As some of you may know, I am a proud brother of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and I have been a member of the Alpha Zeta chapter for a little over a year. After being noticed for my dedication, spontaneity, and go-get-um attitude (though occasionally lacking focus), I was named recruitment chair for the 2006-2007 year. Tasked with this great responsibility, I began mulling over ideas for the promotion of my chapter. After some thought and speculation, I realized that one overlooked aspect of rush is the current focus of recruitment campaigns, which lies solely on new recruits. This is one-dimensional and will lead to sub-par results. What is needed is a three-dimensional approach.
While the topic of this post is very specific (Greek recruitment), there may exist parallels to advertising in general. Hopefully this article will be of use to many different readers, not just those looking to become more effective recruiters.
Reasoning and Motivation, or General Principles
As a brotherhood, we are trying to sell ourselves to potential recruits. When someone unfamiliar with the Greek system sees us, we want him to be impressed with the way we handle ourselves and interact with each other. To do this effectively requires a sense of excitement and enthusiasm amongst the brothers. Therefore, an important part of any rush campaign should focus on creating a sense of enthusiasm and excitement amongst the brothers.
A second dimension of the rush campaign should be a focus on the people who support the fraternity, mainly the women with whom we associate (though our alumni also play a very important role). These are the people that attest to our qualities when our backs are turned and can (especially in the case of women) make the most significant impression upon prospective recruits. An external testimony to our qualities and characteristics holds much more value than many of the things that we will actually say about ourselves, because it cannot be perceived as a fabrication construed to entice pledges without any underlying substance.
Finally, the recruitment campaign should target and create interest amongst potential recruits. This is the aspect that is commonly focused on, often to the detriment of the prior aspects. Recruits should be presented with material, activities, and conversations that encourage them to engage, ask questions, and pursue more information about the fraternity. When supported by enthusiasm amongst the brothers and our women and alumni, this builds the entire campaign into a solid recruitment strategy, hopefully resulting in an outstanding pledge class and continued growth of the chapter.
Methodology and Channels – an Example
After rethinking my approach to recruitment, I began to contemplate possibilities for achieving the aforementioned goals.
In today’s networked age, almost everyone has access to the Internet, and a college setting is definitely no exception to this rule. Additionally, social networking has seen explosive growth, with sites such as MySpace, Facebook, and Flickr rising to fame. At Mercer University (home to the Alpha Zeta chapter), Facebook is a huge success with profiles representing an overwhelming majority of the student body. With the addition of Facebook for high schools, almost every incoming freshman is already a member and is very familiar with Facebook.
Over the past year, I have employed Facebook for many things, including promoting parties and events. Why not employ Facebook to meet some of the campaign goals? With this in mind, I set out to devise a way to begin creating excitement amongst the brothers and our supportive friends. While common Facebook publicity takes the form of paid advertising or the creation of parties and groups, these tools are commonplace. I wanted something new and creative.
Social Advertising and Creative Approach
The solution, as usual, came in the form of a simple reapplication of an existing feature. Facebook gives users the ability to upload a picture and then “tag” it with the names of people in the picture. Upon being “tagged,” the system sends each tagged user an email informing them that a new picture of them has been posted, as well as linking the picture to their account. I hypothesized that this could easily be used for my own means.
Using a simple graphic, I tagged every brother and many of the women and alumni who support our chapter. People received their emails, logged into their accounts, and went to find the new “picture” of them – simply to be reminded that recruitment is just around the corner. Simple, effective, and to the point – exactly what advertising was intended to be.
As recruitment gets closer, I will be employing more ideas of this nature. While this is effective, one must be sure not to over-use one method, especially if it is a non-traditional application of existing tools. This would quickly result in reduced effectiveness and fringes on annoying the people targeted by the advertisement. A large part of the battle is finding new and creative ways to spread your message.
On a more traditional front, we will be producing and distributing T-shirts and posting traditional printed media (fliers, posters, pamphlets). These are time-proven solutions to a problem, and when combined with new channels still present an effective method of advertising and has been used successfully on many occasions. Combined with creative approaches, the traditional methods should maintain their effectiveness.
As with many other topics, there are downsides and limitations to everything; Facebook requires you to be “friends” with everyone that you tag to a picture, or know the name of each person that you invite to a party. Repurposing a venue to create “creative advertising” can become annoying if overused. Posters will only be seen and read by some people, and cost money to produce. T-shirts are expensive. However, when creativity is used to find new and creative ways to work the system, the best results are obtained. Therein lie both the challenge and the opportunity for creativity.
The bottom line is simply stated: be creative and think outside the box. Hopefully I have presented you with some ideas that can be used to make your recruitment campaign a more effective one and to help you think about things from a different angle. A well-planned and executed campaign should encompass a broader view of recruitment, which in turn should give you the edge to stand out in the crowd. I hope that, given the considerations outlined above, everyone can design a creative and resourceful campaign that returns the desired results.
If you have any suggestions, success stories, creative ideas, or random comments, be sure to leave a comment / trackback!
November 2006: I have added a selection of my recruitment materials! Check them out here.