by Matt Farrell
On February 14th, 2018 a young man entered a high school in Parkland, Florida, pulled out an AR-15, and turned Valentine’s Day afternoon into a horrifying murder of 17 students. This happened over a month ago and yet remains one of the top news stories across America today. I’m not here to get into the debate about gun control, as the Internet offers no shortage of opportunities for that. Rather, this is an opportunity to think more about how vocal the Parkland students have been since (seriously, just read this or Google “Parkland students” if you haven’t seen the nonstop activity) and how it impacts our fraternity & sorority work.
Move over millennials: there is a new wave of students arriving on campus. If you need to brush up on your Gen Z knowledge, check this out.
My takeaways on how to view Gen Z through the lens of Parkland students:
Gen Z is inserting themselves into a complicated problem. Our team’s research on Gen Z has shown these students want to harness the newest technology and target larger scale issues, most importantly those involving safety. While plenty of millennials have talked about changing mass shootings and other major issues, Gen Z stands the greatest chance of doing the work. They are aware of this, and regardless of how messy this particular issue is–they’re diving right in. They’ve grown up during a period where mass shootings have become so normalized, that they’re simply unwilling to sit back any longer.
Gen Z is relentlessly driven. First of all, they’re all over social media and unafraid of expressing their opinions to anyone. But their relentlessness goes far beyond a keyboard. These kids have already set up a march, rallied their peers nationally, built apps to attempt to counter the problem, and are traveling to their state capital, major media headquarters, and even DC to seek action. Are they getting help from older generations to do these things? Of course. But, Gen Z is keeping their foot on the gas pedal. And they don’t appear to be letting up anytime soon. Gen Z seems to have abandoned the “lazy and entitled” stereotype of the previous generation and flipped the pendulum to being a driven and relentless group of young people.
Gen Z is polarizing. While Parkland students have inspired millions of people, there’s no denying they’ve done plenty to alienate those who disagree with them. They have bragged about blowing off meetings with leaders they don’t like, use occasionally biting language to combat their adversaries, and carry themselves with the same swagger as personalities that have worked for decades to get where they are. These students have built a platform to invite plenty of attention, and appear to be OK with being hated or disliked by some if it helps them be ignored by less. My personal opinion on this is that the students aren’t intentionally looking to anger people. Rather, they are incredibly passionate about safety and fear that being more calm may lead to inaction.
OK, so what the heck does this have to do with fraternity & sorority life?
First things first, I think it’s important to realize that less than a month ago, these were “normal” students attending a “normal” school, with many headed to pursue a “normal” college experience. In other words, these are students arriving at our campuses and eligible to join our fraternities and sororities. While it’s uncertain how exactly this will affect our industry’s future, it’s hard to imagine things not being different. Let’s go back to the above thoughts on Gen Z, and consider how we can adapt our strategies to recruit and develop them.
Gen Z is inserting themselves into a complicated problem. Hmmm, this one sounds a little bit familiar. Conversations about Greek life these days are not significantly different to those of mass shootings (multiple sources causing unnecessary death, our society’s approach to masculinity, an urgent desire for change but worry of how it can be enforced). The difference? In my opinion, most Greek students are not empowered to understand the full problem and be a part of the solution until if/when they’re initiated, or if/when they obtain a leadership position. Our problems are often sheltered from our newest talent until they are proven to be loyal and committed. What would it look like if we empowered our newest members to help us solve our problems, instead of doing our best to hide them until after they get fully involved?
Gen Z is relentlessly driven. This one is interesting because of how often we complain about apathy in our organizations. If there’s one thing all sides can agree on about Parkland’s survivors, it’s that they’re pretty much the opposite of apathetic. This makes me wonder if we’re actively searching for our newest members’ passions, or merely just hoping we can impress them enough so they align with ours (then complaining when they stop showing up). What would happen if we built the fraternity & sorority experience around our new members’ passions and added ours, instead of the other way around?
