It hardly seems fair that many of us have toiled for years to build great real estate industry blogs, only to have Rob Hahn come along and pretty much shame us all in a matter of months. If you’re a real estate professional who does not read Notorious R.O.B. yet, then you’re missing out. He understands marketing in our vertical like very few others. Forget Seth Godin, you need to be reading Rob Hahn.
Hi Rob, what made you decide to start a blog?
I’ve wanted to do a blog for quite some time, when I started in the real estate industry, first at Kinesis Marketing working with Coldwell Banker, and then at Realogy overseeing interactive marketing at Coldwell Banker Commercial. As a real-estate industry outsider (well, I guess I’m more and more an insider more time I spend in this industry) I find it absolutely fascinating. It’s an incredibly important segment of the economy, but there’s just so much to talk about and discuss as it comes to marketing, technology, the Web, and business practices. While I was at Realogy, blogging was more or less strictly forbidden by the legal department, so while I had my own personal blog on politics, I couldn’t really write or talk about the things in real estate, marketing and technology. Now that I’m at OnBoard, I can do just that. Within reason, of course. J
One reason why I wanted to interview you was your unique position in RE.net. You have a personal blog, while serving as Vice President of Marketing at OnBoard LLC. How do you balance your personal opinions with your responsibilities as a public face for this company?
I’m sort of making it up as I go. J It’s actually a difficult balancing act, because I have responsibilities to OnBoard that ultimately supersede my own personal preference for blogging. I balance it by asking myself, “Does what I wrote hurt OnBoard in any way? Does it hut our client in any way?” Because of OnBoard’s position in the marketplace as the premier provider of data and geography solutions to some of the top companies and brands, it’s impossible to comment on the real estate industry without in some way commenting on one or more of our clients. Even if such comments were to be critical, I try very hard not to have them be hurtful. Not all criticism is not malicious, and I do strongly believe that criticism from friends who want the best for you is one of the greatest gifts in a relationship.
My colleagues and I have actually discussed this in some depth after one of my posts was seen as possibly crossing that line. I think what works is to be as frank, honest, and authentic as possible on my blog – and if I see a conflict, I’ll simply state that conflict, and refuse to write about it.
Then in my day job, I simply focus on telling the OnBoard story, following the principles I am preaching on the blog as much as possible. I think OnBoard is the best data company in the industry; therefore, it is no bullshit to say so. I really believe that we have the best data, the best technology, and the best customer service – it’s actually a joy to market that which I believe to be true. So it’s a wonderful opportunity.
Have you ever felt that you needed to withhold an opinion because of your job?
Of course – that’s part of the balancing act. But it happens only very, very rarely. I’m not a shill for our clients in my personal blog, nor am I a shill for OnBoard. I will refrain from commenting if I think it would actively hurt either OnBoard or a client without cause, without reason, and without benefit. In other words, criticism has to be constructive – point the way towards an improvement of the situation. Simply flaming someone, or some company, serves no purpose.
How has the OnBoard brass reacted to your blog?
Well, I’m part of the brass, so… J No, seriously, they’ve been great. Marc, our CEO, is anxious for the day when we relaunch our official blog. So am I, frankly. I’m hoping to get the rest of the brass into more blogging. We have certain views here on business, on real estate, on data, and on technology that result from having had the privilege to work with all kinds of companies in the industry, from brokers to web portals to media companies. I think some of what we know is of enormous value to others in the industry, and I’m eager to start the sharing. But first, I have to redesign and relaunch the website, with the blog – which is one project I’m working on now.
What is OnBoard anyway?
Why, my good man, OnBoard is the best data and geography company in the real estate industry. We serve some of the largest brands, some of the most innovative companies, and help them create more compelling websites by leveraging data. I don’t know that I could do better than to just quote from our website’s About Us:
Three former executives of MonsterDaata regrouped after 9/11 in a tiny basement office in New York City’s East Village. Their dream was to create a new company focused on outstanding B2B solutions derived from local neighborhood information that would increase their clients’ ability to meet the needs of today’s consumer. OnBoard LLC is the fulfillment of that dream. The office pulses with creativity, intensity and a sense of community. From teams of solution specialists helping shape a client’s vision and the product team working with clients to optimize our solutions, to the occasional Guitar Hero duel between the CEO and the new Product Manager, OnBoard is really just a special group of people, each with a little bit of that basement vision.
OnBoard LLC provides innovative web tools, web services and comprehensive data that give your website the distinctive edge needed to compete in today’s market. Our client engagements begin with providing content and continue through delivery of strategic planning and integration expertise to support our clients’ business processes. We are experts in data aggregation, standardization, distribution and integration, allowing us to deliver critical decision support and content solutions for your website, back office, marketing and planning needs.
Do check us out at www.onboardllc.com. There, that’s my pitch of the day.
What are some of your favorite blogs?
Oh man… I read a LOT of blogs… There are some great blogs and bloggers in the RE.net. I can just list a few of those in my RSS reader right now:
– Outside of real estate, I regularly read
– The Die Line (package design blog)
– And I read center-right political blogs:
What advice do you have for prospective bloggers who are sitting on the fence.
I think the number one thing is to do it for your own pleasure, or don’t do it at all. Blogging for business, as a lead generation tool, is still somewhat unproven. If you can blog and see it as at least partly entertainment, then go for it. Even if you get nothing out of your blog, you’ll have had fun.
Having said that, if you want to blog for commercial reasons, understand exactly what you’re getting into and what you want to get out of it. I’m advocating blogging for business at OnBoard, knowing exactly what that requires, but also knowing what I want to get out of it. Educating the real estate industry about data, technology, geography, and how people can use these things to empower their businesses is ultimately good for OnBoard’s business. I think of it as participating in the markets-as-conversation in a positive, expertise-driven way. That only serves to enlarge the market for us. If we can do that, then I’d be satisfied even if we got not a single lead off the blog.