Tell Your Story

From the NAR President: We need to be proactive in helping consumers understand what we’re all about.

June 1, 2006

What do consumers want from us, and what do they think of real estate as a profession? Those are questions the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® asks and tries to answer in a variety of ways—through consumer research and articles in REALTOR® Magazine and by monitoring how our industry is covered in the news.

But it’s not just up to NAR to ask and answer these questions. Each of us plays a role, too. Each of us needs to be proactive in helping consumers understand what we’re all about.

Just like any story—war, the economy, education—the story of the real estate industry becomes distorted when seen through the lens of the media. We’re labeled as protectionist. The value of our services is scrutinized. Our motives are questioned.

As we point out in a new Web log at, “NAR in the News,” journalists strive not necessarily for truth, which can be illusory, but for balance: “If they cite a spokesperson for one side of an issue, they’ll go out of their way to find someone on the other side. Both sides might be dead wrong, but the theory is that the truth lies somewhere between two poles of opinion.

I believe in a free press, and it’s hard to question the importance of striking a balance. But the corollary to that imperative is that each of us must take the opportunity, in our dealings with the media and the public, to present our side of the story.

We need to let consumers know that most of what we do as an organization also furthers their interests. We need to say, “Yes, we’re a special interest group, and our interest is you, the consumer!

What we stand for is what most Americans stand for. By striving for smart growth in our communities, defending private property rights, fighting efforts to eliminate or water down the mortgage interest deduction, advocating for small-business health plans, pushing for the expansion of the FHA, and battling to maintain the line between banking and commerce, we’re serving not just our industry but all Americans. We need to tell that story.

We also need to tell the story of our unique contribution to our communities. Think of the dozens of Habitat for Humanity builds we sponsor every year, the hundreds of causes served through REALTOR® Magazine’s Good Neighbor Award winners and nominees, the millions of dollars we pour into helping people impacted by natural disasters.

Certainly, the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina has thrown a spotlight on our relief efforts there, but history shows that REALTORS® give generously whenever and wherever they see a need.

As long as there’s a free press, there will be negative stories about the real estate industry, and that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes, it takes a critic to help us find the right path to progress.

At the same time, we can’t let the critics ride roughshod over our industry. That’s why NAR is quick to respond to unfair characterizations, and that’s why we use the tools of public relations to highlight the positive stories of our industry.

You can help by telling people in your community what you, your company, and your association are doing for them. Rather than dwell on the negative, let’s blunt it by showing all the ways we serve the public good.