How The Medium and The Message Have Changed the World of Politics and Real Estate

Robin Fenchel February 22, 2012

As a veteran real estate agent, the message reverberated loud and clear: “Innovate or Disintegrate,” as Jessica Swesey writes in her fairwell article as a columnist for the Inman News.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years as editor of Inman News, it’s that companies that do not innovate die–or worse, become irrelevant, which is much like being buried alive.

I hope that those in the real estate industry see the changing market as their opportunity to innovate. The Internet, open source, social media, the sub- prime disaster and housing downturn have changed consumers forever. Real estate needs to adapt to these changes.

Those who do not innovate will become irrelevant to these changing needs.

Indeed, real estate agents must embrace the new medium of the Web 2.0 by creating a voice through a network of interactive communication and participation, and by going beyond the static page of a Web 1.0 presence to deliver rich original content and information to the home buying and selling public.

In the 1960’s, Marshall McCluhan, a media analyst, wrote a book from which the title became the common vernacular for the transformative power and influence of the medium of television, still in its infancy: namely, The Medium is the Message.

Every generation has their medium and those who succeed in embracing the medium connect with the people with whom they communicate. In the realm of politics, President Franklin Roosevelt used radio–the medium of the day to connect with the depression-era populace by way of the intimate Fireside chats.

President John F. Kennedy used the new medium of the time, television, to connect with an unprecedented seventy-seven million Americans (over 60% of the adult population,) to win the Kennedy/Nixon Debates in the eyes of the public and ultimately win the Presidency. At the time, CBS news correspondent, Charles Kuralt, declared that “Kennedy’s skill with the medium helped to make television the nation’s ‘new front porch’.”

Fast forward almost half a century, and the political pundits are now attempting to deconstruct Barack Obama’s below the radar successful candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency.

In Frank Rich’s Op-Ed article entitled, One Historic Night, Two Americas, he points out that “the Obama forces out-organized the most ruthless machine in Democratic politics because the medium of their campaign mirrored its inclusive message.” In other words, they empowered the ordinary citizen rather than relying on the typical top-down hierarchical structure of the past.

“Such viral organization and fund-raising is a seamless fit with bottom-up democracy as it is increasingly practiced in the Facebook-YouTube era, not merely by Americans and not merely by the young.”

Out with the old ways of doing business; in with the new social media.

He goes on to point out the similarities between Hillary Clinton’s and John McCain’s strategies in their respective “cultural tone-deafness” and “stodgy generic web site(s) ” in which their “blogs, video and social networking are static and sparse,” and how both Clinton and McCain repeatedly invoke CB”C”bB,CbI,” in their respective speeches, while Obama’s message invokes the inclusiveness of the “Yes, we can” mantra: speaking to a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-generational inclusiveness–a post boomer, post-partisan inclusiveness that jettisons the baggage of the Me-Generation and embraces the You-Tube, MySpace, Facebook generation. “His [Obama’s] vocabulary is so different from that of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. McCain that they often find it as baffling as a foreign language.”

In Rich’s opinion Mrs. Clinton and Mr. McCain see change as “nothing more than a marketing gimmick,” while Obama uses the message of change as a sea-change of all inclusiveness and optimism. “On one side stands Mr. Obama’s resolutely cheerful embrace of the future… On the other is John McCain’s promise of a wise warrior’s vigilant conservation of the past.”

Parallels may be drawn in the real estate industry as real estate agents continue to cling to old ways of the “I’s” instead of focusing on the all inclusive “we” or “you.” Indeed, there are the veteran real estate agents who remain comfortable with the methodologies of the past–reluctant to embrace the new technologies–even the most basic ones in the face of the public’s desire to have a free flow of information available to them when they want it and on their terms.

Others of us are empowered, energized, and willing to embrace the kind of change necessary to educate ourselves as we move toward understanding the new message of inter-connectivity and seek to immerse ourselves in this new medium, resolving to deliver the information that the buyers and sellers desire in an interactive Web 2.0 way.

The real estate agent who seeks to remain vital in this rapidly changing industry needs to evolve and embrace the new message of total transparency with the free flow of real estate information, including real-time market trends and statistics, accurate and available “sold” data, access to real-time mortgage rates, original hyper-local community information, instant chat and instant messaging. We need to embrace and disseminate the information through the new medium of Web 2.0 real estate whether it be in the form of an interactive web site, blog, and other social media, such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, LinkedIn, and the newest micro-blogging phenomenon, Twitter.

For those real estate agents who wish to experience the new Medium and Message first-hand from the internet gurus, such as Pat Kitano of TransparentRE, Kevin Boar of 3OceansRealEstate, and Dustin Luther of 4Realz, check out the Real Estate Connect Conference in San Francisco from July 23rd – July 25th. You will be inspired to find your own voice and re-construct your business for the new Web 2.0 real estate community.

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