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THE BUSINESS JOURNAL FOR REALTOR
Organize, manage, and get the most out of your
AEs Reveal Their Favorite Apps How to Optimize Facebook and Twitter
page 14 page 16
Big Bang for Your Tiny Technology Budget
Plus: Listing Syndication • Strategic Planning
Carolyn Schwaar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2012-2013 RAE Editorial Advisory Board
Lynda Anthony Florida Keys Board of REALTORS® email@example.com Karen Becker, CIPS Southeast Minnesota Association of REALTORS® Karen@semnrealtors.com Carolyn Blanchard Cook, RCE, e-Pro, CIPS Greater Baltimore Board of REALTORS®, Md. firstname.lastname@example.org Ryan Conrad, RCE, ePRO Lehigh Valley Association of REALTORS®, Pa. email@example.com Shane T. Johnson Quad City Area REALTOR® Association firstname.lastname@example.org Barbara Matthopoulos Chicago Association of REALTORS® email@example.com Carol Platt Osceola County Association of REALTORS®, Fla. AE@Osceola-realtors.com Tia Robbin, RCE Northwest Montana Association of REALTORS® firstname.lastname@example.org Libby Sheard Little Rock REALTORS® Association, Ariz. email@example.com Susan Tiernan Greater Newburyport Association of REALTORS®, Mass. firstname.lastname@example.org Albert Tran West San Gabriel Valley Association of REALTORS®, Calif. email@example.com Linda Vernon, RCE Bakersﬁeld Association of REALTORS®, Calif. linda@bakersﬁeldrealtor.org
Best of the Web
Winners of REALTOR® AE magazine’s 10th annual Outstanding REALTOR® Association Web Site Contest. By Carolyn Schwaar Page 12
AEs reveal their favorite apps.
By Carolyn Schwaar Page 14
REALTOR® associations’ maturing relationship with Facebook and Twitter.
By Carolyn Schwaar and Melynn Sight Page 16
Like Us!, Follow Us!
A look at the legal considerations of effective listing-data licensing. By Katherine Johnson Page 20
A EC C H A I R 2
Be a technology role model. By Ginger Downs, AEC Chair
REALTOR® association news, events, people, and programs. By Carolyn Schwaar
M Y R E A LTO R ® PA RT Y 23
From member to politician. By Tania Lee
H R C O N N EC T I O N 24
Put your plan into action. By Donna Garcia
S M A L L B OA R D 2 6
The RAE editorial board reviews each issue and provides critical feedback, proposes story ideas and industry contacts to interview, and stays in touch with fellow AEs nationwide to scout out new programs and products to share with the AE community. To join the editorial board, write an article, or contribute information, e-mail
Big bang for your tiny technology budget. By Amy DuBose
A E P R O F I L E 28
Reggie McCrary, EVP of the Atlanta Board of REALTORS®, on tech for productivity.
Cover image by Nick Rotondo ©2012
SPRING 2012 REALTOR ® AE 1
Be a Technology Role Model
dapting to new technologies isn’t a choice for association executives; it’s a necessity. Beyond the charge of managing effective associations, we serve an important role model function for our members. REALTORS® look to us for best practices involving which tech tools we use and how we employ them in our daily business practices. They are also inﬂuenced by our use of social media and other nontraditional, tech-related marketing techniques. Even if we can’t troubleshoot all tech issues ourselves, we should be able to direct our members to reliable sources of information. So what does that mean? First of all, the basics: • Be sure your association budget allows for maintaining and occasionally updating your technology resources, including computers, software, smart phones, and tablets used by staff. • Offer training. It’s no use to provide smart phones if your staff doesn’t know how to download an app. The same holds true for the latest accounting and database management software. • Don’t hold out on investing in technology, like purchasing iPads or tablets, or developing a local market data app—your members are using them! Remember your function as a role model and resource. Anticipate your members’ needs and help them integrate technology into their business. • Listen for the technology buzz among your members. Get a feel for their questions and deﬁciencies when it comes to technology and respond to them by providing classes, workshops, articles, or other educational opportunities your members appreciate. • Teach best practices on how to use common tech tools effectively, and develop technological capabilities. There’s a big gap between having a Facebook page and knowing how to use it as a proﬁtable marketing technique. • Dig beyond technologies you use every day to ﬁnd the tools members would ﬁnd useful. For instance, educate your members on how using listing syndication to display listings automatically across a variety of important real estate Web sites can make them more competitive. • Keep it fun! Don’t limit your association’s use of social media to promoting classes or events. Demonstrate your technological proﬁciency by engaging members in conversations via social media. • Re-tweet helpful member Twitter messages; “like” posts you ﬁnd worthwhile on members’ Facebook pages; and comment on blog posts. Compliment your members who make meaningful use of social media and invite them to do the same! • If you’ve created a blog, use it to spotlight your personality with short and simple postings on market reports, the importance of education, or topics members ask about—really, anything on which you have expertise. Share what works for you. If you have a favorite app or a preferred type of smart phone, tell your colleagues why. Having the conversation helps keep us all aware of new trends and best practices, better positioning us to do what we do best—serve members. On another note, it was wonderful seeing so many familiar (and new!) faces at this year’s AE Institute in Louisville. Thank you to the tremendous group of NAR staff and association volunteers who orchestrated the programming and events for the centennial celebration. It was a privilege to be with you all. — Ginger
Ginger Downs, RCE, CAE, is CEO of the Chicago Association of REALTORS®. Contact her at 312-214-5516 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
MORE ONLINE Visit the AE Committee page at REALTOR.org for more on AEC activities in 2012.
Chair, Association Executives Committee Ginger Downs, RCE, CAE CEO, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Dale A. Stinton, RCE, CAE Senior Vice President, Communications Pamela Geurds Kabati Managing Director, Publications Stacey Moncrieff Editor, REALTOR® AE magazine Carolyn Schwaar
430 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611–4087 500 New Jersey Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20001–2020 800-874-6500 email@example.com; REALTOR.org
Contributing Editor, REALTOR® AE magazine Amanda Avutu Advertising Account Representative Stephen Coughlin, 800-542-4835
Questions and Comments e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
©2012 by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®0. All rights reserved. (ISSN 00340804) REALTOR® AE is a professional magazine published four times yearly by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® as a service for REALTOR® association executives. Articles in this magazine are written from the perspective of the REALTOR® association executive. REALTOR® AE is an informational publication of local, state, and national association programs, activities, and current trends and ideas in association management and their practical application in REALTOR® associations. Views and advertising expressed in REALTOR® AE are not necessarily those of or endorsed by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Magazine archives available online at REALTOR.org/RAE. Reprint permission: 312-329-8874. Distribution: Local and state executive ofﬁcers and MLS directors. Subscriptions: Write to NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, Publications, 430 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611, or call 800-874-6500.
REALTOR ® AE
The countdown is on. The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ ethics requirement gives members until Dec. 31, 2012, to take an approved ethics course. And given the average real estate practitioner’s notorious penchant for operating on a just-in-time basis, associations are doing everything they can to avoid holding eleventh-hour ethics courses for hundreds, or even thousands, of members in December. Mary Ann Monteleone, vice president of professional development at the 19,350-member Long Island Board of REALTORS®, says she’s taken several steps to ensure members are aware of the deadline. For example, members who have not satisﬁed their ethics requirement see a red ﬂashing message appear on their home screen every time they sign into the MLS. Cindi Ferguson, e-PRO, director of professional development for the Wichita Area Association of REALTORS®, notiﬁed every member in January via e-mail about the requirement and has published a newsletter article on ethics every other month since last fall. “We are holding a course every other month and doing private courses for brokerages and franchises,” she says. Yet, with half the membership still to take the ethics course, Ferguson isn’t taking any chances and has already reserved the association’s entire conference center, which seats 108, for a last-minute December class. Even when members know they have to complete the course, often further enticement is required to get them to act. Associations attract members with continuing education credits and early-bird course fee discounts, by scheduling brokerages to a particular month, or by promoting the fact that the price of ethics classes will increase every month until 2013. Despite the best efforts of NAR and state and local associations, some members remain unaware that they must complete an
4 REALTOR ® AE spring 2012
R E A LT O R ® A S S O C I AT I O N N E W S , E V E N T S & P E O P L E
By Carolyn Schwaar
Gear Up for the Ethics Rush
approved ethics course by the end of 2012. Often, AEs say, members who are grandfathered out of continuing education courses think that exemption applies to the NAR ethics requirement, too. But, of course, the NAR ethics requirement applies to every person entitled to use the term REALTOR®. Still, AEs report little objection to the ethics requirement, noting that most salespeople believe it is a good idea.
