by Matt Mattson
We recently did a study that showed one painfully glaring reality. There are 12,000 fraternity/sorority PR chairs around North America serving chapters and councils this year, and most of them have never been trained how to do their job!
We’re hoping to fix that.
Let’s start with a job description.
Tell a story.
That’s it. Oh, and one more thing.
When something bad happens, say you’re sorry commit to fixing the problem and call for help.
Let’s dive in a little more deeply.
Tell a story. Your organization (council or chapter) should have a single compelling story it is trying to communicate. Every marketing tactic, every tweet, every post, every print item, every table, every conversation… should all reflect the essence of that single core marketing story. Do you know what story you’re trying to tell?
Build Relationships. Fraternity and sorority is in the relationship business. The only way we change people’s minds about us is through real life relationships. All our marketing, advertising, and public relations work should be focused on creating positive opportunities for face-to-face relationship building, or reinforcing the positive emotional experience/story that someone gets when they do have a personal interaction with your members. Everything should lead to more meaningful personal interactions. Make your list of the Top 10 lunches you should have with people in your community that can influence your organization’s reputation.
Earn Trust. The PR Chair deals in social currency, and the currency of fraternity/sorority is TRUST. Nobody will join your organization without trust. Nobody will advocate for your organization without trust. Nobody will support your organization or partner with your organization or even like your organization without trust. And the bad news is that fraternity/sorority starts with a deficit in the trust department. Our reputation precedes us, and we have to do everything we can to fill our bucket with the social currency of other people trusting us if we want to be good at our job. Who do you need to trust you? How can you demonstrate that you deserve their trust?
Drive Leads. Now, I know this sounds like it is the “recruitment” team’s job. It is. But here’s where you can work together. Great marketing and advertising by fraternities and sororities is aimed at the right audience of prospective members (and the people who influence them), and tries to get one thing to happen — it tries to get high quality prospects to share their name, contact information, and ideally a time to meet up in person. Marketing done by the PR team can be the red carpet that is rolled out onto campus (or into high schools) that invites prospective members to connect with members.
And finally, when something bad happens say you’re sorry commit to fixing the problem and call for help. We’ve been historically TERRIBLE at this as an industry. We mostly try to cover our a$$. Don’t. Just say you’re sorry. Admit you screwed up. Find a way to fix it. Seriously. Call your HQ, Greek Advisor, or your council support system (i.e. NIC, NPC, NPHC, NAPA, MGC, etc.) — they are there to help you.
Many IFC fraternity communities we’re talking to are expressing a desire to shift their recruitment process to a more structured (or “formal”) system (think short, early in the term, IFC run, Panhellenic-style, structured process with multiple “rounds” and an official “bid day.”) While there are certainly many communities that already have a structure like this, the vast majority are doing an informal, unstructured, loosey-goosey, minimal rules style recruitment right now, and are curious about becoming more “formal.”
IFC’s are asking us, “How do we do ‘structured recruitment’ for our fraternities?” It’s an important question right now.
If everything were perfect, there would be no need for a “formal recruitment process” for IFCs. Each chapter would work hard to grow year-round, focus on meaningful relationships, help each other succeed, recruit ethically, have high standards, etc. That’s not always the case on every campus, and sometimes the fraternity leaders see a local demand for some structure to their process for myriad reasons.
We believe there are two primary reasons right now (at least based on our most recent conversations) that IFCs are wondering about implementing something closer to a “more structured” IFC recruitment process.
1) Health and Safety: Reducing risk in college fraternities starts with changing the way we attract, select, and onboard our newest members. For most campuses with high IFC risk factors, neither the IFC nor the university has any access to or influence over potential members until they’ve already joined. In fact, most of the time neither the IFC nor the university has any record of who attended or participated in any chapter recruitment events or functions.
2) Dwindling Numbers: There are more than a few IFC communities across North America that are experiencing a decline in membership – which is expected to continue over the next five years. Implementing more rules and structure will not solve the problem, but giving the IFC an opportunity to have centralized access to, communication with, and influence over potential members can have a positive effect on overall growth.