Gen Z is polarizing. This one excites and scares me the most. When studying the words or actions of these Parkland students, it’s easy to see amazing future fraternity & sorority presidents–as well as those who would be repulsed by our organizations, alienate members, or drop. Now more than ever, there is a need for positive role models in the fraternity & sorority experience. These students think they know all the answers, which can make us mad because they obviously don’t. But, what we’re failing to realize is they know a lot more than we give them credit for. We need people to harness their passion while guiding them through conflict. We need people they can learn from without feeling lectured. We need mentors beyond big brothers or sisters. Every day we seem to be losing role models in our larger society, creating even more of a need for them in our everyday life. How can seniors, alumni, and supportive peers change the way we view mentorship in our organizations?
As we continue to observe Gen Z’s role in our nation’s path forward, it’s important to always be considering how it will impact the future of fraternity & sorority. We need to help show our future members the way—without getting in their way.
by Jason Allen
We know that mentor is an overused word in our work. However, the sentiment remains: people need someone to look up to for guidance, to be challenged, and to be supported. Fraternity men, and future fraternity men, especially need that now more than ever.
Insert bRho Gamma idea here.
The first time I heard “bRho Gamma” as a phrase, I laughed. I laughed hard. It’s ironic, because we hear all the time that IFC Exec members are trying to remove the typical “bro mentality” from their community. But, the concept is brilliant and essential for successful fraternity recruitment: a young man to guide other young men through the struggles and triumphs of recruitment is immensely helpful. It is something our Panhellenic sorority friends have been really good at for years, so SHOUT OUT to y’all.
IFC men, don’t read that last sentence as we now have to do something that is anti-Panhellenic, which is what we typically jump to. They have figure out a way to make recruitment guides work for them, and we can do the same.
If done correctly, IFC recruitment guides would directly impact the way we view and run recruitment. With recruitment guides, and a strong recruitment guide program, PNMs could ask questions to an unbiased person, get to see more chapters than the ones they have heard or seen, and building early community with a recruitment group before they officially enter into the IFC community. At Phired Up, we believe a great recruitment guide program has three fundamental parts, and two supplemental sections: Recruit; Select; Train; Running Recruitment; and Post Recruitment.
Recruit great men to be recruitment guides is where the program truly starts. In our recruitment of guides, we need to be sure we are setting expectations early and often for what recruitment guides will do. This way, we hopefully prevent the guys from signing up who are doing it just to say they were doing it, or they were “voluntold”, or the dreaded word- mandatory! If we have an enticing recruitment plan, with tangible outcomes for the guide program, then best of the best from the community will volunteer. Cast your net wide for how you choose to recruit; this will lead to a larger pool of applicants.
Select guides who you know will do a great job. Don’t be afraid to have standards for these guys. Think outside of only GPA, service hours, and leadership positions; even though those are just as important. What do they value? Do they have references? Did they answer the application questions seriously and realistically? Will they have ample time to do this role? Again, I want to be sure you all understand, it is 100% okay to have high selection standards. This again is how we ensure we have the best of the best. Have interviews, have group interviews, watch them interact with each other, see if they are comfortable pulling down their cool guy mask, and if they can just relax and be themselves. We want to be sure we are selecting men who can truly counsel, guide, and lead these PNMs to recruitment success.
Train these guys to be full of resources and compassion. Sure, they should know a few facts about each fraternity, and some base level knowledge. But, they should know the values and vibe of each chapter, some of their interests, and the type of men they are looking for. We should have each chapter come train our recruitment guides on this information; not their colors and founding date alone. Have professionals from your campus and community come in and teach the guides about varying topics. These guides should be able to offer a brotherhood tour, and not just a house/fact tour. Our job is to make sure the guides feel confident in their abilities to lead PNMs to a bid from their a chapter, or explore other activities on campus if IFC is not right for them.
Running recruitment should be fun for our guides. Yes, they are going to have to do some problem solving, and maybe some coaching of our PNMs. However, recruitment should be fun. We need to be sure they feel motivated, continue to be empowered, and know that we appreciate what they are doing. And post recruitment should also feel like an accomplishment; particularly in the early years of a new recruitment guide program.
I think, as men, we often feel uncomfortable sharing our feelings and appreciation for someone. But, people will 100% do more and go above and beyond when they know and feel they are appreciated. We get to model good behaviors here, and share some bromance love.
