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?


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


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.


Our Reputation is Your Reputation


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].

Drone Shots & Glitter

by Matt Mattson

For the past 2 years I've been presenting a program titled, "Drone Shots & Glitter: The best and worst sorority recruitment videos and what we can learn from them" on campuses and at conferences around North America (want me to present to your community? E-mail Matt@InnovaGreek.com)

This program has become one of my favorite things to present. And as summer 2017 is turning into fall 2017, a whole new batch of sorority recruitment videos is ready for review and reflection.

Let's start with a new video from Alpha Phi at Ohio State released earlier this year... Watch and enjoy. As you're watching, consider the two questions I ask all my audiences to consider as they're watching these videos...

  1. In what ways does this meet the needs of a results-focused MARKETER? Will it help the chapter succeed at recruiting (based on their audience and chapter values)?
  2. In what ways does this meet the needs of a values-focused PANHELLENIC LEADER? If you watched this right after a sisterhood retreat or ritual ceremony, would you feel proud?

Before I move on, let me say this clearly... I LOVE ALL OF THESE VIDEOS. As a marketer and as a values-based fraternity/sorority professional, I think these videos are truly amazing. There are three big reasons why I love these videos.

  1. IT TAKES GUTS TO MAKE THEM. Each of these videos was created by a college sorority woman. Each of these videos was shared publicly on the internet. Each of these videos will almost certainly be ridiculed by someone -- internet trolls, other chapters, and probably some shallow sisters who don't appreciate the guts it took to lead this project and bring these videos to life. So, to you women who created these... YOU ARE AMAZING! I admire your courage and your art. 
  2. SORORITY (AND SORORITY RECRUITMENT) IS COMPLEX. It is incredibly difficult to balance the voices of your Greek Advisor, senior members, recruitment advisor, and the group of members who want there to be more bikini shots. It is incredibly difficult to tell a story about the integrity, heart, kindness, honor, and beauty of sorority and sorority women, while competing with the chapter down the street who has a hot air balloon and the captain of the football team in their video. It is incredibly difficult to make a high quality 2-minute video that gets lots of views while also showing the depth and nuance of your members.
  3. THESE ARE TRUE EXPRESSIONS OF VALUES & WINDOWS INTO INSECURITIES. The idea of sorority is recreated everyday in the real lives of its members. Today's undergraduate women are different from those who have come before them. They care about different things, they live in a different world, and they have new ways of living out their values. These videos are real, they are today, they are now. These videos are also excellent windows into the insecurities and struggles of modern women -- and there's nothing wrong with that. As college-aged women struggle with body-image concerns, mysogynistic cultural norms, a desire to fit-in and be liked juxtaposed against a desire to be authentic and true to themselves, and all sorts of other incredible challenges in today's world, they're trying there best to demonstrate confidence, pride, and passion for their organization. These videos truly are amazing works of art if you know and understand sororities like we do.

With all that said, check out a handful of our other past and present favorite sorority recruitment videos. Ask yourself the two questions we listed at the beginning of the blog as you enjoy each of these videos. We'll even include a couple non-Panhellenic videos in here too just for fun.

After you've watched these, scroll down for our top 5 tips to make your sorority recruitment video great!


