NAR hires new marketing and comms chief amid tumultuous year

Suzanne Bouhia will shape NAR’s communication strategy as the organization deals with lawsuits, scandal and a harrowing year in real estate.

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As one of the National Association of Realtors’ most tumultuous years ever comes to a close, the trade organization has picked a new communications chief — who will now face the daunting task of parsing multiple major crises.

Suzanne Bouhia

Suzanne Bouhia will officially step into the role of NAR’s chief marketing and communications officer on Dec. 11. According to a statement, Bouhia’s job will involve setting NAR’s long-term communication strategy. She will also join NAR’s “senior vice president team responsible for supporting the association’s CEO and executing on strategic priorities to advance NAR’s mission,” the statement adds.

“It is my privilege to help shape NAR’s perspective and amplify the voice of its 1.5 million members within the real estate industry and beyond,” Bouhia said in the statement. “I look forward to building upon NAR’s strong legacy of empowering its members.”

Bouhia has worked in marketing and communications for more than 25 years. For the past two decades, she has been at professional services company Ernst & Young, most recently spending four and a half years as the firm’s chief communications officer for the Americas.

Bouhia comes to NAR at a challenging time. The trade organization spent much of the middle part of 2023 dealing with a sexual harassment scandal over the behavior of now-former President Kenny Parcell. The scandal prompted intense criticism of NAR’s leadership, and, in early November, long-serving CEO Bob Goldberg announced he was retiring more than a year earlier than previously planned.

A key moment in that scandal was the emergence of an internal NAR memo that outlined a dysfunctional relationship between the NAR leadership team and NAR staff, and which noted specific experiences NAR staff members allegedly had with Parcell.

Victoria Gillespie authored the memo. Gillespie served as NAR’s chief marketing and communications officer from October 2018 until March of this year, making her Bouhia’s predecessor.

In addition to the harassment scandal, NAR is also dealing with a growing deluge of antitrust commission lawsuits. The suits generally attack the practice of having sellers’ agents offer commissions to buyers’ agents, and accuse NAR of conspiring with various franchisors and brokerages to keep costs high. The first of these lawsuits to go to trial was a case known as Sitzer | Burnett. The trial ended in October when a jury ruled against NAR and various franchisors.

NAR has vowed to appeal the Sitzer | Burnett outcome, but for now, the verdict and the many similar cases represent a major question mark about the future of real estate work generally and NAR specifically.

Against this backdrop, a number of big-name industry players, including Redfin, RE/MAX and others, have begun leaving NAR or giving their brokers the option to end membership in the trade organization. NAR also currently has to contend with a number of more general industry headwinds, such as a uniquely slow year for home sales and the related trend of declining membership numbers.

All of this is to say that Bouhia comes to NAR at a uniquely challenging time and that her role will likely intersect with many of these challenges.

Nykia Wright

Nevertheless, NAR leadership expressed optimism Tuesday. President Tracy Kasper noted that NAR is “delighted to welcome” Bouhia.

Interim CEO Nykia Wright was similarly upbeat about the hiring.

“Suzanne brings a wealth of experience to NAR,” Wright said in the statement. “As NAR moves into its next chapter, Suzanne will play a critical role overseeing these essential functions within our organization. I look forward to working closely with Suzanne to continue to communicate NAR’s perspective with key audiences, maintain our role as a positive force in the real estate industry, and empower our members who are working every day to help their clients.

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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