How To Spot A Real Fraternity/Sorority Member

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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.

 

Who Controls The Brand of Fraternity On Your Campus?

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by Matt Mattson

Important question: Who has the most influence over what incoming students think about the idea of "fraternity" on your campus?

Think hard about that one.

Is it your IFC? Is it your chapter leaders? Is it your Greek Advisor? Is it your admissions office?

Honestly, for most campuses, it is probably a combination of local media and a handful of the worst fraternity men from your worst chapters on your campus. That's who probably has the most influence over what people think about and expect from fraternities on your campus. The least of our members create a story that the best of our members (you) have to somehow get prospects to not believe. 

Others that might have more influence over "the brand of fratenrity" on your campus than you: older siblings who had a mediocre experience, parents who talk about the 'good old days' of when they were members, movie producers, the owners of TFM, non-members, campus newspaper journalists, non-Greek tour guides, sports coaches, etc.

Here's the point. YOU PROBABLY DON'T CONTROL YOUR OWN BRAND NARRATIVE. If you're an IFC officer or chapter leader (or FSL Pro) who cares about your fraternity community, this should piss you off.

Let's take back control of the story of fraternity. Let's recapture our own narrative. This is why we're passionate about doing marketing strategy work on campuses. You - fraternity leaders - deserve support and professional marketing expertise. 

You need a narrative. You need a strategy. You need a social media plan. You need storytelling materials. You need to train your members on your narrative. You need to figure out how to reach high school students. You need to have a way to influence parents. You need control (or at least a little more than you probably currently have)! 

15 Ways Marketing Can Impact Fraternal Risk, Health, and Safety

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by Matt Mattson

O.K. quick brainstorm. I've written about this before, but 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@InnovaGreek.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.

Greek Marketing Lessons from a Burned Down Taco Bell

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by Alex Taylor

Unfortunately, this isn’t my first time writing about lessons learned from Taco Bell. A time ago, when I still worked at my fraternity HQ, I wrote about Doritos Locos Tacos. Click to read my early attempts of blending fast food into my job. 

Even though times have changed, I still love DLTs. Given my slowing metabolism, I can’t eat them nearly as often. Also, I rarely am up past 1am for Fourth Meal any more, but if Taco Bell wants to throw a few coupons my way, hit me up on Twitter.

Today, I write with a heavy heart and teardrops on my keyboard. My beloved taco bell, the one closest to my college, burned down. The same Taco Bell that let me ‘Live Mas’ for all four years, and a few trips back to my alma mater is no more. If you spend much time on the internet you might have seen that it has garnered some attention. This post, containing a friend from my hometown made it to the front page of Reddit:

The 24 hour Taco Bell that got me and my friends through college tragically burned down last night. We're coping the best we can.

Unfortunately, for Alec, I’m not here to talk about his internet fame. I’m here to talk about the subsequent fall out since. Check the local news for what happened since. No really. YOU HAVE TO WATCH THIS VIDEO.
 

How does a shuttered late night food option garner nearly 100 people actually show up for a vigil? I believe its a few key pieces that brought a diverse groups of people together to remeber our beloved taco bell. 

People remember how you make them feel. Let’s not pretend that Taco Bell is the pinnacle of culinary excellence. However, I like many others, remember the late nights going through the drive through at Taco Bell. I recall cars being lined out the parking lot, and it’s partly due to lack of options, but for many they remember the line more than the food. Yelling 4 different orders out the window for a few years results in you knowing your closest friends orders. The hilarious recaps of the evenings antics, or just taking a few minutes away from another long night of studying, Taco Bell served as an oasis. Not so much the inside, they had the door barred with a spare chair starting at midnight. 

For you, as you think about your organization and its interactions on campus, it matters how you make people feel. Every interaction does matter, and when your chapter has hundreds of members, it can be easy for people to have a bad opinion from one interaction. However, many groups have repeated bad interactions and after a lifetime of negativity, stereotypes develop. 

A few questions to consider: how do non-Greek students and alumni view your community? How do local community members view the Greek community? What has happened that reinforced that? What do you do that tells a different or better story of Greek Life?

Return on Investment matters… a LOT. Not to continue to bash T-Bell, but you can feast for no more than $7. Tack on a Baja Blast, and you’re wined and dined for under $9. Also, if you are a Baja Blast hater, do not @ me. 

