The Hampton Roads REALTORS® Association (HRRA)—the third-largest REALTORS® organization in Virginia as well as the region’s respected center for real estate professionals—has faced formidable challenges in its over 130-year history: a Great Depression, a Great Recession, two World Wars and many other wars.
And COVID-19 isn’t even its first pandemic.
But the unique challenges of this modern-day health crisis on an industry that thrives on human contact called for decisive action and an embrace of new technologies to keep HRRA members connected and engaged. In short, adaptation and innovation.
Enter that familiar pandemic catchword: pivot.
As the worldwide crisis edged closer to the United States and—eventually—Virginia, HRRA proactively pivoted, seeking and enacting measures that encompassed everything from accounting procedures to social-distancing-safe community involvement, communication to education, and continuity/disaster planning to government affairs activities. Technology, of course, played a central role in making each of these a reality.
The result: seamless delivery of services to members during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
Among the most successful in reaching this outcome were:
- Creation of a COVID-19 Resources page on the association website at the pandemic’s outset to help members navigate the many local, state and national resources, guidance, business/licensing materials and more relevant to members’ businesses and lives.
- A full embrace of virtual meeting technologies via Zoom to enable HRRA’s nearly 20 council, committee and advisory groups to continue their programming that historically has been offered in-house. This includes meetings, forums, workshops and seminars, among others. HRRA’s inaugural large-scale Zoom event, a Property Management and Leasing Council meeting, drew over 100 participants, or about 40% more attendees than typically drawn at the council’s lunchtime in-house meetings. Even more benefited with the recorded Zoom gathering shared afterward via HRRA’s social media. (In fact, the majority of HRRA’s Zoom council, committee and advisory group programming is recorded and featured on HRRA’s social media platform video libraries for watching at members’ leisure.)
- Seamless transition of HRRA’s Virginia Residential and Landlord Tenant Act Seminar, an annual in-house event that sells out, to a successful paid Zoom event with 120 attendees.
- Launch of a new weekly Chairman’s Message video series, with timely and motivational content pertinent to living and working during COVID-19 as it relates to real estate. Messages are posted on HRRA’s social media platforms and are emailed to all of membership in a weekly e-newsletter as well as a special Chairman’s Message broadcast email.
- Via the association’s Community Involvement Advisory program, REALTORS® Have a Heart, HRRA held a shelter-in-place mask-volunteer sewing effort in April. The Make-a-Mask Mask Challenge encouraged members to sew facial coverings utilizing a specified YouTube instructional video and to donate to Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters mask drive in lieu of REALTORS® Have a Heart volunteer events at area nonprofits.
- Partnering with HRRA leadership to shoot, produce and market promotional videos for HRRA Zoom and other activities while observing the state’s stay-at-home executive orders.
- Publication pivot! HRRA altered the established themes for its monthly member magazine to produce back-to-back COVID-themed issues to help membership navigate the health crisis as it relates to the real estate industry and their businesses during and after COVID-19.
- With in-person school closed statewide, HRRA’s Alpha College of Real Estate moved quickly to secure students’ learning and offered them the opportunity to take their classes online or correspondence via new morning and evening virtual live classes, with the infrastructure to make this possible efficiently accomplished.
- With HRRA Affiliate sponsorships top of mind and in-person events not possible, a special package was tailored to 2020 HRRA Partners to give them extra visibility via HRRA’s social media, email and webinar promotion.
- Information, information, information! Throughout the pandemic HRRA’s Government Affairs and Communications teams closely monitor legislation and other developments impacting real estate professionals and homeowners, including tuning in to press conferences and the news, to offer the latest up-to-date and breaking news to membership via social media, email and association website.
- The Government Affairs Team maintains regular communications with the Virginia REALTORS® (VAR) and National Association of REALTOR® (NAR) Government Affairs teams to help disperse timely updates to HRRA membership on how the pandemic is impacting the industry.
- And, finally, crucial to these and other successes is a forward-thinking disaster plan created for and implemented by Organization Management Group (OMG), HRRA’s association management partner, to address operational continuity, financial processes, lines of communication within staff and with membership as well as allocation of responsibilities and establishment of a management structure for crisis modes. All was made possible by the proactive plan’s accompanying staff training, technology and telecommunications infrastructure, and the resources to implement it immediately when needed, among other things. Additionally, OMG was able to adjust operations costs immediately to assist Alpha College of Real Estate and HRRA through the shutdown without furloughs of staff or reduction of services – a win/win for both the association, its members and services, and OMG as well.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic continues, states nationwide are reopening, and Virginia is now in Phase 3 of its Forward Virginia re-opening plan. The Hampton Roads REALTORS® Association is moving cautiously and prudently forward as well while observing state health mandates governing businesses and other entities.
A solid structure, forethought, and attention to continuity and member needs are the bedrock of HRRA’s pandemic plan. With this, HRRA has confidently risen to the challenges of a worldwide health crisis, and—utilizing the technologies at hand—continues to deliver a seamless program of activities, resources, knowledge, and even networking and community service opportunities to membership.