BLOG VIEW: Listening For Foreclosure Assistance

ecently had a conversation with Ed Nelson, the marketing and communications manager for the Minnesota Home Owner Center (MNHOC), [/b]and I was intrigued to learn about a program that his organization was testing during the first part of this year. It is an idea that still needs to have some of its kinks ironed out, but it deserves attention for its unique approach to the ongoing foreclosure crisis. Between January and May, MNHOC hosted a monthly one-hour telephone seminar focusing exclusively on foreclosure issues. Rather than take a cut-and-dry lecture approach to the subject, MNHOC fashioned the seminar to follow the approach of a radio talk show: A host interviewed a guest, and listeners called in with their questions on the subject at hand. ‘As far as I know, we're the only state that has attempted this,’ says Nelson, who admits he thinks of the presentations as a ‘show.’ MNHOC originally toyed with hosting Internet-based webinars that used PowerPoint presentations to drive home its message. However, it opted for the audio-only approach. To protect the privacy of the callers who are seeking information on an admittedly sensitive subject, Nelson maintains the protocol used by most radio talk show programs. ‘It is done in complete confidentiality,’ he explains. ‘We don't know who is calling in. If they choose to ask a question, they only give their first name and their city – it is a non-intrusive, non-invasive way for them to find out what they need to know.’ Since the concept was still in the pilot stage, MNHOC only promoted the telephone webinars through mailings to single-family homeowners in northern Minneapolis. However, Nelson acknowledges that his audience numbers won't challenge Rush Limbaugh in the radio ratings. ‘Our audience total has been a couple of hundred,’ he says. ‘It is not a huge number, and we're trying to retool the idea.’ The webinars will be on hiatus this summer, and Nelson expects them to return in the fall in both English-language presentations plus webinars for Minnesota's Spanish- and Hmong-speaking populations. I am a strong believer of the theory that one can never have too much useful information, and I am very glad that MNHOC has taken this different approach to the foreclosure crisis. This is part of the organization's ongoing efforts to reach out to homeowners in need, which stretches far from traditional workshops to spreading the word via the latest communications craze, Twitter. At the moment, it doesn't appear that there is a near-horizon conclusion to the foreclosure crisis. In fact, it is safe to assume that things will get worse before the situation shows signs of abating. And while one cannot fault the industry and various state and federal government agencies for doing all that they can to provide outreach and assistance, there is going to be a need to go that proverbial extra mile. Kudos are in order to MNHOC for testing this interesting experiment. I hope that its audience will grow when the telephone seminars resume in the fall, and I sincerely hope that other housing-related entities – nonprofits, state housing finance agencies, trade associations and the banking entities themselves – engage in some shameless marketing larceny and ‘borrow’ the MNHOC idea as a way to help distressed homeowners. There are many, many people who need help, and every possible avenue to reach them with information should be explored. – Phil Hall, editor, [b][i]Secondary Marketing Executive[/i][/b]. [i] (Please address all comments regarding this opinion column to


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