Is Transparency a Good Thing in Your Personal Marketing?

Education & Training with Sell with Soul

cat in the hat

"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~  Dr. Seuss

In April, I did a teleseminar called "Don't Be Dorky, Be YOU!" which was about how to write interesting, relevant and non-cheesy content for your self-promotional material. During that seminar, I talked about the wisdom of being "transparent" to your audience; specifically, whether or not you should you share your personal beliefs and interests with your audience if those beliefs are at all controversial or subject to debate.

I used the rather obvious examples of *religion and politics. If you are a person of faith, should you make that clear in your personal marketing (whether that's your blog, your Facebook page, your website, your personal brochure and/or your SOI communications)? If you have strong political leanings, is it appropriate to publicly share those from time to time when current events seem to call for it?  

During the seminar, I said yes - it is appropriate, within reason. I explained that even though you take the risk of alienating some of your audience, you also maximize the chances that your candor will attract like-minded people with whom you will probably enjoy working. And even if someone doesn't agree wholeheartedly with your opinion, you'll still stand out among the crowd as simply being more interesting than most of your competition who is determined to play it safe and hang out in the middle of the aisle.  

Brilliant stuff, Jennifer, if she does say so herself.  

Well, last week, I had the opportunity to put my money where my mouth was. I sent out an email to my entire **mailing list, and, without giving it much thought, referenced a recent controversial blog I'd written.


Well, sorta oops. The responses poured in, literally hundreds of them within a few hours. The majority of responses were supportive, even effusive. Neato.

But some were... shall we say... less so.

A handful of my (now former) readers blasted me for my opinion, and a percentage promptly unsubscribed from my mailing list and my Active Rain blog.

At first, I was shaken. I was hurt. I was mad at myself for carelessly risking the support of my readership. I berated myself for hours for being so stupid as to be that transparent with my precious mailing list. I didn't sleep much that night.

But somewhere in the middle of that sleepless night, I had an epiphany. While my transparency did indeed alienate a portion of my audience, it also solidified the support of a much larger portion of that audience, and also attracted dozens of new readers into my world.

I must confess that in my initial moments of panic, I considered apologizing, backing off my stance and returning to the middle of the aisle where it's much safer. But I didn't and I'm at peace with that decision.

Are you considering being more transparent in your self-promotion? If so, good for you! But be warned that it may take the wind out of your sails the first few times (actually, every time) someone nastily asks to be removed from your mailing list, and you may very well lose audience members. But be assured that there IS a loyal and supportive audience for your viewpoint (unless it's really wacky or creepy, LOL); one that will love you even more once they've discovered your common ground!

*See Post #44 for other, less-divisive examples of opportunities to be "transparent."

** If you'd like to join my mailing list so you can receive my sometimes-not-thought-all-the-way-through ramblings, just do that on my home page

Posted by

It's Here!


The More Fun You Have Selling Real Estate, the More Real Estate You Will Sell! 
(True Story)
Order Your Here!










Re-Blogged 1 time:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Michael Lissack 06/21/2010 12:38 PM
Real Estate Sales and Marketing
Real Estate Rookie
Selling Soulfully
Silent Majority
The Ninety-ninth Percentile
all blogs
transparency in marketing

Spam prevention
Show All Comments
Ted Tyndall
Davidson Realty Inc. - Saint Augustine, FL
I will help You find the Home YOU want to Buy

Jennifer, great things to think about. Unfortunately I am not very transparent. I know enough to not talk a lot about religion and politics to customers unless asked. However, at the same time you have to be yourself. If some people don't want to follow you for that reason, so be it.

Jun 21, 2010 11:08 AM #50
Gary Woltal
Keller Williams Realty - Flower Mound, TX
Assoc. Broker Realtor SFR Dallas Ft. Worth

Jennifer, your increased transparency I see as targeting better your ideal client.

Jun 21, 2010 11:59 AM #51
Coral Gundlach
Compass - Arlington, VA
Real Lives. Not Just Real Estate.