Every member must complete an ethics class before 2013
To make the mandatory training entertaining and informative, the Florida REALTORS® association produced a high-quality video with professional actors, says the association’s director of communications
ETHI CS DELIVERY
Most boards have stepped up the number of ethics classes offered this year and also made ethics a part of their new-member orientation program. In fact, for some boards, the orientation is the primary The Florida REALTORS Association produced a high-quality code of ethics training video with vehicle for ethics education. professional actors. View at www.ﬂoridarealtors.org/LegalCenter/CodeofEthics/Index.cfm. Many boards include the required ethics training in other programs, and public affairs, Lisa Walker. “The video, which meets the two-and-a-half-hour time such as broker training classes. There’s no shortage of ways members requirement, is divided into 10 chapters. can take the course, and some associations Each chapter ends with a quiz that tests have added new opportunities to the menu. members’ knowledge and understanding. NAR’s online ethics course remains a popu- Members are able to stop and start the DVD lar option. at any point and jump to different chapters,” The Long Island board partnered with she says. surrounding proprietary schools that agree Overall, AEs say, members recognize the to use the association’s approved ethics out- industry beneﬁt of the NAR ethics requireline and an approved instructor to deliver ment. As one education director put it, “Our ethics training at their schools, says Mon- classes are well received in their own right, teleone. “For a nominal fee, we will accept and the vast majority of members appreciate their rosters and enter compliance info into the need to understand our code. There is no lack of concern for our image and how our system to transmit to NAR.” Long Island has also authorized in-ofﬁce to improve it.” By stepping up course offerings in 2012 ethics training if the ofﬁce manager uses an approved LIBOR instructor to deliver and making members aware of the variety the training. of online and home-study alternatives availFor some boards, the ethics classes them- able, AEs will reduce the chances of endselves can be a tough sell. The courses are ing up with too many students for too few notoriously dull, sometimes preachy. classes by the end of the year. ■
New Association Training Aims to Boost Competency, Innovation
This spring at the Midyear Meetings, about 100 REALTOR® association AEs and their elected leaders are expected to participate in a new training and coaching initiative designed, developed, and supported by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, to promote a wide range of organizational skills. The goals of the program, referred to as the Pinnacle Group Project, are to prepare associations to compete for inﬂuence in a changing real estate environment, to move in concert, and to respond with action. This two-year long relevance-boosting journey consists of modules four times a year on setting strategic directions, advancing communications, building leadership excellence, promoting the consumerREALTOR® relationship, and maximizing mobile and social media mindshare, among other topics. In announcing this new project at the AE Institute in March, NAR CEO Dale Stinton called the audience’s attention to the 2009 Game Changer program and made it clear that “this is my personal game changer.”
NAR Funds Association Advocacy Initiatives
Make these game-changing program ideas work for you
The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® in March awarded more than $200,000 to 11 REALTOR® associations for their outstanding real estate public policy or advocacy ideas, as part of the My REALTOR® Party Game Changer program. The goal of the competition was to ﬁnd new programs, events, or plans that could change the way business is typically conducted. NAR hopes these ideas can be replicated by other state and local associations. The Florida Association of REALTORS®, as part of its winning proposal, will be the exclusive sponsor of the Republican National Convention’s “Media Welcome Kit.” At the single largest media event, next to the Olympics, in 2012, FAR will supplement the media kit with Home Ownership Matters campaign materials and other real estate-related positive messaging that focuses on “Housing Equals Jobs,” and the many beneﬁts to home ownership. The sponsorship also includes a speaking opportunity on one of only six “Policy Forum” panels being conducted during the convention. The Greater Las Vegas Association of REALTORS® will use its $25,000 award to partner with Rebuilding Together Southern Nevada, a chapter of a decades-old national organization that provides home maintenance, repairs, and upkeep to low-income, elderly, disabled, and veteran homeowners in need. The Illinois Association of REALTORS® will develop and mail a newsletter geared toward local ofﬁcials, covering various topics in growth and real estate. The Louisiana REALTORS® will use its $25,000 grant to augment its LAHomeOwners.org Web site to advocate for Louisiana property owners. The Marin County Association of REALTORS®, Calif., plans to bring its popular Online Housing Turnover Index to mobile and other platforms, expanding its ability to lobby for fair and effective alternatives to point-of-sale retroﬁt ordinances. The Memphis Area Association of REALTORS® will partner with the City of Memphis, the Memphis Homebuilders, and other local organizations to address the mayor’s no. 1 issue of reducing blight within the city. The Miami Association of REALTORS® will create a Market Solutions Through Political Advocacy team to identify issues and solutions that can be achieved through advocacy. The North Carolina Association of REALTORS® and Charlotte Regional REALTOR® Association, along with a coalition of other local and commercial boards, have come up with a promotional billboard campaign to run during the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina, focusing on issues affecting property owners, as well as REALTORS®. The Reno Sparks Association of REALTORS® will use $2,950 to launch a Get Out the Vote Campaign and register its association ofﬁce as an early voting site. The Utah Association of REALTORS® will develop a Vote by Mail Campaign to boost member awareness and activism. The REALTOR® Association of the Palm Beaches was awarded a special recognition grant to implement RAMCO (the REALTOR® association management system to reach members and non-members for targeted advocacy messaging). For more on the winning programs, visit Realtoractioncenter.com/ realtor-party/tools-and-resources/ mrp/game-changer-ideas.html. ■
The Pinnacle Group Project is the result of six months of research that examined every aspect of the current REALTOR® association operation and mindset. The research established that REALTOR® associations at the state and local levels were not maintaining a pace of innovation sufﬁcient to keep them current with industry trends and opportunities, says industry consultant Jeremy Conaway, a member of the innovation team that designed the Pinnacle Group Project. They reached the conclusion that “unless this situation was remedied in the very near future, the vitality, usefulness, and ultimate relevance of these organizations would be severely limited.” Each of the eight modules of the program— delivered during the Midyear Legislative Meetings, the Leadership Summit, the REALTORS® Conference, and the AE Institute—will include seminars, handson training, speciﬁc assignments, orientation videos, practical tools, and coaching components. ■
REALTOR ® AE
AE HONORS, PROGRAMS
Kim Cox Receives Terry McDermott Leadership Award
Kim Cox, CEO of the 419-member Ozark Gateway Association of REALTORS® in Joplin, Mo., received the Terry McDermott Community Leadership Award during the AE Institute in March. This award was created to honor an AE who has shown outstanding leadership and commitment in helping others outside of his or her regular association duties. Since the devastating tornado hit Joplin on May 22, 2011, Cox has been a driving force in the recovery efforts for both the REALTOR® family and the community at large. Following the tornado that killed 161 people, injured more than 900, and damaged or destroyed 7,500 houses and apartments, Cox and her staff checked with each and every REALTOR® ofﬁce to learn of the status of all her members. As the community’s needs became known, Cox worked with the state ofﬁce to share information statewide to make the collection and distribution of relief supplies more effective and efﬁcient. She then turned her Joplin association ofﬁce, which was miraculously spared, into a relief supply collection point and distribution center. Cox was heavily involved in identifying housing needs for the 8,000 families who lost their homes and still works with city planners and developers today to ensure those needs are met. Cox plans to donate the $500 McDermott Award check to the Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Missouri. ■
Nationwide Open House Weekend Another Smash Hit
Hundreds of REALTOR® associations participated in the third annual Nationwide Open House Weekend in April. Launched in 2010 by executives at local and state REALTOR® associations, the Nationwide Open House Weekend campaign has become a major consumer marketing blitz to promote local real estate and, of course, the beneﬁts of working with a REALTOR®. Participation in the event is not mandatory for associations or members; however, AEs say it’s a great way to connect REALTORS® with their clients as a member beneﬁt. NAR supported the largest-ever national open house campaign this year with national media coverage and a tool kit on REALTOR.org that included logos, ideas, and resources for local associations. ■
Contributing to Communities
REALTOR® Association Post-Tornado Tree Planting Association Food Drive Beneﬁts Pantry for Needy
After a tornado uprooted dozens of trees in the Kipling Street neighborhood of Springﬁeld, Ohio, the REALTOR® Association of Pioneer Valley donated $20,000 from its charitable fund to plant 150 new elm, maple, dogwood, crabapple, and cherry trees.
MVP+ Program Boosts Member Engagement
The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® introduced the Member Value Plus Program, a rewards program that incentivizes members to take action in NAR initiatives every two weeks, plus get rewarded with valuable NAR products and resources for their participation. Because rewards have to be earned, this new program is an improvement to the successful Right Tools, Right Now initiative by leveraging NAR offerings to generate greater member involvement. By encouraging participation in this program, AEs can help their members become more engaged in the REALTOR® organization as a whole. For a variety of marketing resources, visit the “Share and Promote” link on the “For AEs” section of REALTOR.org. To see the current offer and subscribe to the MVP RSS feed for updates, visit REALTOR.org/MVP. ■
The REALTOR Association of Southwestern Illinois collected and contributed 140,900 pounds of food, water, clothing, toiletries, and other supplies to residents of Harrisburg, Ill., where a tornado ravaged their town on Feb. 29. The association also conducted food drives at many member ofﬁces to support the local food pantry.
The Charlotte Regional REALTOR® Association, N.C., sponsored its fourth annual REALTORS® Care Day in April to rally members to lend a day helping 23 needy home owners with home repairs. Deserving families were identiﬁed by charities. Over the past three years, the event has helped 87 families.