For many of our chapters and groups, we fail to show true ROI for people as they join chapters. I’m a firm believer that your budget shows your values, so I encourage all reading this (HQs, Universities, Student Leaders) to do a percentage breakdown of your expenditures. For our chapters, when we fail to show ROI, we have people leave. Or, they become the members that only show up to the “fun stuff” because they think money buys them these specific rights. If you’re chapter is charging thousands a=of dollars a year, I sincerely hope you have true ROI for members. Graduating members should be leaving with every single benefit that was sold to them during the recruitment process. 

Your truest self gathers the fiercest followers. Here at Innova and Phired Up, much of what we teach and bring to campuses all around the country is this idea of Social Excellence. I really view Social Excellence as being your truest self at all times. 

Taco Bell never tried to be something they are not. It’s about delivering filling, delicious food at wee-hours of the morning, when folks “need” Taco Bell. Our society becomes more filtered, photoshopped every day. It’s easy for our organizations to think we have to make the coolest video, have the most Instagram followers, or be “top-tier”. What your organizations needs it to be it’s true self. Showcase the unique personalities, and tell the real story of what’s happening in your chapter. 

If we want to take back the story of Greek Life, we’ve got to tell a better, more true story. Parts of the reputation our organizations have developed are truly earned. For all the chapters and communities wanting to tell a better story, we’re here to help. Let’s start taking back our reputation in 2018.

Risky Greek Life Story

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by Matt Mattson

"I'm just trying to keep everyone alive, stay out of the news, and keep everyone safe."

This is a phrase you might have found yourself saying some version of as you approach this new semester. 

You are a fraternity/sorority leader on your campus, or maybe you're a student affairs professional who works with Greek Life. Everything in your world is probably revolving around one thing right now: MAKING GREEK LIFE SAFER. As it should be.

This is important to you not just because you want to stay out of the news, but because you understand there are very real challenges facing Greek Life, and we have to find new, innovative, "out-of-the-box" ways to address them. You know the educational programs about sexual assault, alcohol, drugs, and safety are important, but they can't be the whole answer. You know that policies, as well-intentioned as they are, sometimes feel counter-productive. And you're stuck wondering what in the world you're supposed to do next.

I'm going to offer an answer that I truly believe in, but that will sound ridiculous at first. Will you stick with me to hear my rationale? If not, you've probably already quit, so I'll just jump right in. Here's the answer: Our ugly story is making our organizations uglier. We are in a self-fulfilling prophecy cycle and we don't even know it. Let me explain.

When a high school student first encounters your institution's "brand" of fraternity/sorority, how much control do you currently have over that brand experience... that story? Probably very little. You're not telling the story, it's being told about you. 

When a high school student enters into a recruitment process at your school, how much education have they already received about what it means to live a values-driven, responsible, leadership-oriented life as a fraternity/sorority member? Probably zero. We're not even trying to educate high schoolers about us until the moment they actually start to join. 

In fact, what expecations does a new student at your university enter their first year experience with regarding Greek Life? Probably lowest-common-denominator stuff like "parties," "fun," "crazy," and worse. Right? We're just accepting the fact that students arrive with those negative expectations, and assuming we can't do anything about it. 

Our fraternities and sororities are FUELED by our newest members. It's one of the oldest cliches in the field that our new members are the "life blood" of our organizations. Well, since we are currently doing very very little to influence potential members' perceptions of Greek Life and expectations of Greek Life BEFORE they become new members, we're infusing BAD BLOOD into our organizations. Our newest members show up to recruitment expecting the worst of us and ready to manifest the worst of us through their own actions. And we're doing practically NOTHING to influence that before they get to us. We're infusing bad blood. 

Or, if you'd prefer another metaphor, we're feeding the beast junk food and expecting it to perform like a thoroughbred. 

We truly believe that a PART of the solution for fraternities and sororities is taking control of the way our story is being told to students as young as their junior year of high school. We need to realize that our marketing (or almost universally, our complete lack of marketing) is currently a part of the CAUSE of some of our biggest problems. High school students show up to our universities in the fall thinking the worst of us because we're not doing anything at all to influence that.

We have to take control of the story being told about us. We have to EDUCATE and CHANGE THE EXPECTATIONS of high school students about our organizations well before they start pouring into our recruitment processes.  

