"That's Who We R" Delivers the "Real" in REALTOR®

Associations tap into value proposition, create pride using the award-winning campaign.

By: M. Diane McCormick, a Pennsylvania-based freelance writer and author.
I can help you make the most out of your most important asset.

For two decades, NAR’s consumer advertising campaign has raised public awareness about the REALTOR® brand. But the campaign reemerged with new energy in 2019, when NAR launched “That’s Who We R.”

Now in its third year, the multi-award-winning initiative has transformed into a touchstone for REALTOR® pride that reinforces the REALTOR® value proposition with consumers, highlights the iconic brand trademark, and is evolving to meet the needs of REALTOR® association executives and their members.

With the campaign’s flexibility and clear messaging, associations are finding creative, impactful ways to leverage its assets on behalf of members and extend messages that raise consumer awareness of REALTORS® as trusted, professional partners in real estate transactions and beyond.

Birth of a Campaign

One job of association executives is “to spread REALTOR® awareness in the community,”says Greater Chattanooga (Tenn.) REALTORS® Communications Director Josh Branum, which made That’s Who We R “a home run. The whole campaign has been a great way to spread awareness that our members live in and love where they work.”

For That’s Who We R, creative agency Havas helped NAR deliver a foundational tagline, bold look, and clear message declaring who REALTORS® are and the value they bring. The ad campaign distinguishes REALTORS® from nonmember agents and shows how they go above and beyond, not only in the transaction, but also to better the communities in which they live and work.

The campaign has three goals, says NAR Director of Consumer Strategy & Brand Advertising Karen Bebart:

  • Showcase the value of partnering with REALTORS® when buying or selling property;
  • Differentiate and distinguish the REALTOR® brand; and
  • Instill pride in REALTORS® when they see and hear the campaign.

Refreshed every few months, campaign assets issued for use by associations and REALTORS® include the That’s Who We R tagline and logo; print, banner, and billboard ads; backgrounds for use during video calls; posters; and static and animated messages for social media. There’s also free use of NAR’s Photofy app, which offers personalization of a vast library of campaign social assets and easy sharing to social platforms. And there’s That’s Who We R merchandise, which includes lapel pins, notebooks, and apparel.

That’s Who We R in the Wild

REALTOR® associations are using That’s Who We R to elevate the visibility and status of their members in a variety of ways:

Supporting community. In North Carolina, Salisbury/Rowan REALTORS® includes That’s Who We R banners in its emails to members. The #ThatsWhoWeR hashtag goes in social media posts about the association’s community efforts, including an annual golf tournament that supports the local school system’s Yum Yum Bus summer meal program.

“We want to keep everybody aware that we’re here,” says CEO Carla Rose. “We may be small, but we can do big things.” That’s Who We R may be a campaign for REALTORS®, “but it’s about bringing the community together,” she says.

When Salisbury/Rowan REALTORS® overhauled and streamlined its strategic plan, the That’s Who We R banner anchored a summary of the plan and its member-driven, community-focused direction. “We have made it a part of not just the public side, but used it internally, as well,” Rose says.

Feeding families. The rapidly growing Des Moines (Iowa) Area Association of REALTORS® embraced the campaign in late 2019, buying billboards and encouraging members to use campaign assets, says CEO Cindy Pelz.

When the pandemic arrived, DMAAR’s board donated $64,000 of its own funds to local food banks and Iowa Children and Family Services. “There were children out there going hungry," says Pelz.

DMAAR sent $1,000 checks to members, who presented them to their local pantries while speaking from a That’s Who We R script. Members “were just tickled pink,” Pelz says. “Getting involved in your community is the best advertisement anyone could ever have.” DMAAR later compiled the presentation photos into a video—also a big hit with members, who shared it to build their own brands.

“I constantly have members telling me that someone came up to them in the grocery store and said they saw them online and asked, ‘Are you a National Association of REALTORS® member? Is that why you got that R?’” Pelz says.

Building visibility. Every other year over two consecutive weekends, Greater Chattanooga REALTORS® sponsors a build of a Habitat for Humanity home. The event photographs well, and in 2019, participants “completely bought in” when the association suggested they wear That’s Who We R T-shirts.

Branum turned clips and photos from the build into a video where the shirts were as much a star as the home itself, creating passive awareness of the community-mindedness of REALTORS®. “Let the association do the bragging for you,” Branum tells his members.

“When our members see that they are volunteering as a group and not just as a single individual, they realize how much they are raising the profile of REALTORS® everywhere, and the community notices,” he says.

Harnessing passion. The Greater Harrisburg (Pa.) Association of REALTORS® channels That’s Who We R through its foundation, the nonprofit arm that sponsors such outreach as Thanksgiving food drives and back-to-school backpack campaigns.

“The majority of REALTORS® are very passionate about giving back to the community they serve,” says GHAR CEO Kathleen Ludwig. “NAR really highlights and instills that as part of being a REALTOR®.”

