Industry experts Katie Lance, Kendall Bonner and Victoria Kennedy say agents shouldn’t be afraid to talk about controversial topics.

Real estate agents and brokers are struggling with how they should present themselves as professionals while they are surrounded by racial unrest and a deadly pandemic, but this is not the time for “marketing as usual,” according to real estate marketing expert Katie Lance.

Lance, CEO of Katie Lance Consulting, spoke during Inman Connect Now’s Agent Marketing track Wednesday afternoon. With everything that’s going on, agents should turn off their automated marketing messages, resist the urge to only talk about real estate, and show they’re human, according to Lance.

“You will never regret being kind. Reach out to people and say, ‘How are you? Is there anything I can help you with? Do you need anything?’ We have an opportunity right now to be reassuring, to be calm,” she said.

Katie Lance at Inman Connect Now

Now, more than ever, is the time for agents to use video to make their voices heard and create original content, according to Lance — but she isn’t talking about offering the business equivalent of pablum.

“It’s important to highlight Black voices in our content and our marketing and our social media and our Facebook Live content. You know, not avoiding those tough or uncomfortable conversations, and really thinking about not just one post on one day, but what [are] the long-term changes your business and company will implement, especially as far as your marketing, and how you educate yourself,” she said.

Lance wasn’t sure what to post over the last few days, so she reached out to her community for resources. She’s looking forward to reading The Color of Law, a book about government-mandated housing segregation. She also recommended Think Do Say, a book that helps people think about what they do and say and how that relates to their brand.

Panelist Victoria Kennedy, CEO of Atlas Real Estate, stressed that there’s never been a better time to connect with people in a real way.

“Don’t be afraid to have an opinion that you think might be controversial. Because that’s how conversations get started and how change gets initiated. It’s more than just business. It’s more than just, ‘Hey, I’m here for all your buying and selling needs.’ Those days are gone. This new normal has humanity back in the business world and that’s a great thing,” Kennedy said.

She added, “Now’s the time to engage in these conversations, as a Realtor, as a human being. Even your silence says something. So don’t be afraid to engage in that conversation because whether you like it or not, we’re in it. So might as well embrace it, and try to be that voice of reason and calm in your community.”

Panelist Kendall Bonner, broker-owner of RE/MAX Capital Realty, highlighted how “rough” the times were and that people are grieving from both the pandemic and violence in the streets.

“For me, the word of the year has been ’empathy.’ Trying to find the space to be empathetic, even for people whose opinions, thoughts, perceptions of the world and of reality and of the pandemic, of social justice [are different]. To be empathetic towards them and to understand that what they’re feeling, what their thoughts are, are real, and that we should try to be focused on what we know to be good, what we know to be right, what we know to be American,” Bonner said.

“People are saying, for example, … ‘All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter, too.’ I think that’s so important,” she said. Bonner added that it brought tears to her eyes to scroll through her social media feeds and see all the comments standing up for what’s right.

“I’m a good athlete — you know what we did when we have an injured player in the field? Everybody takes a knee. Both sides take a knee because we’re concerned about the injured person on the field. In this case, we have injured Americans in the field. I think it’s important for us to either take a knee or stand up, but let’s not sit down and be quiet anymore,” she said.

In this climate is it OK to still be talking about the virtual open house you’re hosting this weekend? Lance asked.

“The world still has to keep spinning. We all still have jobs to do … people to serve. We just use our empathetic hearts with kindness and authenticity to serve that community at a higher level,” Bonner said.

“I think we need to turn up the volume on the things that are important, that are authentic, that are empathetic, while also making sure that we’re enhancing the customer’s experience while doing our job, which is helping people buy and sell real estate.”

Real estate is built on relationships and people want to see agents be their true selves, according to Kennedy.

“I have an open house on Saturday. But you know what, I’m also really upset about what’s going on right now in the world. Because that’s what it means to be human. It means this is going on in my life. Yeah, I’m like you, I also have a job and I also do these things, but this upsets me and it’s OK to be human,” she said.

For those looking for coronavirus-related social media content ideas, Bonner created a list to get agents started.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.
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