It should be said that the best and most ideal system is one that is entirely market-driven and allows chapters full autonomy over who they ask to join and how they attract those men. However, we recognize and appreciate local needs, desires, and unique situations (especially given the current atmosphere around fraternities), and we want to help those IFC communities that are seeking more access to and influence over potential members.
Below are our basic recommendations for a community considering implementing a more structured, formal IFC recruitment process.
It’s Not About Rules and Rounds
First of all, if you think of “rules,” “policies,” “rounds,” or in general, “doing it like Panhellenic,” please don’t. Those things are not a part of any recommendation that we would make. IFC fraternities have a unique culture and set of priorities when it comes to how we do business. “Doing it like Panhellenic” will be an almost certain failure for a thousand reasons. This isn’t about “rules” and “rounds,” it is about a) creating a consistent and excellent recruitment experience for potential members, b) providing our chapters qualified leads, and c) influencing our potential members before they join with clear expectations of membership as well as preparation on how to successfully find a safe, healthy, fulfilling fraternity for them.
Access, Communication, & Influence
The first key to a successful structured IFC recruitment is having an infrastructure in place for the IFC to gain access to, communication with, and influence over potential members. The IFC, as the association representing its chapters, needs to be able to communicate with, teach, prepare, learn from, and provide a consistently excellent experience to the potential members in the system. The most obvious way to do this is to do everything in the IFC’s power to REGISTER potential members as early as possible. We recommend using technology like ChapterBuilder‘s council dashboard or CampusDirector, but there are other ways to do this as well. Register all your potential members as early as you can — preferably without making them pay a fee. This way the IFC has a direct line of communication with potential members, and the potential members have an unbiased resource to understand the whole community.
To get prospects registered is perhaps the most labor-intensive job the IFC team will take on, and the biggest benefit that that an IFC can provide to its chapters. The IFC should have a plan in place to execute multiple tactics that result in as many potential members signing up for recruitment as possible. This will include marketing tactics and direct recruitment tactics (this is a whole post topic in itself, but this and this are great places to get some ideas).
Prepared and Qualified Prospects
Not only does the IFC want to get as many men registered as possible (and then feed these leads directly to the chapters), but they also want to gather as much qualifying information about each potential member as possible (so chapters have deep profiles to fully understand each prospect). We recommend a full registration form that seeks qualifying data about prospects — a standardized form for this is in development by our team right now.
But to go further, we suggest that the IFC should have four big goals it is trying to achieve through a structured recruitment process:
1. Feed as many prospects to chapters as possible.
2. Know as much about each prospect as possible so that chapters can make informed decisions.
3. Reinforce a consistent, positive, centralized “brand” of Fraternity throughout the process.
4. Prepare all potential members to be educated “buyers” in the recruitment process — knowing what they’re seeking, and aware of both the benefits and the risks of the fraternity experience.
Every IFC community should provide a Pre-Member Fraternity Recruitment Orientation event (as early as possible) that each potential member is expected to attend. Fraternity chapter members (or at least leaders) should be in attendance as well. This orientation is a key moment that can a) set high expectations about what it means to be in a fraternity, b) reinforce a positive brand narrative about Fraternity on your campus, and c) provide education to potential members about how to navigate fraternity recruitment on your campus, how to avoid bad chapters, and how to find a chapter that fits their personal values. This orientation shouldn’t be a boring set of chapter PowerPoint presentations. It should be an engaging, entertaining, fun, and educational experience for potential members that prepare them to be successful in joining a fraternity on your campus.
Perhaps the most important tactic for the IFC to employ is to provide daily communication to potential members until they’ve formally accepted a bid into their chapter. The IFC should continually provide E-mail and text communication about recruitment schedules, relationship-building opportunities, chapter profiles, IFC community marketing narrative, information about the community, expectations of membership, etc. This daily communication provides the framework upon which the potential members can have a consistent experience, have access to the information that they need about all chapters and the whole community, and be guided through the process as smoothly as possible.