REALTORS® Care Day Aids 23 Families
REALTOR ® AE
New Candidate School Prepares Members for Public Ofﬁce
Members interested in helping to shape public policy in their city or state by winning elective ofﬁce can now participate in the new NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ Candidate Training Academy. The program is a part of NAR’s My REALTOR® Party initiative, which launched last year. With the NAR Candidate Training Academy, participating state and local associations of REALTORS® can help make the road to electoral success a little easier for their members who are interested in running for ofﬁce by sponsoring an NAR-developed training curriculum, either alone or in partnership with other nearby associations. NAR supplies the trainers, too, unless the state or local association has campaign specialists of their own they want to bring in. There are no limits to the number of associations that can sponsor the training, but the number of programs that use NAR-provided trainers is limited to 20 a year. Associations have ﬂexibility in structuring their training. The curriculum is organized into seven instruction modules, which are intended to help participants clarify their thinking on why they’re running and how to articulate their reason concisely; how to plan and budget for the race; what research would be helpful and how to get it done; how to raise money and what rules are in place governing what you can collect and how you can collect it; how to ensure you have sufﬁcient time and opportunity to get out there and make contact with voters; leveraging social media; and how to get out the vote on election day. Other modules, on working with volunteers and engaging grassroots activism, can be added to the curriculum. For more, visit www.REALTORActionCenter .com/candidate. ■
Computer-generated maps like this one depicting a sea level rise scenario are impacting real estate ordinances in coastal areas.
Members Help Defeat Onerous Climate Change Ordinance
The San Mateo County Association of REALTORS®, Calif., successfully rallied members, homeowners, and elected ofﬁcials to defeat a proposed measure that took preparing for global warming to a whole new level. In the city of Paciﬁca, ofﬁcials proposed a requirement that obligated homeowners buying, remodeling, or expanding property to pay for and submit a consultant’s study proving the project’s adaptability to the 100-year sea level rise over the expected life of the structure. “Asking the City Council how a homeowner’s bathroom remodel would warrant such a drastic mandate seemed to really frame the issue,” says Paul Stewart, SAMCAR’s Government Affairs Director. “Since the fees for the consultant’s study were estimated at between $5,000 and $10,000, the question became ‘How do you justify such a mandate when it costs more than the project itself?’ The council got it.” SAMCAR’s campaign included talking with homeowners in affected neighborhoods (nearly three quarters of the city) about the impact to their property rights. The association also took out an advertisement in the local newspaper, the Paciﬁca Tribune, the same paper to which it submitted op-ed pieces. Additionally, SAMCAR coordinated communications via social media sites and targeted interactions with the City Council. ■
Amy DuBose, RCE, association executive of the San Marcos Area Board of REALTORS®, Texas, received the Tom D. Morton Award for excellence in association management this year. Her work growing membership, increasing TREPAC participation, and reviving the education program has contributed greatly to the success of her local association. Congratulations, new Certiﬁed Association Executives. The American Society of Association Executives has announced that Laura Rubinfeld, CIPS, RCE, CAE, CEO of the Eastern Bergen Amy DuBose County Board of REALTORS®, N.J. and Janet Kane, RCE, CAE, COO of the Washington REALTORS® have earned the Certiﬁed Association Executive (CAE) credential. The CAE is the highest professional credential in the association industry. Less than 5 percent of the 21,000 ASAE Laura Rubinfeld association professionals have earned the CAE.
• Earned an honor or retiring soon? Let us know. E-mail email@example.com.
REALTOR ® AE
AE Program Update:
With its ﬁrst full year under its belt, RAMCO announced it is revising its implementation package plan, updating the fee structure, and expanding its training staff. RAMCO is an association management software system developed as a project of the Association Executives Council of NAR to meet the speciﬁc, unique needs of the executives and staff of REALTOR® associations and multiple listing services. “We’ve really learned a lot during our ﬁrst year on the market,” says Rob Authier, CEO of the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® and RAMCO Project Team co-chair. “Plus, we’ve received some very positive and constructive input from our ﬁrst group of association customers.” The team’s review at the NAR Conference in Anaheim resulted in the data conversion and training packages being consolidated down to three from the original ﬁve. Eliminated were the two upper end standard source package brackets for 200 to 500,000 member records and “over 500,000” member Visit, www.ramcoams.com records. Authier says customer feedback and a thorough review of the actual work involved in data conversions were major factors in making the changes. “Since RAMCO is cloud-based and has unlimited data storage, once you had the old system’s data mapped into RAMCO, it didn’t really matter how many records were converted and uploaded,” says Travis Kessler, CEO of the Texas Association of REALTORS® and RAMCO co-chair. RAMCO leaders also quickly agreed with their customers that training should not be limited to a predetermined number of hours. “Some people simply learn more quickly, while some need a little more time to master something new,” says Kessler. Unlimited training is now available to all current and future customers.
Another major initiative is that RAMCO has assumed responsibility for all training and implementation management, a move that frees up development partner Cobalt to concentrate solely on data conversions, installations, and feature development. For RAMCO that meant hiring and training six new training/implementation managers in December— many with REALTOR® association management experience and management software backgrounds. “We wanted our customers to learn to use RAMCO to truly manage their associations, not just the icons to click to get a report,” says the third of RAMCO’s three co-chairs, Southland Regional Association of REALTORS®, Calif., CEO Jim Link, adding, “These new trainers will mean more individualized attention and a much better implementation experience for everyone.” Authier says the review also revealed that the original time and resource estimates for data conversion and system conﬁguration were too low compared with the actual hours spent. The combined cost of increasing those hours and bringing on additional trainers resulted in the need for revising the prices on the new packages. Although the new packages and fee structure took effect on January 1, the implementation fees for the 104 association and MLS customers who applied prior to December 31, 2011, will be honored, says RAMCO Project Manager Gar Anderson. Post-installation monthly user fees remain unchanged. “I think these changes underscore two speciﬁc RAMCO objectives,” says Authier, “The ﬁrst is that we’re very sensitive to our customers needs, because as AEs we are our own customers. And second, because we operate at break-even, our pricing must cover the actual costs of providing ourselves with such an incredibly powerful management tool.” ■
A REALTOR® AE’s Dinner with President Obama
Wyndi Austin, director of marketing at the SouthEast Valley Regional Association of REALTORS®, Ariz., will dine with President Barack Obama after winning the honor by entering the “Dine with Obama” fundraising rafﬂe. “This is such an amazing opportunity, and I cannot tell you how excited I am. It’s something that clearly would only happen once in a lifetime,” says Austin, who is one of just four winners to dine with the president. The time and place is top secret until the event, says Austin, but presumably, real estate will be on the top of her list of topics to discuss while she has the president’s ear. For more on her dinner, read Austin’s report to be posted at the association’s Web site, www.sevrar.com. ■
REALTOR ® AE
(Oﬃ cial White House photo by Pete Souza)
RAMCO simpliﬁes installation, boosts training, revises pricing
Cindy Butts Departs After 24 Years With REALTOR® Organization
In May, Cindy Butts, CAE, RCE, CEO of the Maine Association of REALTORS®, will move on to new career opportunities. “My husband accepted a new job and moved to Hartford, Conn., more than three years ago but we decided to wait until our son left for college for me to make the move, too,” says Butts. Butts has served on NAR committees since 1992, including the Membership Policy and Board Jurisdiction committee, the AE Institute subcommittee, the Mold Workgroup, and the Association Executives Committee. Prior to moving to Maine, Butts worked in both the Chicago and Washington, D.C., ofﬁces of NAR. Her sessions at the AE Institute for new AEs, “I’m a New AE—Now What?,” have trained and inspired dozens of new executives. Butts was the 2010 NAR liaison to technology; and a past chairman of the NAR Association Executives Committee. She’s a recipient of NAR’s William R. Magel Award of Excellence and the Almon R. Smith Honor Society. Although May 31 will mark the end of Butts’ REALTOR® career, her contributions will be felt for years to come. Here she bestows some parting wisdom. Q. What advice do you have for your fellow AEs on staying relevant and leading their organizations today? First, don’t fall in love with the programs you manage, because you need to be able to let things go so you can move on to whatever is next and more important. 2) Do not keep staff if they are not doing their job well. You have to have a ﬂexible staff who can move on to new programs, too. 3) Listen to your members more than you listen to visionaries. For example, I’ve been reading for the past 25 years that the MLS is irrelevant. It wasn’t irrelevant then, and it’s not irrelevant now. 4) Be sure to attend professional development courses, skills training courses,
10 REALTOR ® AE spring 2012
and conferences with your peers. 5) Learn social media, even if you think it’s ridiculous, because it’s going to be a part of everything, and it’s important to personally understand it. 6) Be fearless—you’re hired to get into the ﬁghter jet so just get in there and ﬂy. There’s nearly always the chance to make a mid-course correction or head back to the runway if necessary. 7) And lastly, watch, learn, and talk with other association executives—your peers are a great source of knowledge and advice. Q. You’re not retiring and your career isn’t over, so what do you feel your REALTOR® career has prepared you for as a second career? I’m probably over-prepared for a wide variety of things because, as AEs, we’re expected to learn and deliver positive results in many areas including government affairs, fundraising, meeting management, public relations, strategic planning, volunteer recruitment and recognition, accounting, technology, communications, media relations, mediation, facilities and staff management, public speaking, community affairs, PAC management, and more. And do it all in a short period of time. So I am prepared to do anything, quickly. Q. What have been the most signiﬁcant advances or game-changing initiatives in the REALTOR® organization in the last 24 years? a) The PAG on agency that has us all rewriting our agency statutes for buyer agency and other brokerage relationships; b) The elimination of the MLS book and what both technology and regionalizing brought to multiple listing services; c) NRDS; and d) The one happening now, which is ﬁguring out how we’re going to address all the staggering costs to remain not just relevant but successful politically, in light of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that changed how politics are funded. Q. In what signiﬁcant ways so you feel the job of the AE has changed over the years? The biggest way it has changed is that it is now ﬁnally recognized as being a speciﬁc and complicated profession needing speciﬁc talents, skills, and experience. When I ﬁrst started it wasn’t unusual for the AE to have the title executive secretary. We evolved from largely administrative, into having a voice in deliberations, to being CEOs and full partners with our leadership. ■
Tracy Lee Elmore, 48, association executive of the Sussex County Association of REALTORS®, Md., passed away in December. She is survived by her parents; her husband of 23 years, Neil Elmore; and her four children.