Top 5 Tips To Make Your Perfect Sorority Recruitment Video

  1. MAKE IT ABOUT THEM, MORE THAN IT IS ABOUT YOU. Great marketing is about the audience. Viewers (especially the ones you care about most) should see themselves in the video. This isn't a video to make you feel good about yourself and your chapter, it is a video to inspire PNMs to be curious about your chapter and your members. The viewer should feel right in the middle of the video -- not like they're watching a show about you, but like they're immersed in their future reality.
  2. SAY WHAT YOU'RE ABOUT, NOT WHAT YOU'RE NOT. You know all those videos with sorority women writing "I am not a stereotype" on their hands, and then showing it to the camera? Don't do that. It just reinforces the stereotype. Instead, be about something. Make the video clearly communicate who you are, not who you're not.
  3. EMOTIONS MATTER MORE THAN LOGIC. Do not try to bullet-point your way through the video with stats about how great your chapter is, how many philanthropy dollars you've raised, and how many service hours you've given. Joining a sorority is not a logical decision, it is an emotional one. PNMs decide to join a sorority because the women in it make them feel safe, loved, and like they matter. 
  4. DON'T BE A REAL ESTATE AGENT OR EVENT PROMOTER. Cool house. Neat party. Move on. Seriously. You have more to offer than nice real estate or a great event. 
  5. BE REAL. SERIOUSLY. STOP FAKING IT. We can see right through our in-authenticity. If you're not the coolest, hottest, richest, flashiest chapter on campus (and you're probably not), don't try to sell that. Show you. People join people. People don't join perfection (they're intimidated by it), they join real people. Just like you did. Just like you hope every PNM will. Make your video overflow with authenticity.

What is a PR Chair Supposed To Do?

by Matt Mattson

We recently published a report that showed one painfully glaring reality. There are 12,000 fraternity/sorority PR chairs around North America serving chapters and councils this year, and most of them have never been trained how to do their job!

We’re hoping to fix that.

Let’s start with a job description.

Tell a story.  
Build Relationships. 
Earn Trust.
Drive Leads.

That’s it. Oh, and one more thing.

When something bad happens, say you’re sorry commit to fixing the problem and call for help.

Let’s dive in a little more deeply.

Tell a story. Your organization (council or chapter) should have a single compelling story it is trying to communicate. Every marketing tactic, every tweet, every post, every print item, every table, every conversation… should all reflect the essence of that single core marketing story. Do you know what story you’re trying to tell?

Build Relationships. Fraternity and sorority is in the relationship business. The only way we change people’s minds about us is through real life relationships. All our marketing, advertising, and public relations work should be focused on creating positive opportunities for face-to-face relationship building, or reinforcing the positive emotional experience/story that someone gets when they do have a personal interaction with your members. Everything should lead to more meaningful personal interactions. Make your list of the Top 10 lunches you should have with people in your community that can influence your organization’s reputation.

Earn Trust. The PR Chair deals in social currency, and the currency of fraternity/sorority is TRUST. Nobody will join your organization without trust. Nobody will advocate for your organization without trust. Nobody will support your organization or partner with your organization or even like your organization without trust. And the bad news is that fraternity/sorority starts with a deficit in the trust department. Our reputation precedes us, and we have to do everything we can to fill our bucket with the social currency of other people trusting us if we want to be good at our job. Who do you need to trust you? How can you demonstrate that you deserve their trust?

Drive Leads. Now, I know this sounds like it is the “recruitment” team’s job. It is. But here’s where you can work together. Great marketing and advertising by fraternities and sororities is aimed at the right audience of prospective members (and the people who influence them), and tries to get one thing to happen — it tries to get high quality prospects to share their name, contact information, and ideally a time to meet up in person. Marketing done by the PR team can be the red carpet that is rolled out onto campus (or into high schools) that invites prospective members to connect with members.

And finally, when something bad happens say you’re sorry commit to fixing the problem and call for help. We’ve been historically TERRIBLE at this as an industry. We mostly try to cover our ass. Don’t. Just say you’re sorry. Admit you screwed up. Find a way to fix it. Seriously. Call your HQ, Greek Advisor, or your council support system (i.e. NIC, NPC, NPHC, NAPA, MGC, etc.) — they are there to help you.

Marketing Strategy & Education Visit

Bring Innova's marketing experts to your campus for a KEYNOTE PRESENTATION, market RESEARCH, and most importantly a 20+ page long-term growth marketing strategy for your entire fraternity/sorority community.


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, University of California-Irvine, University of Michigan-Flint, Texas State University, University of Vermont, Christopher Newport University, Colorado School of Mines, University of Tampa, and many more. 

