The Difference Between Advertising And Soliciting

The Difference Between Advertising And Soliciting

This is a continuation of an earlier article To Knock Or Not To Knock - That Is The Question in which I discussed whether on HOA can legally keep a person from knocking on doors in a neighborhood with posted "no soliciting" signs at the entrance. The simple answer to that question was no. Whether a Realtor should do it or not, well we will save that debate for another day.

Some say that leaving a flyer, business card or some other material in the door is "soliciting", others say it is simply advertising a service.

So what is the difference between advertising and soliciting? 

Well, one dictionary defines "advertising" as: activities which seek to inform, notify or persuade the public, but without the use of a person-to-person encounter. By that definition then, the sending or leaving printed material directly at a home without personal contact is not "soliciting".

Now lets take a closer look at the definition of the word "soliciting".  According to vocabulary.com to "solicit" or "solicitation"is a request for something, usually money. Solicitation comes from solicit, which means "to request," or "to entreat." So solicitation is the act of requesting." 

Herein lies the debate. If "soliciting" or "solicitation" is simply requesting something, then it can be argued that talking to anyone in person about your service, leaving a card or other material is "soliciting" because you are basically asking them for their business. 

However if you are not asking for money but rather introducing yourself or a service then you are not "soliciting" by that definition. So which is it? 

Aside from the fact that Courts have ruled that a person has the right to "solicit" regardless of the definition, when it comes down to it "advertising" can be interpreted as "soliciting" if it is done in person and "soliciting" can be interpreted as asking for anything. The difference might just come down to how a person perceives it. 

Regardless of your personal viewpoint, when it comes to matters of advertising and professional standards, almost every profession (including Real Estate) has guidelines oftentimes mandated by professional organizations and Federal and State law. It would be good to make sure that you are familiar with these guidelines and however you choose to approach your business make sure that it is done within the confines of these standards. 

(For an interesting article on the difference between "soliciting" and "advertising" as it pertains to the legal profession, not this Yale Law Study )


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Dated: November 13th 2019
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