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.