David “Sandy” Hendrick, 68, former AE of the Central Oregon Association of REALTORS® passed away in December of natural causes. Ken Motta, 78, CEO of Yuma Association of REALTORS®, Ariz., passed away in December due to complications from pneumonia. Motta had served as the association’s CEO since 1993 and had been active in real estate for more than 30 years. He leaves behind a brother and partner Adam Gage.
BY CAROLYN SCH WA A R
Best site from an association with more than 7,000 members
Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS®
REALTOR ® AE Magazine’s 10th Annual Outstanding R EALTOR® Association Web Site Contest
he effect of social media Web sites and blogs on association Web sites is clear: Across all association sizes, member-focused Web sites have become simpler and more, well, member-focused. Judging from the newly redesigned sites submitted to the 2012 competition, the focal point is on business-building information and tools for REALTORS®. Those discrete buttons off to the side that used to point you in the direction of the member-only areas now feature prominently, touting member resources, beneﬁts, tools, and discounts front and center. Real estate news, especially national news, plays less a role in association sites, as does information for consumers and other audiences. It’s not that news and consumer resources are less important, in fact, the opposite is true. Many associations have launched robust separate Web sites for consumers and launched separate blogs and social media spaces for news and trends. The notion that one site could serve multiple audiences and have multiple focuses may be fading. Our ﬁve winning sites show a clear focus on the member, which these associations say was exactly what members asked for.
12 REALTOR ® AE SPRING 2012
embers are the clear focus of this site, re-launched in November. Its objective is to give busy members the information they need as quickly as possible and focus on member beneﬁts. The new site features a REALTOR® search with bios, links, and pictures. The association’s web stats indicated that standard forms and Find a REALTOR® were the two most popular pages, so they are featured prominently throughout the site. From the judges: “This is a really smart, contemporary site in every way: strong design, good content, intuitive structure, and effective use of technology. It has a personality and a point of view, which are rare in organization sites. These factors make the site extremely inviting to use! On the home page, I like the prominence of the social media links, as well as the use of the HouseLogic widget and RSS feed of headlines from their blog. The visual slideshow area featuring the latest updates is very inviting. The mobile version of the site is clear and attractive also. The design is so easy on the eye, that I actually want to go through the entire site and search out more information. There’s a great balance of white space and cool colors, it sends off an air of peace and calm. All of the links work and I especially
Raleigh Regional, N.C.
Greater Chapel Hill, N.C.
Santa Cruz County, Calif.
love how the HouseLogic articles are presented. You can’t go wrong with the simplicity, yet complexity, of this site. There are layers and layers of navigation but done so well, you know exactly where you’re at on this site. I think the social network buttons are a great addition too. Click on the icon and you’re connected. The simplicity is amazing!”
Best site from an association with 2,001–7,000 members
‘get involved.’ This is really a Web site for the member! This Web site is easy, with many options for information or help. It is a great member beneﬁt. I like the “total package” look for members. It comes across as a trade association Web site. This is very important to members. The dues FAQs would be a big hit at our ofﬁce! The media page is awesome, especially the ‘connect’ space button.”
the Home page too. This is very eye-catching and easy to use. This is a site that, as a member, I would visit often—maybe every day or at least a couple times a week.”
the open house feature of the site.”
Best site from an association with fewer than 300 members
Best site from an association with 301–700 members
Santa Cruz County Board of REALTORS®
Greater Chapel Hill Association of REALTORS®
Raleigh Regional Association of REALTORS®
www.rrar.com esigned by staff, with members’ needs and wants incorporated via user groups, the site offers multiple applications through a single sign-on, an iPad-friendly version of the association’s electronic magazine, and access to several social media platforms. The site is updated daily with information regarding news, market trends, videos, training and education information, social media, and promotions for member services and events. From the judges: “It conveys a very professional organization. Although there is a lot to look at, it is not confusing or overwhelming. Everything from the “satellite” links at the top to the NAR links on the left seems organized and well laid out. Events are front and center and the links to all things NAR are easy to ﬁnd. I think some of these links are very timely, such as the Code of Ethics link. I loved the link
Best site from an association with 701–2,000 members
DeKalb Association of REALTORS®
ith a focus on highlighting member beneﬁts and promoting social interaction, this site stands out for its ease of use and timeliness. Members are clearly the focus with articles on hot topics affecting REALTORS® and special recognition of member awards. From the judges: “This is a strong Web site – clear purpose and ease of use. All of the logos, addresses, and copyrights are visible and easy to read. This Web site is professional and very attractive and appealing. It is not overly ﬂashy by any means but employs great technology and innovation. I really like the links to movies and interviews, and links to NAR information, etc. It serves as a portal to great information for the public and members alike. [The] Meetings and Events [tab] take[s] a top spot and is very visible on
ffective organization of essential elements with style makes this site stand out. Not merely visually appealing, this site also delivers on useful, timely information. Designed on a Wordpress platform, incorporating LAMPS association management software, the site is easy to maintain and generates revenue with banner ads. From the judges: “This Web site has a clean, uncluttered look and is visually appealing. It is clearly directed to members and not the general public, which is in line with the organization’s stated design goals. Navigation is clear and intuitive—it makes sense. The site looks very professional and the design is appealing—loved the large photos that cycled through at the top. The four button tabs at the top right of the home page, which stay consistent throughout the site, is a clever feature that is very simple. I also like the four buttons for direct links to member search, at the top of the page. I can see how this would be a primary feature for members, and so their placement was a good move. I would probably refer my clients to
his Web site gives no clues that it’s from a small association and is updated by the president and EO. From the Twitter feed and elegant mobile version to the quick MLS search and unobtrusive pop-up windows, this site has the features and functions offered by large associations. From the judges: “I love the action of the photos on the different pages. The sunrise-to-sunrise banner is captivating! There is nothing stagnant about this Web site! Under Government Affairs, I was really drawn to the Legislators and Legislative Tracker. If I were a member and wanted to know what my representatives were up to, this is an easy resource to navigate. Good job! I was able to ﬁnd a category easily, and ﬁnding out how to become a member is easy. I like the way it ﬂows.” ■
2012 contest judges included the REALTOR® AE magazine editorial board and NAR staff with a special thanks to Hilary Marsh, a digital strategist who works with associations. For more on the Outstanding REALTOR® Association Web Site Contest, including rules, prizes, and next year’s dates, visit REALTOR.org.
REALTOR ® AE 13
ablet computers, especially
❚ Personal Organization ❚ Social Media Management
the iPad—and the applications created speciﬁcally for them— are revolutionizing the way association executives get things done. No longer dependent on a desktop computer, AEs can bring all the data with them wherever they go. RAE asked AEs for the top tablet computer and smart phone applications that have changed the way they work.
If you love the idea of taking and saving notes right on your tablet, but hate typing, Penultimate lets you write with your ﬁnger right on the screen. You can even doodle or draw designs and later export them as a PDF, share them with a VGA projector, print them, or e-mail them.
If you’re an AE who ﬁnds interesting information everywhere, use Evernote to not only write notes, but capture text from Web sites, save pictures, and create checklists. This app is searchable by keyword and can be synced to multiple devices. The premium version also saves Word ﬁles and spreadsheets.
Because news happens anytime, HootSuite for iPad enables associations to send Twitter and Facebook posts from anywhere. AEs use this app as a complement to the HootSuite Web account for syndicating posts to multiple outlets with one click.
Finding real estate and housing stories for your social media and news feeds just got a lot easier with this app that crawls over half a million Web domains to ﬁnd speciﬁc reading material of interest to you and your members. ❚ Document Management
Datamine your Twitter account for member views and opinions with this app for your iPad. You can ﬁlter Tweets, search for keywords, browse conversation threads between users, and monitor your multiple Twitter accounts from one dashboard.
Documents To Go
Apps like Docs to Go (and iWork) are closing the divide between tablets and laptops by enabling mobile device users to edit documents, word process, calculate spreadsheets, and more. This app supports Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, and other formats, and syncs with online document storage services, including Google Docs and iCloud.
by Carolyn Schwaar
REALTOR ® AE
AEs Reveal Their Favorite Apps
❚ Computer Access
Posting documents online for others to download—from forms to agendas to PowerPoints—is as common as e-mail today, but few programs make it easier than SugarSync. This app enables you to access, sync, back up, and share your ﬁles across all your computers and devices.