GHAR Director of Member Engagement and Communications Stephanie Mount uses #ThatsWhoWeR in all GHAR Instagram posts, also attaching the hashtag and tagline to the foundation’s promotional videos and event coverage.

GHAR also hangs posters from the ad campaign in the classrooms where current and future REALTORS® get their pre-licensing or continuing education for “subtle branding,” Ludwig says. “It’s about starting off the mindset early in their career and continuing throughout their entire career as a REALTOR®.”

Driven by your dreams. Guided by a code of ethics.

Housing Discrimination? Not in Our House.

 

Spreading the word. At Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS®, That’s Who We R supports an internal goal of reaching consumers and members “to reinforce identity and pride of being a REALTOR®,” says CEO Michael McGee.

Advertising campaigns are timed to accompany governance meetings held in the state capital of Harrisburg in January, June, and September. Strategically placed billboards from the campaign assets share the That’s Who We R tagline with motorists driving the region’s busiest corridors.

“That gave us an opportunity to catch not only consumers who were driving by, but also our members who were coming into town, as well as our state elected officials and members of the governor’s administration,” McGee says. “It was our way to say, ‘Our people are in town.’ We have a strong reputation in the state capital, so we thought it was a good opportunity to amplify the NAR message. And our members appreciated seeing the REALTOR® brand on display, showcasing PAR’s advocacy and reminding consumers of the benefits of using a REALTOR®.”

Our COE is Your Peace of Mind

Leveraging the larger campaign. Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS® benefits from NAR’s media buys in the Washington, D.C., market, but the association’s public relations firm is also exploring ways to partner with NAR to leverage and reinforce the national message. NVAR also makes strategic use of the #ThatsWhoWeR hashtag in D.C.-area communities.

“We want to be smart about it,” says Vice President of Communications Ann Gutkin, to avoid diluting the message. “We try not to post the hashtag on everything we do, but tailor it so it really is reinforcing the message.”

When NVAR adapted its traditional single-day annual conference to a three-week virtual format in 2020, the first week was themed “That’s Who We R Week.” Committees and advisory groups created content and sessions focusing on key topics including fair housing and volunteering.

The entrance to the Digital Experience Center at NVAR’s headquarters—where members can test new software and tools—is emblazoned with the “That’s Who We R” slogan. “That’s tying the campaign into digital advancement and reinforcing professionalism through the adoption of new technology that can benefit consumers,” Gutkin says.

Expert. Neighbor. Community Leader

Sharing Professionalism With the Public

Telling “the broader story of the REALTOR® brand,” as Bebart puts it, includes educating consumers about the ethics and expertise that ideally lead consumers to select real estate agents who are REALTORS®.

In 2020, when NAR began intensifying its advocacy for fair housing through the ACT (accountability, culture change, and training) initiative, That’s Who We R provided a natural extension, letting consumers know via ads and video content—some of the most widely shared ever—the ethical behavior expected of REALTORS®.

“We had already underscored the Code of Ethics, and it was only natural to go further and show that the REALTOR® brand stands for fair housing for all and treating everybody equally,” Bebart says. “In fact, our code mandates that. We know it, but consumers didn’t, and now more than ever, consumers are seeking brands that don’t just say they are ethical but can prove it.”

While community involvement remains an important aspect of the campaign, NVAR plans to continue to leverage the professionalism side of the messaging. “We are trying to get that professionalism message out there,” says Gutkin. “That’s a key differentiator between a REALTOR® and a licensed agent.”

First-Time Homebuyers Need Long-Time Home Experts

Taking Ownership

The visibility of the billboards the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS® places alongside freeways “gets our members excited,” McGee says. “Our members love what they do, and visually reinforcing it for them is something they appreciate.”

NAR believes so strongly in the campaign that it has submitted the work for major awards, winning multiple recognitions for the campaign’s 2020 fair housing work, its video series partnerships with Vice and Great Big Story, and The Battle Home exhibition staged in Kansas City’s Union Station. “These awards validate that the work is strong, and it holds up against the campaigns of other major brands,” says Bebart.

“We are constantly evaluating, tweaking, and testing the work,” she adds. “As stewards of the brand and the assessment that finances the campaign, the team regularly gauges analytics across all channels, including social, digital, television, and search. Insights gleaned can shift language, design, and placements to optimize outputs and fine-tune the target audiences.

“With the help and support of the Consumer Communications Committee, we make sure the campaign authentically represents REALTORS® to ensure consumers continue to differentiate and value the REALTOR® brand,” Bebart says.

Rose, from Salisbury/Rowan REALTORS®, sees the national commercials and thinks, “That’s us.” It incentivizes association executives to work the message into outreach for “that constant reminder,” she says. “It’s not in your face all the time, but it’s that gentle nudge. It’s a reminder to everybody—including ourselves—[that we hold] ourselves to that higher standard and that we’re more than just real estate professionals. We are REALTORS®.”

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