Should a Broker Censor the Content of Agent Web Sites & Blogs?
Another news feed just came out about a highly successful agent leaving a brokerage because the broker wanted to in some way control or censor their blog and web site. This is not an isolated instance, and you'll read about it more as agents adopt sites and blogs more fully.
Why would a broker care what an agent does if it brings in business?
- Broker concerns over consumer reactions to content.
- Fears of liability for what the agent says on their site/blog.
- Archaic business practices and fear of agent power in the market.
Is this censorship?
There is certainly reason to be concerned about your market's consumer attitudes about your business. There is also certain liability for the actions of those in your organization. And that could translate into policies and procedures that would limit obvious issues, such as outright plagiarism or offensive content.
But where does this concern and control end?
The very nature of blogging invites reader participation. If a reader has had a poor experience with a brokerage, even with another agent, does this web-savvy agent delete their comments just to keep all input positive? In many cases, the blog owner leaves all comments as long as they aren't offensive or outright attacks. This has caused some brokers to attempt to have negative material removed.
But We're Independent Contractors.
Where does the Independent Contractor status place this issue? As an IC, most would believe that they should control their own marketing, particularly when their agreement states that they are responsible for all the costs of same. This situation is aggravated by the fact that most agents are younger and more in-tune to the Internet than their brokers. What do we need to do?
- Educate brokers in the etiquette and informality of the Web.
- Help brokers to write and implement policies to control outright abusive content.
- Give more online tools to agents - not take them away.
- Write Independent Contractor agreements that address responsibility for actions and content.
If today's brokers do not embrace the Web and help their agents to do the same, someone will take their place who will. It's a new marketing world, and old-world tactics will spell doom for many. If nothing else, the agents who leave for more online freedom will become the brokers with the business in the future.