Editing PDFs is simple with this essential app that lets you highlight, strike, underline text, use bookmarks, and sync edited docs with cloud services.
With one tap, you can save a new expense record in the iXpenseIt app according to a number of categories you set, such as business or personal. You can track the vendor, type of payment, and other individual notes. The app creates custom reports (also displayed as charts) for export. ❚ Meetings & Presentations
This app allows access and remote control of your ofﬁce computer from your iPad. Now you and your staff will never be without essential documents at home or in a meeting.
❚ Contact &
Sign My Pad
A favorite among members, the SignMyPad app enables you to ﬁll out and sign PDFs. Now board members or staff can send documents for your signature as an e-mail attachment and you can sign them on your screen with either your ﬁnger or an iPad pen, returning the signed document as an attachment.
Among the apps that enable you to photograph a business card and save it as a contact, ScanBizCards stands out, AEs say, because it’s more accurate, integrates with social networking sites, and enables real-time backup to the cloud or other applications so contacts are never lost.
Last Pass Keynote
Keynote, Apple’s version of PowerPoint (and far superior, many claim), makes it easy to create, deliver, and share presentations. Create a slide show with graphics, charts, photos, and more, and store it on Apple’s iCloud online storage. Access it from your computer, iPhone, or iPad anywhere. Plug your phone or tablet into a computer display or projector for presentations to groups. This is a mobile version of the award-winning LastPass password manager. Fast, easy, and simple, LastPass securely syncs your passwords across all your browsers and devices.
How to use these apps
So, you’ve downloaded all these time-saving apps. Now what? Nearly all of them have how-to videos on YouTube explaining their free and premium features, so you don’t have to waste too much time tinkering with them. ■
REALTOR ® AE 15
Like Us! Follow Us!
REALTOR® associations’ maturing relationship with Facebook and Twitter
By Carolyn Schwaar & Melynn Sight
With 4,000 “likes” on their Facebook page and 1,450 followers on their Twitter feed, it’s no wonder social media features prominently in the Georgia Association of REALTORS®’ communi cation strategy. “More people are on Facebook at any given time than any other Web site on the Internet,” says Brandie Miner, GAR’s communication director. “I know many people who either keep Facebook open all day or check it several times each day. So it’s great for fast dissemination of information, especially if we are looking for feedback.” GAR isn’t alone. According to a recent study*, an estimated threequarters of associations na tionwide use social media communications, hun dreds of REALTOR® associations among them. But what are the real benefits and limitations of social media communications with members?
REALTOR® associations adopt Facebook timeline
The new timeline format enables associations to create an online history of their association and more dramatically promo events, classes, and services.
Reaching more people every day
More than 83 percent of REALTORS® have Face book pages, so it’s only natural that there has been a growing use of Facebook among associations. “We need to be where our members are already,” explains Steve Reese, vice president of marketing at the Oklahoma Association of REALTORS®, who uses Facebook mainly as a vehicle to drive people back to his association’s Web site. In addition to using social media to drive traffic to association sites, many are using their Face
book pages as another way to feed information to members, as a social space in which members can interact, and as a way to reach a demographic inaccessible via association email. “With email we only reach about 20-25 per cent of our members,” says Danielle Boutin, communication director of the REALTORS® Association of the Palm Beaches, Fla. “We reach a different group of people than those who open our email,” Boutin explains, noting that in addi tion to members, she also reaches a large group of nonmembers on the association’s Facebook page. This larger audience enables her to attract new members and also generate nondues revenue from nonmembers who attend education sessions. Addressing the divide between traditional direct emarketing and social networking, Boutin points out that posting news updates three times a day on a Facebook page is far less intrusive and annoying to members than sending the same information via email three times a day. At the Sarasota Association of REALTORS®, Fla., Communication Director Jesse Sunday says Facebook is the only venue in which the associa tion can capture the attention of members who don’t read the association’s emails, magazine, or MLS message of the day. Sunday ranks the effec tiveness of Facebook as a communications vehicle above regular email to members. “We can send 3,000 email invites and get only half the responses
REALTOR ® AE
REALTOR® associations agree: Facebook and Twitter are great for getting the message out, but these platforms still underperform when it comes to getting messages in.
we’d get if we created an event on Facebook.” Like Boutin, Amber Sundsted of the Billings Association of REALTORS®, Mont., recognized the power of Facebook to reach a wider audience. “Although it is another way to communicate with members, it’s also an important tool for communi cating with consumers. I’m communicating with two very different audiences, so what I put on our Facebook page is 50 percent for the membership and 50 percent for the general public.” It’s not all Facebook, Facebook, Facebook, though. Association Twitter feeds, too, have an ac tive following of nonmembers. Associations often follow other associations on Twitter, and most have among their followers local government officials, the media, real estate influencers on the national level, community groups, and more. Steve Klaniecki at the Washington REALTORS® Association says his association’s Twitter posts are very popular with local news reporters. “They actually want the feeds and use them if the mes sage is nonpromotional.”
tiative, but most associations say they post on Facebook and tweet one to three times per week day. RAE’s recent social media survey** found REALTOR® associations tweet on average five times a week. Perhaps that’s why, free or not, cost is cited as a reason many associations do not have a Face book page or Twitter feed. Specifically, people are concerned about the cost of staff ’s time to administer social media: setting objectives, put ting procedures in place, allocating resources for an ongoing commitment to push information to members, and, in turn, being responsive to members’ replies. According to the 2012 report “Social Media Use by U.S. Associations,” adoption rates of so cial media platforms increase with association annual budget levels, reflecting the capacity of larger associations to invest in technology and marketing. The report also says “associations have indicated that they will increase investments in social media in 2012 and 2013.”
Costs and limitations
Of course, the fact that Facebook is free and relatively easy to use adds to its allure with members and asso ciations. As Klaniecki points out, “If Facebook were $500 per month, we would drop it like a hot rock.” There’s no standard formula for a strong social media ini
What to say?
Finding relevant and engaging topics to post is always The Arizona association a challenge. The used Twitter to survey members numberone topic surveyed asso on MLS vendors. ciations reported tweeting was asso ciation events and edu cation announcements or reminders, with the second most common topic being government affairs news or calls for action. Many repost news from other sources, with an eye toward localizing it. Most associations say they use applications, such as Hootsuite, to auto matically repost feeds from their Web site or blog to their other social media vehicles. What about responses to their posts or individual postings to
(continued on p. 18)
Spring 2012 REALTOR ® AE 17
REALTOR® associations using Twitter
One recent count put the number of REALTOR® associations with active Twitter accounts at about 120. From Houston to Portland, associations and their staff are tweeting on association events, government affairs, real estate news, local politics, and more.
On Twitter, 75 percent of associations say they aren’t following their members’ tweets to gain insight into their concerns and opinions, but rather so that the members will follow them in return.
their wall? The standard tends to be to let members post and comment on their Facebook pages. When it comes to negative posts, typically associations let them stand as long as they are constructive. In the event of a personal attack, staff responds. Anne Framroze, vice president, marketing and communications at the California Association of REALTORS®, says she uses Twitter to gauge member sentiment—positive and negative—and track trends. The Arizona Association of REALTORS® uses Twitter often as a survey tool when the desired audience is the most techsavvy members. Recently, Arizona tweeted to members that it was evaluating new MLS vendors and invited feedback.
A one-way conversation? Q. In general, how would you characterize your association Facebook presence?
REALTOR® associations agree Facebook and Twitter are great for getting the message out, but these plat forms still underperform when it comes to getting messages in. In RAE’s survey, nearly 80 percent of associations say member participation on their Facebook pages is either very low or occasional. It’s worth noting that the main reason 100 percent of respondents gave for having a Facebook page is that “it gives us another channel to communicate with members.” Not a single respondent chose the reason “it gives us a way to hear from members.” Dawn Crawford, communications director of the West Maricopa Association of REALTORS®, Ariz., launched her association’s Facebook page with the goal of hearing back from members, but admits that it has not proven to be as effective as she had hoped. “We currently don’t have much feedback from our members; however, we are looking at ways to gain responses from them.” Successful engagement strategies often include posting pictures from events and encouraging members to tag friends and share photos, or asking members to post appropriate photos. Some even use members as facilitators or content creators. This helps keep posts interactive and uptodate, crafting messages that members will relate to and that encourage a response. On Twitter, 75 percent of associations say they aren’t following their members’ tweets to gain insight into their concerns and opinions, but rather so that the members will follow them in return. “I don’t make a practice of following members on Twitter,” says Oklahoma’s Steve Reese. “It’d be a monumental task to keep up with all their tweets just to extract useful opinions and concerns.” There are some associations, however, that view members’ tweets as a treasure trove of useful infor mation regarding concerns and mood, as well as local news, events, and real estaterelated resources.
