How to lose friends and alienate people

Being in the right is not what always counts when it comes to public relations; what matters is what the public comes to understand. From a PR strategy perspective, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver exercised poor judgment in its minor dispute with Vancouver Condo Info.

Inherent in public relations is the notion of relationship. This implies a respectful engagement with your audience. Hence, when contacting a blogger, spam is not good PR, hate mail is not good PR, but maybe a short email with a fact sheet attachment is.

In the matter of the REBGV v. Vancouver Condo Info, the blogger posted a graph with a potentially confusing title — one that the board thought infringed on its trademark. But rather than have a staffer send a quick email suggesting a correction, the REBGV calls on lawyers to make demands of the blogger with the intent of issuing a cease-and-desist.

Sure, the REBGV was in the right to do this since it’s no crime to hire a lawyer to do anything, whether it’d be to fold your laundry or pen your email. But if public perception is relevant to an organization, one wonders how “bringing out the barristers” is the best first choice to take. It’s needlessly confrontational and disproportionate to the objective — a crow bar in lieu of a toothpick.

It’s like your neighbour parking his car in the wrong spot and rather than ask him to move the vehicle, you call the police. Then you wonder why everyone in the neighbourhood doesn’t like you. But hey, you were in the right…

Over 4,000 people read Condohype yesterday. Welcome to the neighbourhood.

25 Responses to “How to lose friends and alienate people”

  1. condohype Says:

    Image by the site author based on a photograph by Joe Gratz.

  2. Happy Renter in North Vancouver Says:

    How can REBGV lose a friend when I never liked them in the first place?

  3. jesse Says:

    Good perspective. It is fair game to raise a stink.

  4. Jimbo Says:

    It’s interesting. Now we know for sure that REGBV is reading the local blogs. I always thought so, but it’s indisputable now. Condohype, you too are speaking directly to the top brass of the real estate sales league. They’re watching and probably feeling every jab. The Pope made them wince, and they struck back. Pissed them off a little. (Probably because they know their time at the top of Vancouver society is limited.) The REGBV is getting a little bruised and feeling a little sorry for themselves. The knockout blow to the Board could come at any time from any angle.

    Now, don’t pull any punches.

  5. Many Franks Says:

    Everyone, I’m just not sure what all the fuss is about. If I paraphrase the conversation between Pope and REBGV, it runs:

    B: Can you tell us how we can contact the owner of the site?
    P: Please post your questions in the comments; I’m anonymous.
    B: No, really, there’s a problem with a graph we need to contact you about.
    P: OK, I’ll change a couple of things about the graph. Is that OK?
    B: Yes, and also remove so-and-so.
    P: OK, I’ve made those changes. Thanks.

    The differences between the above and the actual correspondence are minor in the world of emails between strangers. Yes, The Legal Department is mentioned, but that’s not at all unusual. The Board didn’t force the issue of Pope revealing his identity, and accepted his changes without much fuss. This would not be the case IMO if they were interested in intimidation.

    This single, reasonable request from the Board has been conflated into an entire campaign of bullying that has forced Pope to close down the blog and shutter his (rented) windows. Please, don’t lose sight of the facts — this is an exchange of 6 emails with a satisfactory outcome.

    I’m disappointed to see so many people whose opinions I respect agitating for this particular tempest-in-a-teapot.

  6. dingus Says:

    I think your take is exactly right.

    Why start rattling legal sabres with some guy who runs a website in his spare time? Why not consider it an opportunity to engage with an audience of your membership’s potential clients. Don’t like the perspective or the information? Add your own!

    It speaks volumes about their old school approach to information — control it, limit it, manage it and spin it. I really think they have to do some thinkin’ about how they interact with the public and exactly what the service of their membership really is. Getting uptight and making ominous noises about lawyers to some blogger who needed to clarify a graph doesn’t speak to a) a savvy approach to public relations or b) a forward thinking business strategy.

  7. Carioca Canuck Says:

    Real estate agents and their incumbent real estate boards are nothing more than a bunch of obsolete crusty dinosaurs, dying a slow and painful death………and they’re kicking all the way to the tar pits.

    The advance of the information age has allowed people like never before to come together and share information that is highly negative and severly damaging to their attempts to prop up their fraudulent monopolistic cause.

    The interaction we have seen here is merely typical of the breed when the chips are down……..

    To wit…..newspapers worldwide are going bankrupt and failing, even the NYT that aged bastion of liberal hogwash is broke, and has to mortgage it’s only asset, the Manhattan HQ to stay afloat a few more months or maybe a year or two……and it’s all because of the power of internet……….travel agents are few and far betweeen……..all because of the internet……..and real estate agents are clearly feeling the pain for they and their scams cannot survive under the scrutiny of the masses for much longer…………

    Not that I’d ever use one though……but for most people it is the biggest transaction of your life (not in my case for I have done complex multi-million dollar business deals, and the last thing I needed was a “realtor”) and you cannot afford to let some commission leeching scumbag “advise” you……..learn the ropes yourself so you don’t get screwed by the RE machine.

    And, thanks to the power of the internet, you can do this too………

  8. ds7777 Says:

    REBGV …Fail

  9. greg Says:

    We had a similar problem on some of the Victoria blogs where a realtor named Fred was asking for contact information for the blog posters and then threatening legal action by the local board over use of MLS stats.

    We know realtors are reading the blogs. Some are sensible like Paul B and Chipman, others not so much.

    Did the local boards all get together and send out a memo?

    Conspiracy theory? You decide.