When we talk about high-level strategic marketing with our clients, it isn't normally about getting people to realize that we do service and philanthropy, so they should think good things about us. Our strategic marketing is more often focused on changing the way we're feeding our organizations. If we can change the "buyer pool" -- if we can put higher-performing lower-risk already-prepared new members into our recruitment process who have high expectations of what our organizations are supposed to be, and who are educated on how to avoid dangerous chapters, we can change the whole system. If we feed our organizations with vulnerable, ill-prepared, high-risk, desperately-seeking-affirmation PNMs, we're setting everyone up (our chapters and our PNMs) for dangerous failure. 

It's time to truly take control of the story being told about you. We're asking you to take action. Gather together your council and chapter leaders, and start thinking about the ways you can educate and influence students well before they show up for their first fall recruitment experience. Our team is working on some new ways we'll be doing that for the whole industry this year, and we work with individual campuses all over North-America to build strategies for them to do the same for their own students. This is why we do what we do. This is what "marketing" is about to us... it isn't about prettier brochures, fancier tables, or getting lots of "likes" on insta. It's about strategically improving our organizations through better storytelling. 

Does Your Product (Chapter) Fit Their (PNM) Needs?

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by Alex Taylor

Knowing your audience is the first rule of marketing. However, even if you know your audience, your product must fill a need or desire from consumers. Starting with a product that no one wants is a recipe for immediate failure. 

For Greek Letter Organizations, there is a particular set of obstacles to overcome in understanding PMF (Product Market Fit). An easy way to begin is with some simple question asking. Who are these organizations for? Why would they join? Why did I join?

Who are our organizations for?

The target audience has changed over the years, but I believe the modern Greek experience appeals to a naturally curious individual seeking personal development and leadership opportunities. The community that we provide is a shelter to practice leadership and hone personal skills that are highly marketable after the collegiate experience. I believe our organizations are for men and women who desire a place to belong. Men and women who want real, authentic relationships beyond the highly filtered version of reality within which we reside. I believe we are for social development as well. Alcohol has commandeered much of the social development opportunities, but I believe the incoming generation (on whole) are seeking less alcohol. Data supports the idea that incoming students are choosing to drink less. Chapters that focus their social opportunities primarily around alcohol are destined to shrink over the coming years. I’m not telling your chapter or organization how to act, I’m simply giving you evidence so you can choose how to market. 

Knowing who we’re for gives us insight into the ideas we should be marketing. However, if our product in our chapters is broken, no expert marketing can help. Wonder why some thrive and others fail? Look no further than Product Market Fit. 

Why would someone join?

I reference the commentary above to directly answer this question. All research data shows that the incoming generation of college students are interested in the true experience of fraternity and sorority. Chapters that provide real connection with authentic relationships will see spikes in interest and numbers. 

For your chapter, it could be as simple as surveying your own members. Don’t allow people to answer with brotherhood or sisterhood, but ask pointed questions such as:

  • What is one word that you’d like our campus to use to describe our chapter?
  • What are the areas of the student experience on our campus where new students struggle? Where did you struggle as a new or incoming student?
  • What is one word you’d use to describe our chapter?
  • On a scale of 1-10, rate how likely you are to recommend this chapter to a younger sibling or family member. 
  • Were the promises made during recruitment met once you began membership?

These questions are key insights into your member’s experience. Real marketing is not taking a broken product to market. True marketing is involved in every step of the process, including product design. If your chapter struggles to answer these questions, odds are you’re losing membership, or soon will see a dip. Before asking consumers (i.e. Potential New Members) to consider our organization, we must be able to articulate true value in membership. It begins with why. 

Why did I join my organization?

Again, another opportunity to survey your members. I’d postulate that successful chapters have nearly 100% of members able to answer this question without just talking about friendship. Greek Life has become “buddy club” and if all you can offer is friendship, then you are paying for your friends. Here are some mind joggers to get people thinking about why they joined:

  • Describe what was happening in your life before you joined ___.
  • Who is that one person that you think of immediately when you reflect on joining ___?
  • In one word, describe the feeling you had when you joined. 
  • What conversations do you vividly remember while you considered joining?

Knowing why you and ALL your members joined give us ‘success stories’ to use when marketing our chapter. Think about a ride share service like Uber or Lyft. You most likely used it for the first time with a friend that had ALREADY used it before. Or if you’re daring, it’s because you heard success stories from previous users. 

Recruiting people to join your organization is no different! Understanding customer (PNM) needs then developing a product that they can use and spread to others, is step one. Always adapt your product or offerings to continue to appeal to new customers. 