Social media’s next player
After Facebook and Twitter, associations are eyeing LinkedIn as the next effective social media tool in their communications arsenal. Participation in this platform is growing in part because associations can automatically feed their Facebook and Twitter posts to LinkedIn. In fact, Marque Bressler at the Columbus Board of REALTORS®, Ohio, says LinkedIn requests have “skyrocketed” in 2012. Mike Valerino, RCE, marketing director at the Cleveland Area Board of REALTORS® says he has more members on LinkedIn than Facebook and Twitter combined: “We have a thriving LinkedIn group with over a third of our members.” Brandie Miner says her LinkedIn activity took a while to catch on, “but now people are really starting to post discussions and comment on information more.” The “Social Media Use by U.S. Associations” study found LinkedIn usage is particularly strong in as sociations within specific industry groups, such as Telecom/EData, Real Estate, and Finance. Associations say they also use, or have tried, Four square, Pinterest, YouTube, ActiveRain, Yelp, and their own blogs to communicate with members, but Facebook and Twitter have become the most useful. As REALTOR® associations take a more focused and mature approach to social media communica tions—using tools to automate posts, offering mem bers their choice of communication options, and engaging members on timely topics—they expect to increase not only communication effectiveness, but also their associations’ value to members. n
* “Social Media Use by U.S. Associations,” Benchmarks and Practices, 2012, One Orange Feather Inc. ** REALTOR® AE magazine surveyed REALTOR® association communication directors in March 2012. The online survey garnered 35 responses.
76% An effective
communication channel that complements our overall communications strategy.
11% An essential
component of our communications strategy.
11% A communication
vehicle that we use to reach a particular demographic.
3% A communication
vehicle that hasn’t proven to be as effective as we hoped.
2012 REALTOR® AE magazine survey
REALTOR ® AE
A look at the legal considerations of effective listing data licensing
by Katherine Johnson, associate counsel, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
REALTOR ® AE
Q. What’s an MLS’s legal liability when a syndicator or a publisher lists properties with missing or wrong information?
To syndicate, or not to syndicate? That is the question that MLSs, brokers, and agents have been asking themselves for quite some time, and the debate still rages for a wide variety of reasons. But we’re not going to dive into that here. This article is about how to get the most out of listing syndication agreements for those who choose to pursue them.
Whether it is an MLS, broker, or agent agreeing to syndicate listings, it is imperative for data providers to read the contractual ﬁne print of any syndication agreement and to ask questions. To assist members, NAR created a “Checklist of Issues to Address in a Syndication Agreement” that is available on REALTOR.org. Although not exhaustive, the checklist provides a good foundation for understanding the terms of any syndication agreement. For the purpose of this article (as well as the checklist), the MLS, broker or agent providing the listing data is called the “provider”; the company receiving the data directly from the provider is called the “syndicator”; and the third party that receives the data from the syndicator is called the “publisher.”
If the brokers are going through the MLS for their syndication choices, does the MLS have liability if the information is not published according to state license law, or if a consumer has a complaint? A. The answer depends on a number of factors. First, what is the MLS’s agreement with the listing broker? If the broker has given permission to the MLS to syndicate or has requested that the MLS perform the syndication (opted-in, etc.), the terms of that agreement would determine whether there would be liability to the broker. For example, if the MLS didn’t make any representations or warranties to the broker regarding accuracy of listing displays, then it’s unlikely it could be subject to liability. The same analysis would be true for a consumer’s complaint against the MLS. If no assurances were made to the consumer about the listing online, then there’s unlikely to be liability.
Where can a listing go?
Next, clarify what the syndicator is allowed to do with the data. Some syndication agreements include very broad licensing terms, such as “perpetual,” “irrevocable,” “royalty-free,” and “for any purpose whatsoever.” Therefore, it is essential that the provider understands what each of the terms means and ensures that the contract properly articulates any restrictions the provider wants to impose against the syndicator or publishers regarding use of the listings now, and in the future. A syndicator’s main function is to distribute the listings to a number of publisher Web sites. But a provider may control which sites the syndicator can send the listings to and how those publishers may use the listing data by adding requirements to its syndication agreements, such as: • Requiring the syndicator to obtain the provider’s prior permission for distribution to any publisher • Requiring a written agreement between the syndicator and the publisher that is reviewed and approved by the provider • Prohibiting publishers from re-syndicating the data; or prohibiting use of the licensed data to sell referrals or to create reports, valuations, or other derivative works • Describing the mechanisms the syndicator must use to ensure compliance by each of the publishers
(continued on p. 22)
What is a listing?
The ﬁrst issue to address in a syndication agreement is the data being licensed. Make sure the deﬁnition of what is being licensed is clearly and narrowly deﬁned. This deﬁnition may describe the type of information included, such as active listings, and may exclude other information, such as sold data. If the provider permits the display of active listings only, be sure the agreement describes how the syndicator and the publishers will delete or destroy the listings after the properties have sold.
Q. Can an MLS sue a syndicator or publisher that violates the contract and won’t ﬁx improperly displayed listings?
A. The difﬁculty with any lawsuit (whether brought by a broker or a consumer against an MLS or brought by a broker or an MLS against a publisher) is proving damages. How is a party actually damaged by the publisher’s failure to update or remove a listing? It’s not impossible to prove damages, but it may be difﬁcult. One scenario may be if a state regulator ﬁnes a broker for failure to comply with state advertising regulations. The broker could show that, due to the ﬁne imposed, he was actually damaged by the syndicator’s or publisher’s failure to comply with the contract with the broker. With regards to broker liability against a consumer complaint, some associations and MLSs have added language to their exclusive listing agreements to try to avoid such liability. For example, the listing agreements provided for use by members of the Northeast Florida MLS provides that: “Seller understands and agrees that public Web sites determine their own content and use of data, and therefore NEFMLS, NEFAR, and Broker have no control over public Web sites and no obligation to remove any of the above content from public Web sites at any time.”
REALTOR ® AE 21
(continued from p. 21)
• Describing the mechanisms for keeping listing data accurate and for removing listings from the syndicator’s or publisher’s sites at the provider’s request • Holding the syndicator liable for publishers’ acts Also, consider requiring the terms of the syndicator’s agreement with publishers to be consistent with the terms of the provider’s agreement with the syndicator. This will ensure that the publisher will not have greater rights to use the MLS data than the syndicator.
Following the contract
Contract compliance is another major issue to address in a syndication agreement. How will the syndicator ensure compliance with the terms of the syndication agreement that you’ve so carefully reviewed and negotiated? Also, how will the syndicator ensure compliance by the publishers receiving a feed from the syndicator? One way of accomplishing compliance is to provide the provider a right to audit the syndicator’s systems periodically. If an audit is too expensive a proposition for the MLS or broker an alternative would be to require the syndicator to provide periodic reports or certiﬁcations detailing all of the activity related to MLS listings such as: • Which listings have been received • Which were rejected or accepted (in the case of duplicates) • Analytic data on trafﬁc to the listings When discussing audits and compliance with the syndicator, be sure to address the possibility—and consequences—of the syndicator’s failure to comply. For example, describe the circumstances under which the provider can suspend or discontinue delivery of the listing data. In addition to the issues highlighted here, the “Checklist of Issues to Address in a Syndication Agreement” also addresses many general contract terms analyzed from the unique perspective of syndication, including: • retaining rights to and ownership in intellectual property • security of licensed content • warranties and representations • indemniﬁcation • amendments • term and termination Whether an MLS, broker, or agent is agreeing to syndicate property listings, it is always a good idea to read the ﬁne print and ask questions. NAR’s checklist should provide a good starting point for that discussion. ■
How can a listing be displayed?
How the listing data is displayed on syndicators’ and publishers’ Web sites is a hot-button issue that is important from a business perspective because it helps the provider determine the effectiveness of a particular advertising outlet. This is also important from a legal perspective, as it relates to the requirements of some state licensing laws regarding advertising. Some states require licensees to remove an expired ad for a listed property within a reasonable time. Providers should ensure that the syndicators and publishers will assist them in complying with such laws. A provider may want to ask the following questions regarding display of MLS listings: 1) Must the syndicator and publisher display the source of the licensed content in proximity to the listing? 2) Where will the listing broker’s name appear in relationship to the listing? Will the broker’s contact information also be displayed? 3) Will competing brokers be allowed to advertise in connection with the listed property? If so, will their information appear more prominently than the listing broker’s? 4) How will the syndicator and publisher ensure that the listing information is kept current and accurate? What happens if a publisher fails to do so? May the data feed be terminated in such cases? 5) What is the process for removing expired or sold listings? 6) If a syndicator receives duplicate listing information—for example, a feed from an MLS and a broker regarding the same property—how will the syndicator process such duplicate listings? Which one takes priority?
Q. What can an AE or MLS executive do if the current syndication situation is out of control and, for example, members are ﬁnding their listings on hundreds of publishers’ sites, often not in compliance with MLS rules or state licensing requirements?
A. If you ﬁnd listing data on Web sites where it is not authorized to be or it’s unknown just how the data got there, you should contact the problem sites promptly and individually. Unfortunately, many of these third-party publishers do not readily supply contact information because they do not want to ﬁeld complaints. However, if you can, send a letter demanding that the site not only stop displaying your listing data without authorization but also tell you exactly how it acquired the listing information. Cease and desist letters are not difﬁcult to draft and may prove effective. If a Web site is unwilling to tell you how or where it acquired your listing information, it’s possible that it’s displaying the data without authorization. If so, it could be held liable. The terms of any syndication contract are going to control the options an AE has to rectify any problems. The syndication contract may contain provisions allowing the MLS to discontinue the listing data feed under certain circumstances, such as breach of the agreement. Also, it’s wise to reach out to vendors with whom you are unhappy to ask questions and try to renegotiate. It can’t hurt to ask and it’s possible you may see results. At the very least, you will put the vendor on notice of your dissatisfaction with their service and therefore your unlikelihood of renewing the agreement when the time comes.