Welcome Day #1
Traditionally many IFC communities have a “bid day.” The common bid day includes new members announcing their membership, brothers cheering and congratulating them, and then everyone going out and getting dangerously drunk. Not everywhere, but a lot of places. That’s not an ideal model (obviously). We want to recommend an IFC-run “welcome day” that all new members and new member educators are expected to attend. This is the first day of officially accepting some level of membership in a fraternity. This also marks the first day of the highest risk 6-week period in many college students’ lives. The IFCs that are taking a serious look at how they can impact the health and safety of their communities should consider re-imagining this traditional “bid day,” to be an expectation setting day for the men who have accepted a bid. This can be celebratory, but should set behavioral expectations of safety, conduct, and decorum as the newest members of a prestigious community on campus.
Welcome Day #2
If “Welcome Day #1″ ended the “formal recruitment” phase of recruitment, we recommend that the IFC community schedules a second “Welcome Day” or “Bid Day” about 2-3 weeks after the first phase of recruitment. This encourages chapters to continue recruiting, and it also elongates the perceived “joining window” for potential members. This encourages longer relationship building. It can reduce pressure on chapters to bid as fast as possible (and on prospects to accept as fast as possible). Further, it opens another window of opportunity for the IFC to provide value to its chapters by doing a second round of leads generation (immediately following the first phase of recruitment).
Campus cultures vary quite a bit when it comes to when primary IFC recruitment activities take place. That said, here’s a very general recommendation for how a formal recruitment, as described above, might play out in a traditional fall semester.
May, June, July & Early August
Late August & Early September
Mid- to Late-September
IFC leaders have a renewed interest in making sure that the way our newest members are attracted, selected, and onboarded into fraternities is contributing to a healthy, safe, and flourishing fraternal movement. There are a lot of complexities that factor into the policies and processes of our IFC communities. Our companies all value our partnership with both the North-American Interfraternity Conference and its member organizations. We are in continual communication with the NIC to find ways to, of course, honor the rights of our organizations but also address the demand from IFC leaders for access to and influence over potential members for the benefit of the whole community (and for the benefit of those potential members).
We are excited to keep working with IFC leaders across North America to help them shape their fraternity recruitment processes to be as effective, as efficient, and as results-producing as possible. As always, we remain committed to helping fraternities build healthy, safe, growing, and thriving chapters. We believe in fraternity now more than ever.
by Matt Mattson
I’ve had one verse of this annoying song from 1985 stuck in my head all morning. “How Will I Know” from Whitney Houston. Please make it stop.
But, one good thing to come from this ear worm has been the idea for this blog.
To the tune of Whitney’s ridiculous hit about desperation…
How will I know
If she’s really a Greek?
I look at him
And I wonder (Is he?)
I see some letters
But what does that mean?
O.K., that’s all the song re-writing I’ll do in this particular post. I’ll get to my point. How do you know if someone’s really a fraternity/sorority member? If they’re not wearing letters, reppin’ colors, or showing off their fresh new frat-tat, how do you know? How could I come to your campus and spot a member of your chapter? If I sat in a classroom on your campus, how would I know if a student in the seats was affiliated or not? If I was at some random house party on a Saturday night near campus, would I be able to tell who was a member of your community?
Shouldn’t someone be able to tell?
I think so.
In fact, I think it’s core to our organizations’ purposes that people should be able to tell us apart from the crowd.
“But we’re secret organizations,” you might say.
Bullsh*t. We’re not secret organizations. Our individual promises to our organizations might be secret, but the results better not be. The results — what people experience when they encounter one of our members — are the only place our fraternity or sorority can come to life.
Each of our organizations requires us to make a unique commitment, a unique oath. But while the details of those oaths are specific to each organization, I think we have a shared set of expectations that are common to all fraternities and sororities. I believe this is our shared oath.
Fraternity and sorority members live in a state of perpetual generosity, curiosity, and positivity. They have an unmatched openness to limitless possibility. Sorority women and fraternity men have a desire to intentionally connect with others. They have the ability to engage in deep, meaningful conversation (not just surface-level nonsense). Greeks act in a responsible and respectable manner with high expectations of others. They strive to be wholly authentic, and they live everyday with integrity as the best version of themselves. They are confident and vulnerable. They are fun and compassionate. They are open, kind, and bold. They are all these things, plus they engage in the highest level of societal participation and contribution.
