Communicating Lasting Impressions

How to Actively Engage Realtors® to Support Your Schools

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Schools and people’s perceptions of them drive home buying decisions and property values. As such, Realtors, brokers and corporateengage realtors to support schools relocation professionals are strong influencers and need accurate information to share with their clients.

Whether your goal is to build positive perceptions for a single school or an entire school district, this checklist provides a simple roadmap to create a communications program with these key stakeholders.

 

Conduct a focus group with a small group of Realtors. What do they know about your school and/or district? Is their general perception positive, negative or neutral? Do you hear misperceptions shared by numerous attendees? Is there a common topic they struggle to understand? How do they learn about your schools? Would they be open to hearing directly from school officials?

Outline your program and confirm leadership will support it. Use focus group feedback to shape your program. Whether it’s an annual gathering hosted by the superintendent or school/district leaders speaking at Realtor’s meetings, be realistic about the time you can devote to this initiative and gain the support of your leadership.

Create and maintain a database of Realtors’ names and email addresses. Look through online databases, particularly those maintained by real estate associations and boards. The Houston Association of Realtors website allows you to search for agents by zip code and other criteria. Chamber websites, real estate ads and input from community stakeholders are good sources, too. Ultimately, a robust list will help you deliver targeted communications to this group. If you’re just starting and you plan to host an event, start by inviting brokers and asking them to invite their agents.

Plan your program. Many school districts, like Spring Branch Independent School District (SBISD) in Houston and DuPage High School District 88 (DuPage 88) in Illinois, find Realtor luncheons work well. Speaking at Realtor meetings helped correct common misperceptions when I was a school communications director. Whatever direction you go, create an agenda based on the focus group findings. Showcase students and programs through live performances, displays and videos. Serve student-prepared food to spotlight a culinary arts program if you have one. Provide printed materials highlighting school and/or district achievements that agents and brokers can share with prospective homeowners. If you have the personnel and are hosting a sit-down event, seat a school or district leader at each table to listen and answer questions.

school childrenInvite feedback.In addition to your planned program, allow plenty of time for Q&A. In SBISD, Q&A follows the superintendent’s state of the district address. This open forum is a treasure trove of information about community perceptions. Also, ask attendees if there is a tool or information you can provide to help them in their work. If needed, provide an anonymous feedback form to obtain this data. Don’t forget to invite feedback on the event itself.

Use Realtors’ input. Let them know you’re listening. Provide them with the requested tool or information, or let them know why you are unable to do so. At a community engagement event we hosted for one school district, a Realtor shared the results of a poll she independently took among 150 agents in her office. It was easy to fulfill a simple request for a quality brochure about the district and distribute it to relocation departments of major real estate companies. Requests for a newcomer section on the district website required more time.

Stay in touch. Whether it’s electronic newsletters or invitations to school and district events, keep the communication flowing with these ambassadors between face-to-face events. Showcase successes. Highlight positive activities. Always communicate progress. Maintain an open-door policy. In DuPage 88, the superintendent and principals give their cellphone numbers to Realtors in case prospective newcomers want to visit district schools after hours. This transparency led a managing broker in the district to say that her colleagues now realize DuPage 88 has nothing to hide.

Stay the course. Building relationships takes time. Given the many lives these real estate professionals touch, it’s worth the investment to build relationships with them.

In DuPage 88, Realtor luncheons have enabled school officials to clarify how state test scores are determined, what they mean and why they are not always fully representative of a school’s performance. In recent years, SBISD has used its luncheons to address timely topics such as school feeder patterns, school choice options and state legislative issues impacting the district.

Give your Realtors, brokers and corporate relocation professionals reliable, up-to-date information and watch the good news about your schools spread.

Ready to develop a communications program targeted to real estate professionals? Contact us for a free consultation.