Advertising: No Team Is an Island

Shout the name of your team from the rooftops, but don’t ignore the brokerage you’re affiliated with.

Q: I have a team, and I’d like to make my team, rather than my brokerage, the focus of my advertising and marketing. Is that okay?

A: You can make your team the focus, but you must also make the name of the brokerage you’re affiliated with readily apparent to anyone seeing your advertising or marketing. The NAR Code of Ethics is clear on that, and some states require it as well.

The Code applies to all advertising, whether it’s being done by the firm, the individual agent, or a team. State laws vary, with some states having specific rules about team advertising. The one constant is found in Article 12 of the Code, the “true picture” principle. REALTORS® “shall present a true picture in their advertising, marketing, and other representations.”

Here are some tips for ethical team advertising under Article 12.

  • Make sure your brokerage company’s name is in the advertising. Standard of Practice 12-5 says, “REALTORS® shall not advertise nor permit any person employed by or affiliated with them to advertise real estate services or listed property in any medium (e.g., electronically, print, radio, television, etc.) without disclosing the name of that REALTOR®’s firm in a reasonable and readily apparent manner either in the advertisement or in electronic advertising via a link to a display with all required disclosures.” In short, the team name alone is not the company name. The idea is that the public has a right to know who is responsible for the conduct of those doing the advertising.
  • Whether you’re advertising your services or your listings, if it’s real estate–related, it must include your company’s name. Article 12 mentions both “advertising” and “marketing.” It doesn’t matter if you call a piece “marketing” and not “advertising.” If it’s a brochure, article, blog post, or anything else that promotes you, your team, your listings, or your real estate services, you need to include your company’s name.
  • If it’s electronic communication, you may be able to use a link to your company name. From Facebook, Twitter, and other social media posts, Standard of Practice 12-5 allows you to include your company name via a link. The link language may be your team name, your name, or your username. If a consumer clicks on it in Facebook, for example, it should take them to your business Facebook page, and the consumer should be able to see your company information on the page. Be careful, though. This is not always the rule under license law. Many states have not addressed this issue but rather still require the company name to be in the actual advertising and that “advertising” may be the post itself.
  • Your company name is not your franchise’s name. It’s the official or registered name of the entity with whom you and your team members are licensed. Check with your broker about the registered name or names the company has set up with your licensing authority. Use one of those names with your team advertising.
  • The company name must appear in a “reasonable and readily apparent” manner. Say your team name is Smith/Jones and Associates. That sounds like a company name. If your company name is Green Hills Realty, then “Green Hills Realty” must appear be large enough and prominent enough in your ads to make it clear that the Smith/Jones and Associates is connected to Green Hills Realty.

The Code doesn’t specify a size relationship between company name and team name. However, putting the company name in a very small point size in comparison to the team name is likely not in compliance. Likewise, displaying the company name in a light shade, or a color that blends with the background, might be considered a violation. Ultimately, if a dispute arises, a hearing panel will decide. You’ll never have a problem if you keep in mind the principle behind the Code: People have the right to know the true nature of the entities and REALTORS® they are dealing with.