22 REALTOR ®® AE WINTER 2009 22 REALTOR AE SPRING 2012
My REALTOR Party
From Member to Politician
Supporting a candidate for public ofﬁce who supports REALTOR® issues provides associations the opportunity to involve their members in community efforts at a whole new level. Advocating for
real estate issues is incredibly important, perhaps the most important beneﬁt an association can offer its members. Although undertaking campaigns can be challenging, through the REALTOR® Party Initiative, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® campaign services department assists boards with tools, professional campaign staff, consultants, and ﬁnancial resources. Here’s just one example of a recent REALTOR® Party local campaign success story. egy, involving three direct mail pieces about Earling, all targeted toward senior women voters. There was also a targeted e-mail campaign, and general advertising in online newspapers, as well as on Facebook and other social media. Finally, the campaign placed targeted, live “ballot-chase” phone calls to engage registered voters. NAR made a wide range of resources available, says Gorton, but left it up to Earling whether to use them or not. The local Snohomish County-Camano Association of REALTORS® and their GAD, Ryan McIrvin, were also involved in the process. “NAR has a contract with a big direct-mail advertising ﬁrm,” McIrvin says, by way of example, “and admittedly, I was a little skeptical about using a mammoth, out-of-state operation. But they turned out to be just awesome—responsive, open to feedback, and timely. They used terriﬁc local photographs and produced a truly effective, Edmonds-speciﬁc direct-mail campaign for us.” The Washington REALTORS®’ campaign focused on quality of life in the idyllic town on Puget Sound. It focused on the views of the Olympic Mountains and the Cascade Range and included references to Edmonds’ schools, parks, and transportation. “The message was all positive,” says Gorton, “about why it’s great to live in Edmonds and how Dave Earling would protect and enhance all those reasons.” Since securing Earling’s win, Gorton says his colleagues in Edmonds couldn’t be happier—as much with the change in atmosphere, as with any speciﬁc accomplishment or policy coming from the new mayor’s ofﬁce. “The former mayor had a confrontational relationship with the City Council, and now the tension is gone. Dave makes the dialogue productive. This is obviously a much better breeding ground for success on all issues—including REALTOR® issues.” Getting started on a campaign can be the hardest part. Contact NAR’s Campaign Services Department at CampaignServices@realtors.org or (800) 874-6500 (ext.1235) for more information on how to get involved and make a difference. ■
NAR Campaign Services Facts
1. Assistance is provided to all size associations for every level of elected ofﬁce. 2. State and local associations play active roles in campaigns, even when the National Association provides the funding. 3. Polling, surveying, and modeling for issues and candidate campaigns is available to all boards free of charge. 4. NAR’s Voter Registration Initiative identiﬁes members not registered to vote and provides language and services to reach out and engage them. 5. NAR just developed a one-day Candidate Training Academy that teaches candidates the ins and outs of running for public ofﬁce.
Edmonds, Washington Mayoral Victory
About seven months before the 2011 mayoral election in Edmonds, Wash., candidate Dave Earling, a former real estate broker and former member of the REALTOR® association, was trailing by 11 points in the polls. He had the endorsement and support of the state association of REALTORS®, but needed more help to ensure his election. Reaching out to the Campaign Services department of NAR, the state association secured the support they needed for a new plan, and Earling came out victorious in November, winning 65 percent of the vote. Although the state association had supported the candidate, more help was needed to make sure he won. Nathan Gorton, government affairs director of the Washington REALTORS®, called the National Association’s campaign services department and explained the importance of this candidate to the city and state. “As a former REALTOR® and broker who owned a real estate ofﬁce for about 20 years, Dave has meaningful experience in our industry,” says Gorton. “There’s a longstanding record of mutual support between Dave and the industry throughout his service on the City Council.” NAR’s support began with hiring a consultant to help the state association map out a new campaign strategy for Earling. The ﬁrst step was listening to research and polling data that showed the candidate needed to strengthen his position with senior women. NAR supported a very speciﬁc multilayered strat-
By Tania Lee
REALTOR ® AE 23
Put Your Plan into Action
Thomas Edison said,“Vision without execution is hallucination.” He was bright enough (pardon the pun!) to know that a vision without action is insufﬁcient. The same can be said of a thorough
strategic plan that has yet to be executed. All too often, associations put a commendable amount of effort into writing a thoughtful and ambitious strategic plan that, unfortunately, is never fully implemented. Well, dust off that plan. Let’s put it into action! I’ll walk you through all the steps—from the brainstorming process through a basic implementation— and provide you with some great tools to keep your strategic plan alive. I’ll even show you how to demonstrate your association’s value to your membership.
Gaining leadership and director support
I recently worked with the Emerald Coast Association of REALTORS®, Fla., to implement their strategic plan. Judi Rutland, ECAR’s current president, and Association Executive Cliff Long met with me during the leadership summit. Like many REALTOR® associations, ECAR hired a consultant to help develop a strategic plan. The consultant worked with staff and leadership to brainstorm, visualize, and analyze how to meet member needs. By the end, the association did indeed have a stellar document, but needed guidance for putting it into action. When I met with ECAR’s board, I stressed that the implementation process we were about to embark on was a fresh beginning. I asked the ECAR board to forget about what had been done in the past (the pet projects, and the sacred cows); support was needed for this new process today and in the years moving forward. Leadership and directors need to be able to take action when deadlines keep slipping, offer support to committee chairs and vice chairs to ﬁnd out what assistance is needed, and ensure that new initiatives align with the association’s overall goals. Gaining their support before implementing any strategic plan goes a long way. The ECAR plan had a mission, vision, and objectives. These are the “big picture” descriptions of what your association stands for and what it wants to achieve in the future. I refer to the objectives and strategies as the “what” and the initiatives or action plan as the “how.” The ECAR plan was missing the “how.” For example, if one of your objectives is to increase member communication, how will you do that? Well, one initiative may be to improve your association’s Web site. Another may be to conduct a survey to determine your members’ preferred method(s) of communication. After reviewing their strategic plan, the ECAR staff and I met to brainstorm and identify an action plan for each objective. Each action plan included a person who would be responsible for implementation, speciﬁed the staff or committees that would be
Donna Garcia is director of Human Resource Services for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® in Chicago. She can be reached at 312-329-8311 or dgarcia@REALTORS.org.
How to implement your strategic plan
I had the pleasure of collaborating with Jerry Panz, RCE, CEO of the Wilmington-Regional Association of REALTORS®, in 2011 to develop a presentation on “How to Implement Your Strategic Plan” for the AE Institute. We developed a work group of AEs from various-size organizations across the country—at the state and local level—to ﬁnd out what the biggest challenges were in implementing strategic plans. The key issues we found were:
1. Not getting support from leadership and the board of directors 2. Not knowing what to do with the plan after it was developed 3. Not knowing how to track progress 4. Difﬁculty in holding committees and staff accountable for their tasks 5. Being overworked because staff has to step in to make sure the committee work gets done 6. Getting sidetracked by new initiatives that aren’t aligned with the strategic plan and that sometimes require unbudgeted dollars 7. Proving to members that the strategic plan would boost the value of belonging to the association
Each action plan included a person who would be responsible for implementation, specified the staff or committees that would be responsible for carrying out the initiatives, and established target dates.
24 REALTOR ® AE
After hearing this feedback, we developed a process, created forms, and cultivated other resources (all available online at REALTOR.org) to help AEs implement its strategic plans. Now let’s look at how one association put their plan into action.
For more on NAR’s strategic planning assistance options, contact Donna Garcia at dgarcia@ realtors.org or call 800-874-6500.
responsible for carrying out the initiatives, and established target dates. Then each action plan was linked to its main objective in a tracking form with a start date, end date, area of responsibility, and check boxes for “on target,” “won’t reach target,” or needing “BOD action.” (The tracking form is included as part of this article and will help you track progress for your own association during the year.) All of the staff was included in the brainstorming process, enabling those from other areas to offer suggestions outside their areas of expertise. Often committee chairs and vice chairs are involved in the brainstorming process, which helps to not only gain their input, but to gain member perspective and get buy-in from the planning phase. ECAR’s plan was to meet with staff or committee chairs each month to obtain a status update and alleviate any roadblocks. For example, a vendor may not have deliverables on time, necessitating that the CEO ensures that obligations are met. If a committee is delayed in reaching its objectives, a meeting with the chair, vice chair, and/or president may be needed to determine ways to get them on track. Identifying the initiatives, determining who will be responsible for completing them, and establishing a timeline is a great start. But how will you ensure that the initiatives will actually be completed? One of my colleagues suggests keeping the board of directors updated. If the committee and staff are aware that the board will be apprised of their progress (or lack thereof), they will be more inclined to complete their action plan. With this in mind, the tracking form can also be used as part of your staff ’s performance review process, showing how well they are meeting their goals and deadlines. Additionally, it can be used as a “status update” at your monthly board and membership meetings.
ciation of REALTORS®, recommends that AEs assess the new initiative to ensure that it aligns with the association’s strategic plan. If it does not, then consider recommending the new initiative for the following year. If it does align with your strategic plan, determine whether the new initiative will be funded from reserves or whether a current initiative will be forfeited to fund the new one. Before Phillips’ board allocates $500 or more from reserves for a new initiative, they address the following questions:
1. How does the action relate to our mission statement? 2. If we were in an unfavorable cash position, would we be willing to take money from another program to fund this? 3. Would you be willing to stand up at the general membership meeting and explain/justify this expense to the members? 4. Is this action a beneﬁt for our primary customer? 5. Has this program been vetted through a committee or work group prior to coming to the board?
