Consumer Advocacy Outreach
The best laid plans of late 2019 could never have accounted for what was around the corner in 2020. That’s where the ability to pivot could save the day, and even deliver a substantial silver lining, as the Oklahoma Association of REALTORS® recently learned. With a Consumer Advocacy Outreach grant from the REALTOR® Party in hand – which they’d planned to use to promote Oklahoma’s new first-time Homebuyer Savings Account legislation – the association paused, reassessed, and created a whole new consumer-facing website. They now have a platform dedicated to Oklahoma real estate information and resources – including blog posts, their “Talking Real” podcast, and any future content they see fit to create.
Association Executive Jessica Hickok explains that the unexpected shutdown early in the year gained them some valuable perspective, as well as an opportunity. “We still wanted to raise awareness of the HBSAs, which we’d been advocating for in the state legislature for several years and were anxious to promote as an important tool in the homebuying process; in fact, we used funds from our own Legislative & Public Advocacy Fund to get the word out, initially. But given the change in circumstances, we decided to roll it in into a much larger goal: to develop a lasting and sustainable site where we could present all the real estate content we have to offer the public. We realized there should be a place to send people looking for information, without getting them bogged down with our internal association matters.” They were fortunate, she adds, in the state’s allowing the new website, https://oklahoma.realestate/ to share the colors and graphic elements of its own site, as well as a complementary logo design, so that it benefits from the familiar, and also newly-launched, state branding.
The new site, launched in November 2020, is now a one-stop resource for real estate information in Oklahoma, including the promotion of the Homebuyer Savings Accounts, which allow aspiring homeowners to save up to $5,000 tax-free per year ($10,000 for joint filers.) The site offers HBSA ‘toolkits’ for both consumers and REALTORS®, and underscores the benefits of having a REALTOR® help set up a new account. According to Government Affairs Director Josh Cockroft, it will take time to see ‘results’ in terms of HBSAs opened and used to buy first homes. “It’s a long game, for sure, but the early indications are very positive, with 1.45 million impressions and counting on the website, as well as a few really compelling radio spots promoting the new program. There’s tremendous value for consumers in learning about and utilizing the HBSAs, and, of course, helping them achieve the dream of homeownership helps our REALTOR® members, too.”
Will Gattenby, Oklahoma Association of REALTORS®’ Communications Director, notes that the team at the National Association of REALTORS® was great to work with, as was the REALTOR® Party vendor that helped to create content for the site. He reveals that, thanks to a remarkable confluence of in-house talent, the association was able to reserve a significant portion of the grant funding for advertising and promotion, by having the website built by staff, off-hours. “It was an amazing team effort. That’s how excited everyone here has been about rolling out this long-term project: it’s the cornerstone of all our advocacy on behalf of homebuyers, property owners, and, of course, members.”
To learn more about how the Oklahoma Association of REALTORS® is educating and engaging consumers through a comprehensive new website supported by the REALTOR® Party, contact CEO Jessica Hickok at firstname.lastname@example.org or 405-848-9944.