a victory in July when state legislators eliminated a proposed increase of the real estate transfer tax in the 2007–2008 state budget. “This legislative success is the result of a multi-phase effort to educate consumers and legislators about the issue and why it’s bad public policy,” says PAR President Dominic Cardone.

PAR’s efforts to eliminate the proposed tax increase began in March with a public opinion poll showing that 80 percent of Pennsylvanians are against raising the tax. In June, the association launched VoteNo OnRTT.com and ran full-page newspaper ads to encourage Pennsylvania legislators to omit the tax increase from the proposed budget.

At the grassroots level, PAR members urged their legislators to vote against an increase. More than 3,600 letters were sent to lawmakers in the state capitol.

Association Halts Rent-Control Effort

After nearly 18 months of lobbying and public awareness campaigns, the Greater Boston Association of Realtors® helped secure the defeat of a local form of rent control. The proposed measure would have required building owners with 10 or more units to negotiate with tenant groups over rent increases, code violations, and evictions. Owners would also be prohibited from selling or converting a building to condominiums without first negotiating with the tenant group.

The association argued that the measure not only would have added a new layer of regulations, bureaucracy, and cost to virtually every aspect of the landlord-tenant relationship, but it also would have stifled the production of new housing. According to John Dulczewski, the association’s executive director, the strong grassroots Realtor® effort that generated hundreds of e-mails and phone calls to city council members played a pivotal role in the defeat.

Reaching Members through Podcasts

There’s no doubt that iPods are extremely popular, and for tech-savvy Realtors®, downloading music and news from the Internet is a growing habit. At least that’s what the Massachusetts Association of Realtors® is betting on with the launch of its new monthly podcast, “Keeping It Real: The MAR Report.” Each report, put together like a radio show, features interviews and market data. Members can subscribe to have podcasts automatically downloaded to their iPod or computer, or can simply listen to them at www.themarreport.com.

“It’s fair to say that they’re getting more and more popular with each episode, but they’re not very popular yet,” admits association Communication Director Eric Berman. “As we make it easier to access with an embedded player and through iTunes, the audience will grow.”

MAR plans to launch a survey to gauge member awareness and use of the program.

AE on the Verge

Veteran Realtor® association executive, frequent RAE magazine contributor, and budding technophile Cindy Butts, CEO, Maine Association of Realtors®, has launched a new blog called “AE on the Verge.” The blog, which debuted in August, shares her thoughts, best practices, and musings on Realtor® association management and features, among other entries, “30 Association Management Tips I Learned at the ASAE 2007 Conference.” Stay tuned to http://cindyae.blogspot.com for more.?

“All Together” Dick Gaylord, 2008 NAR president, lays out his theme and agenda for the coming year at August Leadership Summit.

Dick Gaylord, 2008 NAR president, stressed teamwork at all levels as his theme for 2008 in his message to association executives and their 2008 presidents at the August Leadership Summit in Chicago. “We’re here to further a common vision. We must direct our individual accomplishments toward broader organizational objectives,” he said.

Gaylord called the AEs and elected presidents a unified team ready to make history at all levels of the Realtor® organization. “I see in you the future of the real estate industry. I see team 2008,” he said.
Gaylord’s strategic planning committee has identified seven goals for 2008 that will be announced at the annual conference in Las Vegas, Nov. 13-16. But three goals specific to association leadership were revealed at the summit: 1. Strengthen the relationship between Realtors® and consumers; 2. Be the most comprehensive source of real estate information; and 3. Enhance the professionalism of Realtors®.

Gaylord asked that each AE work to convince members that their input is valued. He also encouraged attendees to reach out to young practitioners and to listen to new voices in the association. “Find a spot for everyone who wants to be involved in the association,” Gaylord said. “Today’s beginners are tomorrow’s leaders.”

To watch a video of Gaylord’s entire summit keynote presentation as well as event presentations on leadership roles, technology trends, diversity, and human resources for associations, plus updates on NAR and the economy, visit the summit postshow highlight page at REALTOR.org/lsummitweb.nsf/pages/2007wrapup.

Slimy Real Estate Agent Anchors Va. Campaign to Promote Ethics

Ted Truitt looks and acts like the stereotypical real estate salesman homebuyers try to avoid. His white suit and red, shiny shoes are complemented by a greasy hairdo and phony smile, his marketing line is “Trust the Ted,” and he believes the Realtor® Code of Ethics is meant to be broken, especially if a rule stands in the way of a sale.

Luckily, Ted Truitt is a fictional character that the Virginia Association of Realtors® created to grab members’ attention and drive home a crucial point: Serving customers and fellow practitioners honestly and ethically is more than simply the right thing to do—it’s also good for your business.