  10. The Pope Says:

    This whole thing has been overblown and I know my action of shutting down the blog is mainly to blame. I think the boards action was clumsy, and think they should have come right out with their request in the first email, but I don’t think they care about eliminating free speech. There’s nothing in it for them.

    It comes down to me losing interest in posting story after story of the declining real estate market and no longer being able to find the humor in the situation, which was my primary motivation for starting the site.

    I think “It’s different this time!” is a very funny statement. Once everyone notices the emperor is strolling down the road naked its just awkward, not funny anymore.

    That said I know there is some useful information shared on vancouvercondo.info, and many people have expressed interest in helping to keep the site going. So I’m going to shift it over to a community run blog. If I notice something funny in the market maybe I’ll try my hand at writing occasionally, but other than that I’m going to leave it up to the regulars. If you’re interested in keep the site going you’re going to have to contribute. You’ve just got to keep stories factual and respectful and be okay with readers ripping your submission apart, whether bearish or bullish. I’ve put a post up with more details on the site.

    Thanks everyone!
    [posted on multiple blogs because I’m tired of chasing all these threads]

  11. The Pope Says:

    By the way, I completely agree with your take on the situation condohype.

  12. VancityAllie Says:

    Congratulations on all the new traffic!

    By the way I just wanted to make a suggestion for a new post.

    Every day I have to deal with downtown traffic. Doesn’t matter whether you’re in a car or a bus… there are construction workers closing down TWO to THREE LANES on a busy street to park their vehicles or trucks. They aren’t city workers. They aren’t civil engineers. They are private construction workers hired by these huge condo companies.

    I can’t believe people put up with that.

  13. T-1000 Says:

    This should come as no surprise (but I am alarmed at how long it took).

    Lenders are starting to really scrutinize the quality of pre-sales on their current projects. If it does not pass muster, they are cutting funding immediately (no more waiting until after the project is done). When you combine this with cost overruns, its no wonder you see Lenders pull out midstream as they did for JH – “strong” pre-sales or not.

    It will be interesting to see in 2009: how many people cannot/will not close (if the deposit is 15% and the market is down 25%, you punt); how many developers have the resources to go after them; how the Lenders will handle steep losses. Very bearish on Canadian lenders in 2009.

  14. Tony Danza Says:

    Now we know for sure that REGBV is reading the local blogs.

    Well, at least we know some members of the REBGV are reading the blogs. Egos bruised yet? If not they will be soon!

    I would imagine there are a few high flying RE agents that don’t like being outed for the incompetent louts they are.

    VancityAllie, I agree, I long for the good old days when it was rare (in Vancouver) to see a jacked up F350 with flames down the side and Calvin taking a leak on the back window.

  15. PM Says:

    Make sure to vote for your favorite blogs/sites before end of day today – http://bestof604.com/vote/

    Yes, Condohype has been nominated.

  16. condohype Says:

    “This single, reasonable request from the Board has been conflated into an entire campaign of bullying that has forced Pope to close down the blog and shutter his (rented) windows. Please, don’t lose sight of the facts — this is an exchange of 6 emails with a satisfactory outcome.”

    I agree completely, but the point is that the public did lose sight of the facts. This happened because the board failed to consider how its actions would be perceived.

  17. jesse Says:

    I read the conversation as

    B: We have concerns over content. We need to find the person responsible.
    P: I am anonymous and will not reveal who I am. Please let me know your concerns.
    B: Anonymous is no good. We need to put a name on a potential letter from our legal department if you don’t resolve the issue to our liking immediately. Our concerns are blah blah blah
    P: Fine. Here are my solutions blah blah blah
    B: This is acceptable. We also ask you do blah blah blah as well. If we see any future breach we will find who you really are and send you a letter from our lawyers. This has a potential to involve lawsuits so watch out.
    P: OK.

    It is a big deal because they took an adversarial stance right away. If they want to play the legal interface game don’t expect any sympathy from anybody here. We know the power of a lobby group compared to a sole blog proprietor: not a snowball’s chance in Quattro.

  18. islander Says:

    Many Franks: did REGBV or did it not mention lawyers? If it did, then the board intentionally brought out the Red Button, even if it didn’t actually use, or even intend to use, it. So stop pretending the Board didn’t pull a major power play.

  19. islander Says:

    But as for Carioca Crook. Nobody forces you to use a realtor for your multi-million-dollar fantasies. Stop the victim mentality.

  20. technobee Says:

    We always talk about how bad the condo ads are. So I’m not surprised that their dealings with bloggers is just as poorly designed. But to be fair, most Vancouver companies can’t properly do marketing and pr, so I can’t be too hard on them. Using the lawyer card too quickly just shows your inexperience.

  21. Carioca Canuck Says:

    Islander….

    Thank you for validating the point of my post with your comment.

    Heh.

  22. Vancouver Real Estate Group Hits Blogger With Legal Demands « mtippett Says:

    […] Source: condohype.wordpress.com […]

  23. Vancouver Real Estate Group Hits Blogger With Legal Demands « The Social Graph Says:

    […] Source: condohype.wordpress.com […]

  24. Sad lurker Says:

    Excellent summary of the situation, condohype, although I think you underplay your hand a bit.

    And Many Franks, I have to assume you are being disingenuous. Paraphrasing the way you do to eliminate the implied legal threat completely mischaracterizes the exchange. Bringing in lawyers isn’t innocuous, it is an outright threat against one’s financial resources.

    In my opinion, of course. Please don’t sue me.

  25. freako Says:

    Almost exactly the way I saw it as well, so good post Condohype.

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