Final step to evaluate your chapter’s PMF is to give it the “Oprah Test”. Would Oprah joyfully shout to her entire audience that they were receiving your product? If not, you need to fix your product, and there are plenty of Greek organizations that should be at the product design stage before you take it to market. 

What tangible value, beyond friendship, does your chapter offer? Why should anyone care? Why did you join? Would Oprah rave about it and offer it FREE to her studio audience? 

Greek Marketing Strategy for Every Campus & Every Budget

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Innova is proud to introduce a wide range of marketing strategy solutions. Every fraternity/sorority community, council, campus, and chapter needs a marketing plan. It's time to take control of our collective Greek Life story, and now every campus and every budget can start doing sophisticated, results-producing, fraternity/sorority marketing.

Innova's team of marketing experts travel all over North America to work with fraternity/sorority communities and individual councils to teach your members how to improve Greek Life's reputation and build a plan to tell the story you want told about Greeks on your campus. 

We've worked with communities as far ranging as Florida State, Georgia Tech, University of California-Irvine, University of Michigan-Flint, Texas State University, Samford University, University of Vermont, Wright State University, Christopher Newport University, Colorado School of Mines, University of Tampa, and many more. 

See the options below, and click here to download details. We are booking the full range of marketing strategy solutions right now. There's availability this semester and we're happy to secure dates for the next two semesters now. 

E-mail Alex@InnovaGreek.com or Matt@InnovaGreek.com for more information.

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Our Reputation is Your Reputation

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by Matt Mattson

The fraternity/sorority movement struggles with a serious reputation problem. This is no surprise to any of our members. We know it. We feel it. Personally.

Our reputation problem negatively impacts our organizations' ability to grow (attract decent human beings). It negatively impacts our ability to raise funds (for our organizations and for our philanthropic endeavors). It negatively impacts our relationships with administration and the community. And perhaps most importantly, the reputation problems of fraternities and sororities negatively impact the personal reputations of members. Our collective reputation negatively impacts our personal reputations. When our members wear letters to some classes, professors look at them sideways. When our members exhibit their membership publicly, they're often judged, stereotyped, and ridiculed.

This truth hurts. 

You (if you're a fraternity or sorority member of any chapter, any council, on any campus, undergrad or alumni) are seen as the same as the worst of our problems. You are a hazer. You are a sexual assaulter. You are a part of the bizarre and screwed up relationship our organizations historically have with race. You killed someone because of dangerous consumption and hazing behaviors.

Now, if you're about to click the x in the top right corner of this post out of disgust... give me one moment. Because I'm with you. I had to take a step away from my keyboard after writing that. I'm a proud fraternity man from a healthy, safe, and unbelievably positive chapter experience who knows that my experience is similar to 90% of our members across North America. We aren't our worst demons... but we're seen that way. Our Greek reputation problems become our personal reputation problems in ways that are almost too much to bear.

So, who is in charge of fixing our reputation problems? This question has haunted me for a while. Because I'm not sure anyone has decided to be in charge. What about in your chapter? Who is in charge of your image? Your social media chair? Your recruitment chair for like 2 weeks a year? Your president (while they're in charge of everything else too)? What about in your council or community? The IFC VP of Communications? The NPHC Vice President of External Relations? Really? Because when I talk to them across the country they do not see themselves in that role. In fact, we have research to prove that they not only don't accept that mantle, but they have zero training, funding, or support to achieve it even if they did.

We have to take marketing and public relations much more seriously. 

We have to elevate, train, and prepare our leaders to be able to manage their/our collective reputation.

And, I'm not talking about putting lipstick on a pig. This isn't about covering up our ugly spots. I don't want us to "spin" our reputation problems. I want us to FIX our reputation by fixing our organizations. But I'm no longer convinced that one's the chicken and the other's the egg. Our negative reputation has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We seem like drunkards so we attract drunkards who do drunkardly things which reinforces our drunkard reputation. And round and round we go. 

I am calling for an uprising against our reputation. If you're an involved Greek leader, it's time to put your effort into changing our collective bad reputation -- your bad reputation. You have to choose to take on the responsibility of REPUTATION CZAR for your chapter, campus, council, or inter/national organization. Our reputation matters. It matters to us, and it matters to you. To be frank, it matters to me. I'm tired of being seen as the same idiots who... [fill in the blank with the most recent tragic news story involving the worst of our members].