by Hailey Mangrum [To bring Hailey or other Phired Up trainers to your campus or conference, visit www.phiredup.com/now]
If they don’t know you exist, their lives can’t be changed. If they don’t know you exist, they can’t help transform the future of your organization. If they don’t know you exist, your group can’t survive, much less thrive the way it deserves to. They = students. Students who aren’t members of your organization, but could be.
College student enrollment trends suggest that today’s (and tomorrow’s) incoming students will continue to value the experience that our organizations offer more than ever. We are more relevant than ever, more important than ever, but unfortunately we’re about as hidden as we’ve ever been. We’re buried in the back of the brochure, if we are even in it.
I mean think about it, how many times have people said, “If only I had know about XYZ fraternity/sorority on my campus”?
Let’s fix that. Let’s make sure every student know about us. Let’s take control of our reputation by intentionally implanting it in the minds of the people that matter most to us.
There’s a big lesson to understand before we start giving specific advice.
“Reputation is earned through relationships.”
That’s right. Most of what the world knows about us comes from their actual interactions with us. If they never meet us, they’ll be far less likely to know anything about us. “What about social media and mass marketing?” you might ask. Be honest. Most of your followers are already interested in your organization or are already members of the community. It’s time to focus on building our brand outside of that reach.
1. Know the players. Connect with the leaders within admissions, orientation, and programmatic areas on your campus that control messaging as students are welcomed to campus, including the person who leads greek life. Ask how your organization is discussed within marketing materials, information sessions, or other programmatic efforts targeted towards new and current students. Collaborate on strategies with the players on your campus to authentically increase visibility for your members. We are worth more than a plug for diversity or multicultural programming on campus. Know you are value added to the student experience in its entirety. Truly, you and your organization deserve to be represented in these efforts.
2. Serve first. We’re not just talking community service here (but keep doing that). We mean serve other students. Do things that put you in a direct position to make the days, weeks, and lives of non-members a little better because you’re in them.
3. Show up and engage. Not just to your normal haunts. Be in places that your audience is. Find the organizations or groups on campus that share similar values of your organization – this includes service based groups, affinity organizations, etc. Collaborate and build connections with groups who have a strong and positive impact on campus. Continue to have a presence on campus through organization involvement or by supporting programs and events. But speak when you’re there, mingle and get to know some folks. Like really speak to folks. Let go of the “they have to come to us” standoffish mindset that our organizations have adopted for years.
4. Connect with the influencers. Identify the top 10-20 student leaders on campus. Make that list right now. Please stop reading, and make that list. Personally invite them to a program or go to one of theirs. Ask them what influenced their involvement and what they hope to accomplish in their leadership. Share your story, ask for referrals of who else you should be connecting with.
5. Get the good lighting. No, but seriously. Capture the moments you are doing the things. Highlight your members, assist in promoting other programmatic efforts, initiatives, and events on campus. Mention your social platforms during programs, tabling, etc.
Here’s the reality – It’s not your fault that people don’t always know about our existence. We cannot discuss gaining visibility without acknowledging the systems that are ever present on college campuses (and the world) that can sometimes attribute to the lack of awareness of our organizations.
When I first heard of greek life my organization was not represented. I’m certain it’s not because they just didn’t want to be, because frankly, they ran the yard. I mean they truly were for the culture and about their business. I’m talking about student government, athletes, orientation leaders, RAs, artists, starting their own student organizations.. I mean truly, my prophytes ran the yard.
So I can assure you it wasn’t because of a lack of engagement. Instead, they weren’t invited to the table. They weren’t thought about in the overarching messaging. They weren’t considered to fit the description. Probably because the folks planning had a lack of knowledge and understanding of the community – that’s the real tea.
So I am here with you, as I’m sure visibility isn’t always based upon whether or not your organization is hosting programs and ding the great work you’re already doing. It also doesn’t mean we just sit back and accept the reality.
It’s time to take control of the narrative to increase our presence on campus and within the local community. When we host programs, who are we inviting to the events? I always say if the audience at your programs are only interests, then was that a successful and impactful program?! We don’t exist to program for our interests. We exist to engage others to care about a cause and work to change the world.
Let’s scale up. Let’s make sure our campus, prospective students, and families, know we exist.