3/23/06 “Hi Ardell — I was reading the RCG today and noticed a comment of yours under Russ Cofano’s blog entry that I thought was really interesting and something I’d not given much thought before. You mentioned about joining the big brands and said they won’t let you blog so you’re not jumping on board right now.. is that true? Do brands really dictate stuff like that? If so, I think Inman News might look into this more. With all the push for blogging in the industry lately, this seems peculiar..Just wondering.. thanks! Jessica Swesey, Inman News.”
While I told Jessica almost a month ago that I would do a blog post on this topic, I have to admit I thought the question was a little naive. Almost every truly vocal person in the industry is either a designated spokesperson for a company or a “one man show”. The people I know who have been on Good Morning America or quoted in the paper, are usually the owners of the company. This is true in every industry. If you are an employee of a large company, you are told that if anyone from the press contacts you, you have to refer them to the one person in the company who is designated to speak with “the press”. There are exceptions, especially if your are spouting out only GOOD things, like “There has never been a better time to buy a house!”
So the question isn’t can everyone blog, but who can pull your plug? This goes back to blogging being public and in many ways a form of adverstising. Under State Law, in every state in the country, an agent must have the name of the broker/company on every “advertisement”. Consequently an agent either has to have an anonymous blog where the agent’s name does not appear, or a blog with both the agent’s name and the broker’s name. An agent, though an independent contractor, cannot be a “cowboy” and do things on their own without supervision. The broker retains the right to both see anything that the public can see, usually in advance, and also retains the right to veto its printing.
So how do you blog everyday if the broker doesn’t have time to review and OK your content every day? You can have an insipidly bland blog that simply backlinks to other news items. Even then, many companies do not want you to “advertise” their “competition” or “discounters”, by mentioning them by name. So all of the HOT news on Zillow and Redfin and Lending Tree, could be off limits, because they don’t want one of “their own”, boosting the popularity of these other companies by mentioning them at all.
In real estate forums, when agents want to talk about Zillow, they call it “Z”. Theory is that by even whispering their name in private, you send out spiders into the search engines that cause Zillow’s name to be spread and the website’s popularity to be expanded exponentially.
Anyone who wants to truly discuss the future of the industry in a way that does not simply spout out accolades and full service fees, cannot blog via first person in a blog unless they do it anonymously. But is this NEWS? Can an AT&T employee blog about the future in a way that points out that there are improvements to be made by their employer? Can even a Microsoft Employee be quoted in print that they think Google should win the Inman Award for Innovation? Very naive of someone to think that the First Amendment applies to the little guy who has a “BOSS”.
Back around March 23rd, I interviewed with a company that treats their agents as employees. They weren’t sure if I could blog, but they were sure that I couldn’t “talk to the press” ever. Since your blog entries can be lifted and quoted by the press…they felt that it was possible that blogging activities would be limited or possibly even prohibited.
So the question isn’t whether or not you can blog, the questions is what are you allowed to say in the blog? I’m sure even Jessica has to run her content by someone to be approved, before it can be “printed” and available in the public eye.