For the same price as you would invest in a 1-hour "speaker," bring Innova's team of experienced professionals to work directly with your community entire on building its brand, improving its reputation, telling a positive Fraternity/Sorority story, and attracting a higher quantity of high quality new members.

Want more information? Download this, and then E-mail Matt@InnovaGreek.com today.

A Look at Fraternity/Sorority Marketing From Above

Let’s look at marketing for fraternities and sororities from above.

Try not to think about your individual campus or organization, but instead think about the entire industry’s brand reputation. Now more than ever the reputation of one chapter on a campus far away from your home chapter absolutely impacts your own group’s potential for success.

It’s time for us to engage in collaborative conversations around taking control of our collective story. We want to help lead those conversations.

Smart, forward-looking fraternal organizations have a big opportunity ahead of them. The demographic and psychographic makeup of future college students is experiencing a dramatic shift. The fraternity/sorority industry has a chance to get ahead of this wave of new students and serve them with forethought and excellence. Innova is proud to provide marketing services that are informed by the research about this new wave of students.

Millenials are a generation of the past. As most readers already know, students entering college today are part of a very different mindset, influenced by very different world events. They’re called “Generation Z” and Innova has been intensely studying all the research about this new generation of college students – their interests, priorities, and worldview. The early research on Gen Z suggests they see the world in a blended way – their relationship to racial and gender identity is far different than previous generations. Gen Z is financially conservative – the skyrocketing cost of higher education combined with a major recession experienced during their formative years have influenced their relationship with money. Gen Z students are seeking a stable family and practical career development – their experience with post-9/11 world instability make them crave stability and pragmatic opportunities for career advancement. Gen Z students are creators – nearly ½ expect to be their own boss, and nearly 40% plan to invent something that will change the world. These are just a few of the insights that should inform a collegiate student organization’s brand promises.

These are just a few of the insights that should inform a collegiate student organization’s brand promises.

Meanwhile the landscape of U.S. college student enrollment is getting murkier, which means the future growth potential of fraternities and sororities is unclear. On one hand, the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE) projected last year that the college freshman class of 2025 would be the largest and most ethnically diverse in history based on overall birth rates. On the other hand, traditional-aged, 4-year, residential college students seem to be an outgoing phenomenon – only making up 20-30% of all college enrollees (depending on the source). With out-of-control college costs and a highly questionable political landscape around the topic, the traditional 18 to 22-yearold on-campus college experience might be a dinosaur-like experience.

The bottom line is that effectively marketing the history and tradition of fraternities and sororities to today’s and tomorrow’s college student will require a more creative approach than our history and tradition has demonstrated. Innova has a deep respect for our fraternal history, but we are motivated to catch our industry’s marketing efforts up to the students of tomorrow.

Here are six important insights that guide our work at Innova.

  • Taking back the story of fraternity/sorority won’t be done through mass media buys, press releases, talking about what we’re not, crisis communications, or campaigns that are really just aimed at making us feel better about ourselves. We have to decide on an audience (high quality future members) and enchant them with a story about themselves with fervor, patience, and discipline.
  • All news is local. We have to mobilize our undergraduate leaders in the telling of the Greek Life story. It has to be their story.
  • The best defense is a good offense. We simply can not keep sitting back and hoping nothing bad happens — only to clumsily try to defend ourselves when it inevitably does. We must be assertive and persistent in the shaping of our industry’s story.
  • Our fraternal reputation hasn’t hurt our numbers (due to a number of contributing factors), but it has hurt our potential to attract high quality, low-risk members. We can aim a better story at better students and make better (and safer) organizations.
  • Fraternity/sorority marketing must be relationship-centered. We’re in a people business. Smart communications about Greek Life will not only reinforce a core narrative, but more importantly they will create real opportunities for human interaction with our best members.
  • The message that strikes first wins. The industry will win the communications game over time if it is positioned to tell the story to incoming students (and H.S. students) before anyone else can.

We’d love to work with your campus community or inter/national organization to help you build smart marketing strategies.