Leveraging Relationships – Not Your Brand (Undergrad Perspective)

by Clark Buckner, Guest Blogger – Undergraduate Member of Alpha Tau Omega at Belmont University

clark-bucknerOver the course of this past summer I’ve had the opportunity to discuss and share different strategies and concepts with Matt Mattson, President of Phired Up.  Together we’ve discussed how greek organizations at heart truly are grassroots organizations. We both agree Greeks need to realize we can’t get people to join our organization by just branding.  We’re aren’t McDonald’s or Microsoft.  Just because we throw our ‘brand’ and letters in front of a potential doesn’t mean they will want it.  Sure, top of mind presence is good and having a cool branding looks nice and can be beneficial but as far as recruitment goes, branding just isn’t good enough.  This article explains why.

It’s not all about branding, it’s about relationships.  One big problem most fraternities and sororities share is our continued effort to boast how perfect our organization is.  Through that blinding pride we oversee what our potentials’ needs are.  Could you imagine what it would be like if Greeks spent as much time creating quality relationships with potentials as they do trying to look unobtainable and perfect?

I’ll explain further. Studies show that only about 15% of the average campus has students who show up on campus planning to go Greek. However it’s important to remember this number is comprised of some high quality prospects, but also students who are just wanting to party all day every day, so this percentage isn’t that promising.  On the other hand, about 15% of students on campus are “never joiners.”  This leaves 70% of students in the middle who are neutral. They are open minded about Greek Life, but aren’t actively pursing it.  This means if they’re not looking for your brand, they won’t find it.  We can either become completely consumed with an effort to battle it out for the 15% who are looking for us, or we can think strategically and creatively find ways to reach the 70% market.  The bottom line is this: the only way we can recruit new members is for us to go to them.  It’s about relationships, not the brand. Remember, you can’t recruit someone you don’t know.

Here’s another example.  Guess how great it is to have an incredible website?  It doesn’t matter because no one will see it.  The problem isn’t selling YOUR organization, it’s finding WHO to sell it to!  We cant change a potential’s mind by being at the top of a google search or pushing our letters in front of their face.  The only thing that can change their mind is sitting down with real people and having real conversations.  Instead of talking about ourselves, lets listen to them, build a relationship around that and help connect them to our organization and what it will do for them.  Now don’t get me wrong, branding is good and an online image can be a great tool as far as recruitment goes (especially for prospects who are on the fence).  However spending time on ‘creating a brand’ with cool looking websites, videos and pictures is further down on the recruitment to-do list.  When it comes to Greek Life, relationships work.  Branding should probably not be your group’s #1 priority.

Clark Buckner is an undergraduate student at Belmont University double majoring in Entrepreneurship and Marketing.  Interests include video production and being a member of the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity. 

For more perspective from undergraduate fraternity/sorority members, connect with Phired Up’s Ring of Phire!