How to handle new initiatives
With new leadership often come new initiatives that may or may not align with your strategic plan. Staying on course can be difﬁcult, especially if leadership has a personal agenda that they’d like to accomplish within their year, or if a committee wants to change direction. Dave Phillips, CEO for the Pennsylvania Asso-
Jim Peters, strategic consultant, author, and former AE, has created a program analysis form that he uses to justify new initiatives. It identiﬁes the scope of the membership that will be affected by the new initiative, determines whether there is a need, considers how the initiative is tied to the strategic plan, and assesses the resources (staff and dollars) needed. The person proposing the new initiative completes the form and submits it to the committee for review. If approved, the initiative is then sent to the board for review and approval. Here’s where the tracking form comes in handy once again: by allowing you to provide an update of your successes to your directors and members. The tracking form will not only assist with accountability but it also gives you a way to promote the many valuable services you’re providing based on your membership needs. We all hear endlessly about the importance of making sure that members understand the value of their membership. Having a plan that meets your members’ needs, tracks its successes, and ensures that new initiatives are on track can accomplish this. Although the process may take a bit of time, it will be well worth the effort in the long run. ■
SPRING 2012 REALTOR ® AE 25
Big Bang for Your Tiny Technology Budget
For some associations, big budgets may enable the purchase of “bells and whistles” and the latest gadgets, but having a tiny technology budget isn’t the hurdle it used to be. If you think back ten or even just ﬁve years ago, hiring a techie to “program” your Web site was expensive, as was the per-address charge of blast e-mail providers. But today, some of the most effective tools in our technology arsenal are free (Facebook, Wordpress, Twitter) or low cost, leveling the playing ﬁeld between small associations and large ones when it comes to member communications. As Kathy Henderson, association executive of the Carbon County Association of REALTORS®, explains, “Just because we are small does not mean that our members don’t require the same services as those of larger associations. We just need to ﬁnd more creative ways to accomplish it.”
In an ever-changing economy and real estate market, there is one common truth: Effective communication with members is key.
Here RAE takes a look at essential communications technology tools, most of which cost under $15 a month—no creativity required.
When I ﬁrst started with my association in 2006, there was very little communication between the association ofﬁce and members. Every member I talked to felt out of the loop and out of touch. This changed the minute we started sending out an e-newsletter. I researched and found that Constant Contact was the right choice for us. This Web-based tool offers the ability to easily produce e-newsletters using templates. It also has event software built into the system, and offers a survey feature and the ability to see who is reading your e-mails. It has been an excellent tool for our organization and is cost effective, starting at $15 a month. If you have fewer than 500 members, the following companies all offer e-newsletter and blast e-mail services for less than $15 a month: Benchmark Email, Pinpointe, GetResponse, Vertical Response, Mad Mimi, GraphicMail, Campaigner, Go Daddy, EmailBrain, and Boomerang. Of course, you could send out your e-mail newsletters for absolutely free with a company called MailChimp. Although it is top-rated for ease of use, has great-looking templates, and is reliable, every e-mail will have a link to a funny YouTube video. Free always has a drawback.
Amy DuBose, RCE, e-PRO, is the association executive with the San Marcos Area Board of REALTORS®, Texas. She can be reached at 512-396-5478 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For small associations, Facebook pages, such as this one above from the 300-member Kent County Association of REALTORS®, Del., offer a new way to connect with members with no cost except the time to update the page. Here, Kent County uses their Facebook page to promote their Young Practitioners Network.
26 REALTOR ® AE SPRING 2012
Just a few years ago, associations got on board with text
Small associations use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Wordpress to launch news or opinion blogs, government affairs or RPAC specialty sites, young member groups, MLS user groups, and more with little fuss or financing.
messaging members (on an opt-in basis) and spent typically around $40 to $60 a month for a service to send bulk text messages about events, news, or services. Today, we have Twitter and it’s free. Associations send thousands of tweets a month and broadcast links to services and surveys (see more on p.16). So who needs a text messaging service anymore? It’s true that new smart-phone communications apps and info-on-demand technology, such as QR codes, have chipped away at the relevance of text messaging. Yet, once you open a communication channel to members, it’s unwise to close it. Many associations still offer text messaging as an option for members to receive news or updates. Some associations use texting for hotline services where members can have answers sent directly to their phone. As competition for smart-phone communication has grown, under-$10-a-month options for this category have also expanded. Cherple, one of the most popular mass texting services, is still free, and Club Texting offers a 2.5 cents per standard message fee.
For small associations, free Wordpress Web sites, such as this one from the 200-member Battle Creek Area Association of REALTORS®, Mich., are cost effective and easy-to-maintain alternatives to custom programmed sites and independent hosting.
Although most of us still pay to have our Web sites hosted and our URLs registered, these days, Web presence does not equal Web site. Luckily, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Wordpress are free and easy to set up. Small associations use these platforms to launch news or opinion blogs, government affairs or RPAC specialty sites, young member groups, MLS user groups, and more with little fuss or ﬁnancing. Years ago, such endeavors would have required technical assistance and funding. Indeed, communications technology on a small budget isn’t as limiting as it once was. Of course, the time and effort required to maximize potential shouldn’t be underestimated, but today the bounty of free and cheap online tools available to small associations promises to make you more efﬁcient and effective. ■
SPRING 2012 REALTOR ® AE 27
If you think running a REALTOR® association is enough of a technological challenge, Reggie McCrary, RCE, EVP of the Atlanta Board of REALTORS®, runs six REALTOR® associations and a full-service
real estate school. Plus, he’s the president of Asset lished a technology solution that works for his staff Management & Association Services and manages of 22, but what about technology for serving his 7,500 a building, the Atlanta REALTORS® Center, that has members? nearly 50 tenants. How does he keep this many balls “The greatest challenge any association has is comReggie McCrary is EVP of the up in the air? McCrary, an AE for more than 23 years, munication with the membership,” says McCrary. Atlanta Board of REALTORS®. searched for the right project management tech“That was true when I started with the association in Contact him at 404-732- nology and found a perfect match for his needs in 1988 and is still true today despite all of the advances 0601 or email@example.com. Manymoon (soon to be renamed in technology. Our attempt has Do.com as part of the Google been to try to place our informa“Whether it’s Twitter, tion in as many places as possible app suite). “Because of employee reduction over the past few in an effort to make the informaFacebook, Google+, years, we are all attempting to tion easy for members to digest LinkedIn, or the next accomplish the same amount on the platform they prefer. of work with less personnel, Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, great social platform, so this is a difﬁcult challenge,” Google+, LinkedIn, or the next we believe we need McCrary says. Manymoon has great social platform, we believe enabled him to make a smaller we need to have a presence in to have a presence in staff more productive by alorder to cater to the members’ order to cater to the lowing workers to easily create, need.” Despite all the outlets, share, and track tasks, projects, McCrary says, e-mail is still his members’ needs.” and notes with each other. Staff organization’s most effective and volunteers can access the form of communication. association’s Manymoon system online or from a However, what members actually need most mobile device, so everyone can stay informed no when it comes to technology, according to McCrary, is hands-on training. Given unlimited ﬁnancial and matter where they are. “We spent the ﬁrst year creating several hun- manpower resources, McCray envisions forming a dred projects, events, and tasks and are now able company that would provide training for all members to reap some of the beneﬁts of this information all at any location, and on any device, at no cost. “Most being contained in of our members have attended technology training one location,” notes and have purchased all of the devices to keep them McCray. “This has current in the market, but many truly don’t know how helped our team be- to use the vast majority of the tools that are available come more efﬁcient to them. I could see a tremendous beneﬁt to members and better organized being able to purchase a device or an app and then by providing a clear connect with the association to schedule hands-on picture of the re- training at a location of their choice, without the sources needed at concern of the cost involved.” Until that time, McCrary says, his efforts for the various times during the year and making rest of 2012 are focused on reducing operating costs sure we accomplished without jeopardizing services. “We are looking at McCrary depends on Do.com, the new social productivity app for our tasks in a timely ways to become more mobile via smart phones and fashion.” tablets, plus we want to upgrade the building’s phone small groups, from Salesforce.com, to help staff and volunteers McCray estab- system to VOIP.” ■ track progress on projects and programs.
28 REALTOR ® AE SPRING 2012
Tech for Productivity
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