Where is Ty Pennington when you need him? If any group is in need of a solid foundation to rebuild themselves upon and a dry roof over their heads to shelter them from the elements, brokers should be at the top of the list.
The series of events that have occurred over the past two years have left brokers battered, bruised and in dire need of a fresh start. The industry has invested a lot of time and effort in rehabilitating the wholesale channel from an operational and compliance perspective, but that effort will be for naught if brokers fail to restore some measure of trust with consumers and lenders. What brokers need right now is some positive PR.
As any good publicist will tell you, image is everything, and when it comes to revamping a tarnished image, actions speak louder than words. To begin to repair the reputational damage wrought by the reckless actions of a few greedy individuals, brokers need to engage themselves in the oldest of grassroots PR tactics—volunteerism.
Think about it. Is there a better way to enhance your own image than to selflessly give to others? By associating themselves with a positive cause, brokers can begin to undo the injuries sustained through tangential association with their unscrupulous (and now, hopefully, defunct) peers and regain the public's trust, as well as the industry's faith in the wholesale channel.
The non-profit world is ripe with opportunities for brokers to connect with positive, housing-related causes. The most obvious of these of course is Habitat for Humanity. The cost to participate is minimal … just a day or two of your time to assist in a build, usually during the weekend, and the Habitat for Humanity Web site (www.habitat.org) makes it easy to locate and contact your local chapter.
Other examples of living/housing-related causes include combating homelessness, creating green spaces in urban communities and performing common household repairs for the needy. Additionally, many high schools and colleges across the country are eager for businesses to conduct financial education seminars for their students to prepare them to take responsibility of their financial futures, and brokers are in a prime position to educate consumers of all ages on financial management and the responsible use of credit and financing.
However, for a service effort to truly have a positive impact on an organization's image and reputation, simply writing a check or participating in a single service day won't cut it. Active and frequent participation is required, and above all, sincerity is paramount. If you don't wholeheartedly believe in the cause you are supporting, your efforts will come off as being disingenuous, and any reputational benefit that might have been gained through participation will have been squandered.
Once you've begun participating, let people know about it. Take photos, and post them on your company's Web site. Issue a press release announcing your company's volunteerism initiatives, and recap your experiences through a corporate blog. Being front and center for doing something positive can do wonders for an organization's reputation, but remember to also temper the tone in which you describe your organization's participation so that your descriptions come across as enthusiastic versus blatantly self-aggrandizing and purely promotional.
Abraham Lincoln once said, "Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing." Organizations, large and small, live and die by their reputations, and a bad reputation, regardless whether it's based in fact, will torpedo a company's chances of success unless swift action is taken to remedy the situation. To regain their status as Trusted Mortgage Professionals, brokers must tend to their tarnished public image, as the light in which stakeholders view your organization can either illuminate it or obscure it completely.
Greg Schroeder is president of Comergence Compliance Monitoring. To learn more about how the Comergence Compliance Trusted Mortgage Professional program can help, call (714) 495-4720.