I know all of our rituals are unique, but I’m convinced that they all ask us to promise to live some version of that paragraph you see above this. That might look familiar to some readers. It’s called Social Excellence. We like to teach it (and we wrote a book about it). We don’t say enough that the idea for Social Excellence came from the way fraternities and sororities teach their members to live.
Fraternities and sororities are social organizations. That means our organizations only truly exist in the space between our members and other human beings. It is our social choices – the way we engage with the world – that defines our organizations.
So how do you spot them? How do you know if someone is a Greek? Unfortunately, at the moment, if you look for drunk, dangerous, loud, stupid behavior, you’ll probably find too many of our members. THIS IS OUR UNFORTUNATELY EARNED BRAND REPUTATION.
But as a marketer. As a recruiter. As a proud fraternity man myself, I’d like to change that brand expectation. I’d like our brand to reflect the choices, behaviors, and lifestyles of the fraternity/sorority LEADERS (like you) that I get to work with across North America. I think we need to take back our brand from the least of our members.
It starts with making a decision. We have to decide what brand we want to be known for. Drunk Buddies. Or organizations known for our Social Excellence.
Once we make that choice, we can start building all of our policies, our selection criteria, our marketing messaging, and our membership behavior expectations based on that choice.
This is marketing. This is also exactly what leadership looks like.
We believe that fraternities and sororities change the world – for the better – every day. We believe that fraternities and sororities help people become the best version of themselves. We believe that fraternities and sororities matter – matter to people, communities, and the world. We believe that more of the right people in fraternities and sororities = a better world.
We believe that fraternities and sororities deserve a values-centered, research-based, relationship-focused approach to marketing. We believe that people – real human connection – is at the center of all great marketing work. Our products and services help people come together, they facilitate relationships, they are conversations on a grander scale. They grow fraternities and sororities, and they make the world better.
The fraternity/sorority industry has existed for over 200 years yet it enjoys less than a 10% market share of 4-year college students. This is a problem. We can do better. The industry lacks a professional data-driven marketing strategy to sell its value to prospective members. In the last decade, the industry has adopted more effective tactics for front-line sales (i.e. Phired Up’s Dynamic Recruitment training for members, staff, and volunteers), and that sales force deserves strong marketing support.
Marketing is selling. Marketing for fraternity/sorority = selling fraternity/sorority. To prospective members, to current members, to alumni. Marketing is personal. It is a conversation. The buyer must be at the center of the strategy. Their needs. Their beliefs. Their values. Know your audience.
Marketing is a conversation. Social Excellence on a larger scale. Marketing is done by the people. The brochures and brands just make it easier, broader, and more consistent.
Marketing is emotional. It is an expression and exchange of values. It is a heart to heart exchange of beliefs. A nod of deep understanding and an affirmation of mutual worth.
Our marketing must be rooted in human connection.
“Go Greek” is not marketing. It’s begging. It’s shouting. It’s demanding. It’s selfish. We can do better.
We don’t want to be the biggest marketing firm. We don’t want to make the most brochures or catalogs or t-shirts. We want to be the firm that does marketing differently. We want to put people and relationships and real human connection in the middle of everything we do. We want to know Greek Life more intimately, more authentically than any other marketing firm in the world. We want to be the marketing firm that grows Greek life in quantity and quality.
We want to get results. Your goal is not prettier t-shirts, clever events, louder social media shouting, or showcase brochures. Your goal is more members; better members. The kind that join, stay, lead, and live the purpose of your organization. The goal is a better fraternal movement. Phired Up isn’t another marketing firm, we are the only marketing firm whose mission is 100% tied to yours — let’s work together to grow Greek Life by bringing more people to your cause.
Phired Up Productions is proud to offer strategic marketing services to help fraternities and sororities grow. Contact us (www.phiredup.com) to learn more.