“We knew we really had to dig deep to find something that would get everyone’s attention,” says Melanie Thompson, president of the Virginia association. Ted Truitt and his Web site, TedTruitt.com, are at the center of the association’s widespread campaign to educate members on everyday ethics scenarios.

The Web site also features an interactive ethics quiz and links to a more serious association ethics Web site, TheCodeIsGoodBusiness.com, which features testimonials from Realtors® on how following the Code of Ethics has helped them grow their business.
The idea for the campaign was born last year when a survey revealed that the top concerns of Virginia practitioners were a lack of professionalism and a poor public image.

The association plans to sell the Ted Truitt concept and ethics training kit to other Realtor® associations.

Tribute to a Legendary AE, George Patt
by Rosemary Scardina, CEO, Lehigh Valley
Association of Realtors®

George L. Patt, rce, cae, passed away on July 24, 2007. For many, the passing of this legendary association executive is a tremendous loss to the Realtor® community.

How can I do justice to a man who has touched so many lives?
George unselfishly gave of his time both at the state and national levels, where he was rewarded with the Illinois Association of Realtors®’ highest award, the Presidential Medallion. He also received the 1996 NAR William R. Magel Award and was a member of the Bud Smith Society.

George began his career not in the Realtor® community but in the U.S. Navy, where he served 20 continuous years of active service until he joined the Lake County Board of Realtors® in Illinois as the executive officer. He went on to serve as the director of member services for the Illinois Association of Realtors®, the EVP of six local associations in Illinois and Florida, and the EVP of the Oklahoma state association, as well as the president of the Real Estate Education Foundation.

In addition to all of his accomplishments, he always had time for his family, friends, and peers. George was responsible for my opportunities and growth within the world of association management, and he encouraged me to constantly strive for personal and professional development. More than 20 years ago, George taught me that change was a good and constant thing, long before change became the norm. His lessons of cooperation and collaboration among neighboring associations were far ahead of their time.

An example of these lessons can be found in the Mainstreet Organization of Realtors®, Ill., which is a direct by-product of the alliances George fostered over the years between the Du Page, South Suburban, Southwest Suburban, and West/South Suburban Chicagoland Realtor® organizations.

George taught by example to keep an open mind, work in the best interests of the members, and only keep working while you’re having fun. He will be deeply missed.

2007 Magel Award Winner

Benny McMahan, executive vice president, Texas Association of Realtors®, will be honored during
the Board of Directors meeting at the Realtors® Conference & Expo in Las Vegas as the 2007 recipient of the William R. Magel Award of Excellence. The award of Excellence is presented annually to an individual who has excelled as a Realtor® association executive.

McMahan has been cited by his peers time and time again as someone who truly "leads by example." His diligence in advancing the Realtor® political agenda has earned him a place in the RPAC Hall of Fame. He also went above and beyond the call to assist local associations and Realtor® members in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita, getting in his car and driving several hundred miles in the hope of finding and helping members. In the words of a colleague, "Benny is known for his dynamic leadership and key political insight, and he is always most generous with his time and advice."

Association Headquarters Has Curb Appeal

The Saint Paul Area Association of Realtors®’ new headquarters building includes an environmentally friendly rain garden landscape feature that’s designed to use less artificial water, thus conserving water supplies while purifying rainwater. The environmental benefits coincided with the community benefits, which was a major goal for the project, says Mary C. Yang, the association’s communications and marketing coordinator, since the new building and its garden are for members and the public to enjoy.

AE Professional Development:
Successful Students

The following students successfully completed Realtor® Association Management Self-Study courses between June 29 and Aug. 29, 2007. Students are eligible to receive points toward their Realtor® association Certified Executive (rce) designation.

Realtor® Association
Management Self-Study Course
Sharon Armour, Detroit Assoc., Mich.
Eric Bernard, Assoc. of Gr. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Marian Blanchard, St. Augustine & St. John’s County Assoc., Fla.
Scottie Bosworth, Virginia Association
Mary Carder, Sedona Verde Valley Assoc., Ariz.
Marie Donahue, Outer Banks Assoc., N.C
Susan Ellis, Illini Valley Assoc., Ill.
Margaret Grant, Massachusetts Association
Catherine Hannum, Assoc. of Pioneer Valley, Mass.
Susan Harris, Greeley Area Realtor® Assoc., Colo.
Susan Hostetler, Kansas City Regional Assoc., Kan.
Tracy Mallette, Jupiter Tequesta Hobe Sound Assoc., Fla.
Tess Martin, Southland Regional Assoc., Calif.
Barbara Noe, Carteret County Assoc., N. C.
Marjorie Phillips, Williamson County Assoc., Texas
Amanda Sacco, New Jersey Association
Patty Sesto, Heartland MLS Inc., Kan.
Kathleen Sweeten, Northwestern Vermont
Cynthia Thompson, Assoc. of Gr. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Tina Thompson, Greater Lansing Assoc., Mich.
Edithann Wadewitz, Northeast Tennessee Assoc., Tenn.
Rose Wanosik, Tuscarawas County Board, Ohio
James Wetzel, Worcester Regional Assoc., Mass.

