For reverse mortgage professionals looking to promote their services in an increasingly digital world, blogging is a natural step. While publishing content online about HECMs can be useful in a multitude of ways—from building credibility to refuting misinformation—experienced reverse bloggers say a successful blog requires a good deal of thought and a sharp eye on compliance.
Dan Hultquist, director of learning and development at ReverseVision, launched his blog, understandingreverse.com, three years ago. What first began as a means to promote his book of the same title turned into a forum where he can expand upon topics not covered in the book and publish info for LOs in training.
Hultquist says having a place to publish reverse-related content has been useful in his work. “It’s a way for me to address guidelines, compliance issues or questions that are coming in. And if somebody says, ‘Hey, Dan, can you tell me a little bit about the nonrecourse feature?’ Well, I wrote a blog on it, so I’ll send them the link. It’s easier to do that than to sit down and train someone.”
George Downey, founder of Boston-based Harbor Mortgage Solutions, started blogging just six months ago to enhance his marketing efforts.
“We always had a website, but I would describe it as a billboard—we didn’t do anything with it and it didn’t do anything for us.”
Downey says his blog is a way to make his site more dynamic and engage visitors.
“You can’t just put up a website and expect people to contact you. You have to draw them in, and to draw them in you have to stay abreast of what’s going on. You’ve got to be reading and looking for timely topics, and writing and presenting the information in a thoughtful manner,” he says. “It’s inbound lead generation. That’s the key. Getting people to come to you instead of going out and interrupting their lives to push your message on them.”
Beth Paterson, a reverse mortgage specialist with Reverse Mortgage SIDAC, launched her blog in 2009 to take a stand against legislation in her state of Minnesota that was anti-HECM and had garnered the support of AARP.
“My first blog was titled, ‘AARP Has It Wrong About Reverse Mortgages,’” she says. “And that led to trying to get the facts out there and sharing stories of people who have done a reverse mortgage, because it’s a way of combatting the media.”
Hultquist says he also posts content combatting misinformation in the press.
“Recently, an article came out stating that you should use the loan as a last resort. You still see that from time to time, and I thought, let’s compare that with what happens when you wait—there’s a lot of risk associated with waiting to get a reverse mortgage—so I wrote about it on the blog,” he says. “I have a passion for getting correct information out there about reverse mortgages.”
For aspiring reverse mortgage bloggers, Downey says focusing on education instead of sales is key.
“Think like a thought leader and write like a journalist,” he says. “It’s not a salesy type of thing. To be effective, you want to become known and respected as a valuable provider of information.”
Paterson says this is her approach. “When you provide the information, they look at you as the expert, and then they will call you,” she says. “It’s visibility plus credibility.”
She suggests writing about real-life success stories. “If you’re struggling with what to write about, share a story of a borrower—this is a borrower I just worked with, this is their situation, and this is how a reverse mortgage helped them. Or take one myth and address that.”
Downey says it’s important to know the basics of search engine optimization. “You need to have an understanding of key words and include these in your writings, so search engines can pick up on that.”
He also says bloggers should market their posts. “You’ve got to be plugged into social media so the word gets distributed. What you’re looking to do is to get the messaging out to great numbers of people, so LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media sites are all venues to distribute your messaging.”
Hultquist says that in order to blog about this product, you’ve got to know your stuff.
“I don’t encourage a lot of people to write a blog unless they have extensive experience in the industry. The vast majority of loan officers who want to blog don’t understand some of the finer compliance issues. So now it becomes a risk to their employer or to themselves, and the CFPB reads this stuff, so we need to be very careful.”
Hultquist suggests HECM bloggers read up on advertising regulations. “If you decide to blog about reverse mortgages, the first thing you need to do is read the CFPB’s comments on advertising that came out in 2015. I would read that from front to back and memorize it.”
“When it comes to blogging, there is a risk, and you’ve got to make sure that your employer feels comfortable and that you feel comfortable with what you’re putting out there.”
Written by Jessica Guerin