Jennifer, dying to know what it was!  Great blog and thoughts on how much to share.  I am not really into being transparent, because I don't want to come off as navel gazing.  I think my message is about how to help others with my experience and good sense, not my personal views on stuff like politics or family.  I know I should probably put more personal stuff in there, but just think it comes off as unprofessional.  I will subscribe to your blog to see how you do it!  Thanks so much for posting this.

Jun 21, 2010 12:35 PM #52
Eric Michael
Remerica Integrity, Realtors®, Northville, MI - Livonia, MI
Metro Detroit Real Estate Professional 734.564.1519

Jennifer, I think that while you might lose a percentage of readers, the ones who do stayed probably number more than those that left. They understand and I'm sure are more loyal after reading your email. I know I am. And to me, that's what counts.

Jun 21, 2010 01:29 PM #53
Brenda Mullen
RE/MAX Access - Schertz, TX
Your San Antonio TX Real Estate Agent!!

In my opinion it depends on what your overall goal is.  Are you looking for supporters of your point, (some lifting up)?  Are you looking to ruffle feathers?  What is the goal of bringing your personal beliefs whether they be faith based or political based or both? 

For me, I think that those things definitely have their place, but not so sure in business.  It's not really anyone's business what I believe or what person I vote for, (or how I parent, or what sports team I like), in my professional life.  I find that if I am talking with a client and I find that they may have something in common with me, I may broach the subject, i.e I love the Denver Broncos, (yes, I know I am in San Antonio) and if I see my client has an overabundance of Bronco stuff I may mention it.  I will not however poo pooh on a Dallas Cowboy fan, (although 

I am one of those kind of kumbya people anyway who believes that everyone has a right to their beliefs or their political viewpoint as long as it isn't immoral or injust to anyone else. 

Jun 21, 2010 01:40 PM #54
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

Jennifer - Some of the other ways of being transparent are things that I do, but politics and religion I stay away from. This is just something I was taught from childhood and is what I do normally any way, so perhaps it is still me being myself?

Jun 21, 2010 05:54 PM #55
John Souerbry
Cordon Real Estate - Fairfield, CA
Homes, Land & Investments

If "politically correct" means not ever offending anyone, then it's an impossibility.  People who try to please everyone all the time offend me with their spinelessness.  So THERE!

Jun 21, 2010 07:39 PM #57
Christine Pappas - REALTOR®
eXp Realty - Willoughby, OH
eXp Realty - Because Experience Matters

Like attracts Like.  I say be yourself (without stepping on anyone)!   We are all here because we like the 'realness' that you bring.  And those that don't  -  DELETE. 

I am sorry you spent a sleepless night - next time call me.  I know what you mean when something eats away at you like that.  You do and say a lot of good, so next time focus on all that good stuff, open up all those great emails, and remind yourself that there are many of us who adore you!

Have an awesome day!


Jun 22, 2010 01:57 AM #58
Tanya Nouwens
RE/MAX ROYAL (JORDAN) INC. / Tanya Nouwens Inc. - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Real Estate Broker & Stager

I operate in this crazy world with the principles of mutual respect, tolerance and understanding.  There is not one person on this planet or in this universe who has got it "right" when it comes to religion or politics.  Not one.  We all have our opinions, and we're all entitled to those.

As for your other examples of transparency, I have to admit that at times I've been turned off by what others have shown.  And so I fully expect that to happen when I show parts of who I am too.  A big part of growing up for me (and yes, I'm still working on it) is realizing that I can't be all things to all people and that not everyone will like me.  I hear my sister saying, "Put your big girl panties on and buck up, Tanya."  And that makes me laugh.  Great thought-provoking post, Jennifer.

Jun 22, 2010 02:05 AM #59
Chad and Sandy Neumann
Chad and Sandy Real Estate Group - Jacksonville, FL
Jacksonville Realtor (904-414-6500)

You cannot fully separate your beliefs from your business--your beliefs drive behavior in everything you do. You can keep them quiet, but I prefer honesty and transparency. I find that 'like attracts like" and that business is more enjoyable when you work with those who are EITHER like-minded OR mature enough to respect differences.