I know this type of program feels new and weird, but it will work. We have to be willing to try new things, or we will continue to be frustrated with the same results. Maybe we don’t call it “bRho Gammas” (no judgment if you do), but we need these guides to make a better recruitment process for our PNMs.
If you are interested in being a pilot for IFC recruitment guides, email Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fraternities everywhere are starting to adopt a “PNM Orientation” session or a “Recruitment Kickoff” event (read more about “structured IFC recruitment”). These events are often well-intentioned (IFC’s want to set high expectations, educate prospective members, and give every chapter an opportunity to share their story), but too often these events result in a lackluster experience for the potential members. They can be full of boring presentations from ill-prepared chapter members with broken audio/visuals, they can be well-meaning professionals who end up lecturing students on stuff they haven’t even done wrong yet, or maybe even worse, they can set a tone of “fun buddy-club” that makes Potential New Members confused about what a fraternity is.
Phired Up offers a PROFESSIONAL SPEAKER who can provide an unforgettable program for PNMs and members. Our fraternity trainers will work with you to build a custom experience that sets the perfect tone for your recruitment process. We will deliver funny, engaging, powerful education about “What it means to be a fraternity man,” “How to have meaningful conversations during recruitment,” “How to be an educated potential member,” and more. We can also incorporate our Social Excellence message and facilitate real conversations between PNMs and members — conversations that go beyond “What’s your major?” “Where you from?” and “Did you play sports in high school?”
There are three keys to a great RECRUITMENT KICKOFF: 1) Expectations, 2) Education, and 3) Engagement. The KICK-OFF isn’t a time to dump information on the PNMs. It’s a time to help them experience the EXPECTATIONS of what it means to be a fraternity man, to EDUCATE them on how to find a healthy chapter that’s a perfect fit for them, and to ENGAGE them in real conversation with one another and with members of the fraternity community.
A great RECRUITMENT KICK-OFF can create healthier and safer chapters. A great RECRUITMENT KICK-OFF can increase retention of your best members. And a great RECRUITMENT KICK-OFF can make the recruitment process significantly better all around for everyone involved.
To book your Phired Up Recruitment Kick-Off, contact Austin Netherton (Austin@PhiredUp.com) or Matt Farrell (Farrell@PhiredUp.com).
by Matt Mattson
Marketing. That word confuses so many people. It’s loaded with so many false expectations and blatant misunderstandings. For many people in the fraternity/sorority industry (many of which are not formally trained in marketing), that word intimidates and befuddles.
I’d like to offer what I believe to be 4 “S” words that will help you understand effective fraternity/sorority marketing. Can you guess what they might be?
Many people might guess…
Sexy: Perhaps you think effective Greek Life marketing has to appeal to our animal desires for sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. Nah.
Sneaky: Maybe you assume marketing has to trick people — brainwashing them into membership. Nope.
Super Bowl: Some people think marketing has to be HUGE. Like a Super Bowl Ad. We’ve got to make one big giant splash. I disagree.
Stuff: When many think of marketing, they think of stuff. Branded give-aways, T-shirts, bottle openers, beer koozies, decorated coolers, etc. No.
Social: Maybe you assume that social media is the key to fraternity/sorority marketing. It’s a helpful tool, but not one of my 4 S’s.
So, here’s what I think. The “S” words I recommend to do effective, results-driving fraternity/sorority marketing are a little different than the ones listed above. To be honest, they’re a little boring in comparison. But I don’t think flash and pizazz are the keys to being successful. They’re alluring and easy to be seduced into doing (and paying lots of money for), but YOU WANT RESULTS, right?
So, here you go. The 4 S’s of fraternity/sorority marketing that I believe you should be focused upon are:
SLOW: Good marketing takes time. To change the story of fraternity/sorority life, and to build a positive, wide-spread, trusted reputation, takes a LOT of time. Longer than a year. It’s slow.
STEADY: Good marketing is repeated over and over and over. Steve Jobs once said, “It’s a complicated and noisy world, and we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us.” Pick a single narrative, an emotional appeal to shared values, and repeatedly share that in a steady manner over time.
