10 ways to expect the worst and prepare for the best

By Myra Jolivet

If there ever was a time for MLSs and Associations to have a communications plan, it is now. 2020 lived up to its moniker by giving us clear vision into the unbelievable. And all bets are off in assuming we know what the future will bring.

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” Alan Lakein

The best hedge against the Whatever is planning and preparation. Organizations that plan for the unexpected are better positioned to showcase their leadership and to deal with challenging times.helm - Sunrise sailing on a tall ship schooner. Close up of steering wheel, bow and boom against a dramatic sky at dawn.

The real estate industry is under the public lens. Brokerages are both sources of market trends and the frontline to the buying and selling public. REALTOR® Associations are the owners of community. They are the common area for agent best practices, and the industry connection to local, state and federal legislation of interest to consumer communities. Multiple listing services stand as the data “houses,” for brokerage cooperation, and interpreters of relational technology for the industry. Each organization carries the responsibility for appropriate and accurate branding specific to their market needs. And, as with all public entities, each is subject to criticism and praise. Navigating criticism and praise requires a plan for reputation management through media and communications planning.

In today’s media market, silence is unacceptable, and the wrong message can destroy a company inside of a week.

If you don’t feel the need to do media planning—if you’re not publicly traded, or you don’t have high visibility in your community, you may think you’re immune to criticism from the public eye. My answer to that is while you may not be publicly traded, you are plunged into the public arena in the areas of affordable housing, market data, fair housing, small business legislation, family wealth, and a myriad of other connectors. Your organizations are at the public table whether you decide to dine or not. And ideally, you should be visible in your communities: you are tied to your local economies in vital ways, and your organization is intrinsically relevant.

Reputation management or public relations tactics center around the ability to communicate effectively. Whether you are proactively pushing your communications out, or reactively responding to queries from media, educational institutions, or corporations, planning is at the foundation of best practices.

Public relations is more than managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics. It is a communications discipline that engages and informs key audiences, builds important relationships and brings vital information back into an organization for analysis and action.~~from Public Relations Society of America, PRSA.

I won’t waste space here recounting communication fails. We’ve all seen cringe-worthy comments or head turning interviews and thought, “whew, unfortunate.” I’d rather offer suggested best practices. My theory is that they become “best” practices after someone has committed a “worst” action.

In the spirit of relevance and controlling your own reputation, I believe this collection of 10 best practices sums up the basis for effective planning:

  1. Formally commit time and resources to your reputation management and communications efforts
  2. Evaluate the state of your current communications practices
  3. Track your current practices against your mission, vision and values
  4. Identify goals for each of your audiences
  5. Determine how your communications and media practices compare to those of your competitors and other industry players in your market area
  6. Build your brand voice ahead of a crisis
  7. Determine your media goals; from social media posts to press releases and newsletters, it’s all media.
  8. Media train your representatives. Leaders should be well prepared as savvy panelists, media interviewees, and presenters. A leader must be a good communicator. As with everything, training and practice make perfect. Among some of the CEOs I’ve known to have been diligent about training leadership are Bob Hale of HAR.com, David Charron of the former MRIS, Neil Collins of Santa Clara County AOR, Mark Epstein of Citrus Valley AOR, Kathy Hartman of Santa Cruz County AOR, and Kevin Stone of the Monterey County AOR.
  9. Create a timeline with milestones
  10. Regularly evaluate progress

When you prepare a media plan, you are creating a communications system that can stand up to uncertain times in 2020 and beyond.

I joined WAV Group to continue my work with MLSs and REALTOR® Associations leveraging a communication strategy as their center of business excellence. Let’s start a conversation. Reach out to myra@wavgroup.com