Jun 22, 2010 04:55 AM #60
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

I was away from my desk most of yesterday and was dying to get back here and personally respond to all the wonderful comments. I have to admit, I held my breath when I hit SUBMIT on the blog and then again when I saw it was featured... I'm still a little bit gun-shy on this whole transparency business. But wow - so many great thoughts and observations here.... THANKS!

Sandy - Okay, girl, I've tried, but I couldn't have said it any better... "like-minded or mature enough to respect differences." Yeah, what she said.

Tanya - Always a joy to hear from my Tanya! When you didn't respond sooner, I was 'fraid I'd lost you, too... And you certainly contributed another word of wisdom... "none of have it 100% right!" What a concept!

Christine - You asked for it! If your phone rings in the middle of the night, it just might be me. And I WILL remind you right away of how much you adore me ;-]

John - So THERE, yourself ! Love it.

David - Thank you. I thought my points were valid... of course... so I was surprised at... well, never mind. I was just surprised.

Christine - Yes indeed - it's WHO you are! I've always been pretty silent on both as well until I was inspired to say something. Which, unfortunately perhaps, I didn't realize was political until the fall-out.

Brenda - Good points and questions. How transparent to be publicly is certainly a personal decision and I'd encourage anyone considering talking about their life and their beliefs more openly ask themselves WHY they want to do it.

Eric - I don't know for sure, but it definitely appears that way. So, while the whole exercise was not intended to be anything more than just another Jennifer Newsletter, it seems to have had somewhat bigger implications for my business.


Jun 22, 2010 05:24 AM #61
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Coral - Did you find it? I love your comment on navel-gazing - I assume you mean that you don't want to come across as self-absorbed?

Gary - We shall see!

Ted - I probably wouldn't talk about RorP with clients, either, unless they bring it up and we seem to agree. Then what fun we'd have!

Cari - I thought you responded to my email - it was the one about UNSubscribing... maybe you missed the controversial part! Be happy to send it to you again, m'dear! LOVE the comment about not kicking hubby to the curb...

Chris - That's exactly what I do, too! And I (and they) LOVE it!

Thank you, Kathy. I appreciate that!

Bob - just go to my blog and scroll back a few days... you'll find it. I'm a little worn out from it all, so I won't post it here... but feel to check it out and comment!

Lisa- There are probably good arguments either way. No, you don't want to run off potential business by being organically YOU, but you might also attract business you wouldn't have otherwise gotten by being YOU. But do note the distinction between being provocative or insensitive with clients, and pursuing business from strangers by being opinionated...

Brian - yes, it probably is a matter of implementation... and none of us will ever be perfect, but live and learn...

Jun 22, 2010 05:42 AM #62
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Lisa - Thank you - I'm the same way - I do appreciate a non-politically-correct debate, as long as I can see the intelligence behind the debate and not just typical propaganda! Glad you enjoyed it!

Christianne - you know what's funny? I advised Loreena not to be as transparent as she wanted to be... I'm glad she ignored my advice!

Morris - I'm glad We Are Who We Are!

Elizabeth - I know what you mean... and sometimes that's the most fun...

Aaron - I don't know if there is an answer... I was asked by a handful of my readers NOT to write about my personal feelings on subjects again - to stick to real estate. So, with them, I went too far in the wrong direction. But many others wrote me such nice notes I literally had tears in my eyes, more than once. Cain't please 'em all... but if you please YOU, that's a start, I suppose!

David - Very well said!

Matt - I love the transparency in your comment! I have a few of my own skeletens that I'm tempted to write about from time to time and I probably will. Will I go too far? I might. I probably won't talk much about politics from here on out, although I won't promise that... but anyway... thanks so much for your thoughts!

Patricia... You are granted your 5th Amendment rights...

Leslie - Agreed. Pushing is just obnoxious!

Markita - Yeah!!!