Professional Standards Module
Brenda Kelly, Gr. Boston Real Estate Board
Marie Donahue, Outer Banks Assoc., N.C.

Advanced Realtor® Association Management Self- Study Course
June Clark, Monroe County Assoc., Mich.
Steve Haid, Collin County Assoc., Texas
Sarah Hodges, Huntington Board, W.V.
Jacquie Ketchersid, Greater Las Vegas Assoc., Nev.
Rosanne Orsini, St. Augustine & St. John’s County Assoc., Fla.
JoAnn Overzet, Traverse Area Assoc., Mich.?

Promote Realtor® Safety Year-Round

If you missed the opportunity to promote Realtor® Safety Week in September, don’t worry; there is a wealth of information, handouts, and promotion tips in the 2007 Safety Week Kit on REALTOR.org that you can use anytime. Visit REALTOR.org/Safety.

Save on printing, design, and direct mail

PsPrint is the newest partner under the Realtor Benefits® Program, providing NAR associations and members with savings on printing, direct mail, and design services, including brochures, postcards, custom envelopes, business cards, event tickets, and more. Associations and members receive a 20 percent discount on their initial PsPrint order and a 5 percent discount on every subsequent order. For more information, visit www.psprint.com/realestate/nar/index.asp.

AE Focus: Q&A with John Gormely

When it comes to including the public in association outreach, the Texas Association of Realtors® has a long and successful track record. Not only has it established an effective method for rallying homeowners to take legislative action, but Texas Realtors® enjoy a strong brand recognition as being ethical professionals who work to improve communities and champion property-owners’ rights.
How do they do it? RAE spoke with one of the architects of TAR’s consumer-focused outreach campaign, John Gormley, communications director. He has nearly 20 years of experience developing consumer-focused programs for a variety of state and national trade and professional associations.

How did TAR’s consumer-focused outreach
effort begin?
TAR launched a consumer-focused campaign in 2001. We began airing radio spots about our Legislative Hill visit day and on our work lobbying on behalf of homeowners. This helped position Texas Realtors® as champions of private-property rights. We continued that message in our consumer Web site, TexasRealEstate.com. We also used the site, along with a series of new radio spots broadcast statewide, to emphasize two other key messages: first, that there’s a difference between licensed real estate agents and Realtors® and second, that Texas Realtors® are the professionals of choice when you have real estate needs because they adhere to the strict Code of Ethics.

What is your most successful consumer outreach effort (advertising, Web, events, other)?
From a long-term brand-awareness perspective, the radio spots are our most recognized program. They’re broadcast from January into November on 130 stations statewide. A couple of the spots have been from NAR’s ongoing campaign, with Texas taglines, while others are original. Whether the spots carry a general Realtor® image message or public policy message, most of them direct listeners to visit TexasRealEstate.com for more information.

What challenges have you faced creating and maintaining an outreach effort to consumers?
The main challenges are resources and focus. Texas is a big state, and maintaining a consumer presence through traditional ways, such as advertising, is expensive. That’s why our strategy has always been to include our members in this effort—what I call marketing from the inside out. The focus part is simply remembering to do the consumer outreach in spite of all the pressing member needs that we all deal with on a daily basis.

What has been the biggest payoff of your
consumer outreach efforts?
Last year we went from the very real possibility of seeing a real estate transfer tax enacted, in addition to already-high property taxes, to actually lowering property taxes for homeowners statewide. Texas Realtors® participated in the public policy debate
in a big way, enlisting the help of consumers. We used an integrated campaign featuring our grassroots membership, traditional public relations, radio, TexasRealEstate.com, and a special advocacy Web site we created called TruthAboutTexasTaxes
.org. The governor championed this approach to implement a broader range of taxes instead of a transfer tax, and publicly gave Texas Realtors® much of the credit for finding a new source of school funding.

What’s the next step for your consumer
outreach efforts?
We’ve asked our leadership to give some thought to what our desired brand identity with consumers should be. For example, do we want Texas Realtors® to be seen as the professionals of choice when it comes to real estate? Or as advocates for public policies benefiting homeowners? Or both? We’re also considering some specific improvements to TexasRealEstate.com, including podcasts covering real estate issues for consumers, an enhanced consumer call-for-action feature, and more content and features in Spanish.