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Category Archives: Professional
More than ever Agents, Realtors® and other service professionals (like me) are told we must build and nurture a “personal” brand. The term has gained traction with the proliferation of social media, with SM being the go-to tool to build one’s personal brand.
This leaves me questioning:
Do personal brands exist, or are we really talking about reputation?
What is a brand?
A brand identity is made up of a clearly defined set of characteristics/attributes (adjectives) identified as best representing the desired brand. These are used as a standard by which initiatives, both internal and external, will be measured to ensure they are “on brand” to deliver on the brand promise.
A reputation is the judgment or recognition of a quality or characteristic that is earned/developed by what we say and do. I’m of the opinion you can get a reputation faster than build a brand, but that’s a topic for another post.
Are personal brand and reputation synonymous?
As human beings, we are what we do – that’s what creates a reputation. And, the Interwebs don’t allow us to hide from our history so our reputation can actually precede us.
Brands are all about association, and people will associate with a brand based on experiences (which and include reputation and ethics).
So, are brand and reputation then synonymous, as they seem to roll experience, ethics and experience all up into one?
Or are they dissimilar?
You can have a reputation as a jerk, yet be known as the best at what you do (think: a temperamental, difficult chef that can create a culinary masterpiece). And, one can have a relatively unknown personal brand, and a stellar professional reputation.
Or, you can have a huge personal brand (vis-à-vis a huge SM following), but not really be known professionally. For example; think of the people that have a huge online following, but are known solely for their social media prowess, as opposed to their profession.
One person that IMO has it right is Peter Shankman. Originally a Facebook list, he built HARO – a huge online following of fellow PR types – to help further the industry. So his following is relevant to his career.
But, my question remains: did Peter enhance his (already solid) reputation or did he build a personal brand?
This is where I see the problem…
If you could, in fact, boil yourself down to a few key words that represent your desired brand, you’d be one dimensional.
As human beings, we are complex, emotional sorts and differ daily depending on our mood, social setting, etc.
“Hey idiot, do I need to dumb this down for you?”
That was cleared up a few days later, when during a one-on-one call I asked him “Do I present myself in a manner that leads you believe it’s necessary to speak to me like I’m four years old?” (ok, perhaps I didn’t say it in such an eloquent manner) To which he replied “What the *f bomb* are you talkin’ about?” (I *heart* New Yorkers – no ambiguity)
I explained my perspective, and he replied, “It’s the equivalent of you Cali types following a thought wth ‘ya know’.” (“Cali?” Totally not cool.)
… our regional slang is colorful and meaningful – to us – but it could be insulting to an out-of-towner.
Fast-forward to this post. As my encounter illustrates, our regional slang is colorful and meaningful – to us – but it could be insulting to an out-of-towner. What’s more, it’s fluid – evolving as new terms and phrases are created and edited from the mash up of regions and work functional areas & industries, thus increasing the chances of an unintentional insult.
Make certain you know where your clients are from, and don’t ever assume they “get” your industry jargon or regional slang.
There seems to exist the premis that the business of real estate requires an agent to build “long-term relationships” with buyers/sellers. I can’t help but wonder why. From my side of the fence, the home buying/selling process is a transaction, which doesn’t necessarily require a relationship.
In my mind, the relationship with a first-time client develops throughout the transaction process, eventually becoming some sort of ongoing relationship.
Question: Is sending a monthly newsletter, holiday (or other) card, adding to your FB, etc. considered a relationship? Doesn’t a relationship require some real life interaction on a somewhat regular basis.
The exception being repeat clients, friends and family, in which case the relationship did in fact did precede the transaction.
It’s not an enterprise sale, it’s a transaction
Typically around a solution as opposed to a transaction, enterprise sales are a lengthy, complex process that includes multiple stakeholders on both sides that contribute to the ultimate decision. Once the sale is “closed” the vendor or service provider remains actively involved in the deployment and ongoing execution of the product or service – thus the “relationship”.
An example would be the need for a company to purchase a customer relationship management system. Not only does this require lengthy system integration, but internal and perhaps external training.
Is real estate like car sales?
Let’s draw a parallel. Like real estate, cars are a significant, infrequent purchase often based on emotion. At a high level, the process looks something like this: The car salesperson determines your needs, recommends best fit, and shows several models, the choice is made, financial paperwork is completed and approved, and then the keys are handed over to the new owner.
At a very high level is it so different from selling real estate? (The reference may have you fuming. That’s not my intent. I have great respect for the amount of effort that goes into your profession.)
We’ve all purchased cars. Have you formed a relationship with your car salesperson? Personally I have not. This is not to say I would be opposed to referring folks or providing testimonial as to my experience, provided the service was good and I’m satisfied that my needs were met. However, I don’t consider being a referral or testimonial source a relationship.
The trust argument
Perhaps it could be argued that since the transaction is complex and fraught with paperwork, more trust in the competency of an agent is required. I imagine in light of recent events that is truer now more than in the salad days.
It’s nice that we enjoy “Freedom of Speech”, but we are still responsible for our speech, and lawsuits are a reality when an individual must protect him/herself from abusive or inflammatory allegations.
Read a definition of Defamation:
- Defamation is the issuance of a false statement about another person, which causes that person to suffer harm.
- Slander involves the making of defamatory statements by a transitory (non-fixed) representation, usually an oral (spoken) representation.
- Libel involves the making of defamatory statements in a fixed or medium, such as a newspaper or blog post.
So, if you make derogatory statements that result in damage to someone’s reputation or subject them to contempt or ridicule, you could be exposed.
But, what about transparency?
That’s a big buzz word. That and authenticity. Yes, we have a right to our opinions and we now can express them to zillions with a couple key strokes. But, is writing or commenting around one’s character and professional capabilities being transparent & authentic, or is its intent to derail?
Social media doesn’t eliminate the responsibility we have to mind our words.