Richard- It's just surprising to me WHAT is considered controversial...

Katerina - I read your comment several times - anytime someone starts out with "You are brilliant" I can guarantee you'll have my attention. Seriously - thanks for the confirmation of what I believe and have also found to be true...

Chris - Good story... Hmmmm... gave me something to think about... stay tuned.

Jason - I saw your comment while I was shopping at WalMart... and I laughed out loud in the electronics  department. As I recall, you and I are on different sides of the aisle, so your comment really does mean a lot to me!

Rita - We may end up choosing our friends based on similar ideologies, and that's fine. But you're right - there's no need to be nasty to those who don't agree with us!

Charita - Thank you so much for that. And you're right, of course - one item of disagreement shouldn't ruin a relationship - whether business or personal.

Terry - It does indeed!!

Lewis - Time will tell if I made the "right" decision; I suspect I did, even though it wasn't actually a "decision" - more of an oversight!


Jun 22, 2010 06:01 AM #63
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Tammie - you use a good word - "flaunt." I think you can publicly be who you are without making it appear you expect everyone else to agree with you...

Jenna- And I'll bet it has served you well!

Mike - I wouldn't dream of forcing anyone to talk about an uncomfortable subject in the course of a casual conversation... which is what is great about blogging and such... if someone doesn't like what you have to say, they can just pass it on by. Or, of course, respectfully disagree.

Nancy - it IS fun, isn't it? Too bad it doesn't happen more often - that you can respectfully debate without getting all prickly about it!

Joe - Indeed... within reason IS the key...

Anna - good points. I advise agents to "trust their guts" in their personal marketing and that would certainly apply here as well...

Kelly - it sounds as if you have the right attitude... go with it!

Erik - That's one approach... wouldn't work for me though, I like to talk about myself too much!

Christa - Very well said.

Robert - It's always worked well for me, at various levels of transparency.

Loreena - As always... love your input. Do you remember when I tried to talk you OUT OF being as transparent in your marketing???



Jun 22, 2010 06:11 AM #64
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

Jennifer you do need to be yourself and I agree with you.  You can be yourself and still be approachable by people who are different.  I am surprised at how many of my clients have different backgrounds and beliefs than me.

Jun 22, 2010 07:45 AM #65
Ryan Hukill - Edmond
ShowMeOKC Real Estate Pros of KW Elite - Edmond, OK
Realtor, Team Lead

Jennifer, this may well be the best post I've read in months! If more people would understand this, what kind of world would they then be working in? It's great to work with clients with whom you have common ground, and being yourself in your marketing draws those people to you. I believe you gain far more loyalty from those people than you would ever lose in the ones you scare away.

Jun 22, 2010 08:44 AM #66
John MacArthur
Century 21 Redwood - Washington, DC
Licensed Maryland/DC Realtor, Metro DC Homes

JDawg........did not see this till got my note....keep it real.


pal forever


Jun 22, 2010 03:50 PM #67
Coleen DeGroff
Coldwell Banker M.M. Parrish Realtors - Gainesville, FL
Haile Plantation Real Estate - Gainesville FL

Jennifer - Isn't it amazing how we spend less time excited about the people who support us and more time worrying about the people who don't?


Imagine a world where it would be the other way around....

Jun 25, 2010 07:46 AM #68
Robert Vegas Bob Swetz
Las Vegas, NV

Hello young lady and you are on a roll and let's keep your wonderful post alive with a another feature at one of my favorite "Loving" groups at AR ...


VB ;-)

Jun 25, 2010 02:01 PM #69
Latonia Parks
Top Bragg Realty, Fayetteville NC, Home of the 82d ABN DIV - Fayetteville, NC
Certified Military Relocation Expert

Glad you snapped out of it and got on with what you've been "called to do".  Oops (not really).

Aug 19, 2010 05:08 PM #70
Show All Comments

What's the reason you're reporting this blog entry?

Are you sure you want to report this blog entry as spam?


Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn

Author of Sell with Soul
Ask me a question