SOPHISTICATED: Good marketing uses lots of brain power. It requires data, measurement, research, and a scientific approach. It starts with a deep understanding of the decision making process of your target audience. Every tactic should be tied to clear objectives that feed the overall strategy. It should be befitting of the prowess and history of our storied organizations.
SUBTLE: Good marketing is a whisper, not a shout. It is primarily about the audience, not our organizations. It is helpful, generous, and thoughtful. It isn’t blatant, loud, or in-your-face.
Slow, steady, sophisticated, subtle.
Don’t be seduced by the other S’s.
by Matt Mattson
O.K. quick brainstorm. I believe strongly that there are better ways to reduce the risk of fraternities and sororities and increase the health and safety of fraternities and sororities other than policy, education of current members, rules, and regulations. I ain’t hatin’ on that stuff… I just think we need to be creative.
Why should we be creative? People are dying. Enough said.
So, let’s think of some real ways that smarter MARKETING can help keep our chapters safer and our members healthier. People always roll their eyes at me when I say “Marketing Matters!” I’m telling you though, it can.
I brainstormed these 15 ideas on an airplane the other night in exactly 13 minutes. That’s how long it took me to write this whole thing. I’m guessing if we took some more time together, we could come up with LOTS of other innovative things to try.
Here we go. 15 ways to use marketing to reduce risk and create healthy, safe, thriving fraternity/sorority chapters.
1. Let’s implement professional marketing campaigns aimed at high school students that tell a different story about Greek Life, and set positive expectations about what it means to be a fraternity man or sorority woman.
2. Let’s partner with the sports programs at feeder high schools and have our members deliver powerful hazing prevention education to those students.
3. Let’s provide a “How To Avoid Bad Chapters” guide and training to every potential member.
4. Let’s produce a series of videos for parents about how to have conversations with their students about hazing, alcohol, and drugs.
5. Let’s do highly targeted marketing campaigns to fill our fraternity/sorority prospect pools with objectively lower-risk students (aim at less-risky populations with marketing that speaks to them).
6. Let’s actively and loudly identify the safest chapters (by administration and peer review) on our campus through our marketing materials and mediums.
7. Let’s conduct a marketing campaign that seeks students who specifically want to create a safer, more sober, more dignity-filled campus, and ask them to infiltrate our chapters.
8. Let’s host leads-generation events specifically for small target audience groups on our campus that we would consider lower-risk groups.
9. Let’s invite parents to conduct interviews with chapter leaders – especially social chairs and new member educators – as a “round” of the recruitment process.
10. Let’s create videos showing what a safe, healthy, but fun new member experience / first semester should be, and let prospects know before they join about the red flags that would indicate they’re involved with criminal hazing activities.
11. Let’s incorporate tools like Phired Up’s iValU into our marketing materials so that we’re not just “promoting” our organizations, we’re also “preparing” our PNMs to be educated buyers.
12. Let’s produce videos, live social media events, or actual live events for high school students to talk about how to build a safe college experience (that includes Greek Life).
13. Let’s do social media campaigns that actually show (maybe humorously) what hazing looks like and why it can go really wrong.
14. Let’s create a compelling narrative about your community, council, chapter, or the big ideas of “Fraternity” and “Sorority” that make them sound like something more than a “buddy club.” Part of the reason people join with risky intentions is that they think we’re nothing more than “drunk buddies.” Let’s sell them something more than that.
15. Let’s make public a set of criteria for selection that makes it clear we’re not looking for people who just want to get drunk and get spanked and hook up in unsafe ways. Let’s make clear who we aren’t inviting to participate in recruitment.
Bonus: Let’s keep marketing as councils and campus communities to our newest members during their first semester. Keep sending them centralized messaging about what they should be expecting from their new member experience. They just invested in a product, and they should expect excellent customer service that keeps them safe and happy.
O.K., that was 16 quick ideas. What do you have? E-mail me at Matt@PhiredUp.com.
I’ve been telling everyone I talk to lately that I believe the “pre-member experience” is the best leverage point we have to reducing risk in our chapters. Why try to re-educate our established members who have many of their behaviors already ingrained. Why not pre-educate the people haven’t even joined yet? Let’s change the buyer pool so that they demand a better product.