Fraternities typically do a terrible job in regards to public relations. The negative stories about fraternities outnumber the positive stories by about 100 to 1. However, you can choose to be part of the solution.
The key to Fraternity Public Relations is having a positive impact on your university and local community while making sure your actions are noticed and recognized.
I will explain more in the following three sections – Internal Public Relations; Greek Community Public Relations and Local Community Public Relations. I will conclude why this ultimately matters.
Internal Fraternity Public Relations
First, the chapter must decide what they are all about. You must define your priority. This will form your image and is the key to your public relations strategy. Are you all about academics or athletics or philanthropy? Are you the anti-fraternity fraternity? Are you about driving self-development in your membership?
Your chapter must be committed to this vision with their activities. Your actions will speak louder than words, and people will start to associate you with whatever you prioritize.
Once this vision is established, it is every brother’s responsibility to lead by example. Realize that as a member of your chapter you are always a representing your fraternity. The image outsiders have of your chapter will ultimately be formed by the image they have about the individuals in the chapter. People are watching you, and we all know many already have a negative opinion of fraternity men.
Everyone in the chapter is also responsible for making sure your brothers don’t do things to damage your reputation. Acting like a fool in public should not be acceptable. Treating women poorly should not be acceptable. Getting in trouble with the university or with the authorities should not be acceptable. I can go on and on, but these things should be obvious. If the other brothers in the chapter observe this behavior, and don’t do anything to stop it, then they are condoning it. The chapter must create a culture where adhering to high standards is expected and adhered to.
Second, it is important your public relations team engages with your alumni. A strong chapter has strong alumni. If you want to project this strength, you must have the backing of your alumni. The chapter needs to send out some type of communication directed at the alumni like a newsletter. Also, the chapter should attempt to get the alumni to participate in some type of homecoming event. The chapter should also recognize when an alumni brother wants to be active in the chapter, and make sure he feels welcome.
Third, the public relations team needs to make sure that they don’t forget about parents. You want the parents to think about the chapter in a positive light. Think about the things that are important to parents. They want to make sure their kids are in a safe environment that is conducive to learning and associating with high character friends. Have a parent’s weekend, and make sure the parent’s see this side of your chapter.
Forth, your chapter needs to make sure you have a relationship with your national headquarters. The president should reach out to the executive director at least once a semester to give an update on the chapter. Brothers should feel comfortable reaching out to your leadership consultant for guidance and advice. You want the national office to take a vested interest in your chapter. The guidance they give can help you grow, and you want to make sure you have their support should it ever be needed.
Fifth, the chapter needs to evaluate their web presence and promotional items to make sure they properly represent the image of the chapter. The chapter has to be smart on how they portray themselves on social media. The same goes for t-shirts and flyers. What people see is what they will think of you. Make sure you are always putting your best foot forward.
Greek Community Public Relations
You want the others in your Greek Community to have a high opinion of your chapter. It is the sincerest compliment when your rivals speak highly of you. When others talk about your chapter, you want them to say ‘those guys are pretty good.’
This starts at the Greek Life Office. The leaders of your chapter need to have a relationship there. It is important that your leadership lets the leadership at the Greek Life office know what you are all about, and is able to articulate what you are doing to promote that vision. Having and sharing this purpose with the Greek Life office is a smart move because they can help you achieve your goals.
It is also important to have a good relationship with the other fraternities. You want your brand to be strong everywhere, but especially amongst your peers. Develop relationships with brothers in other chapters. Help them when you can. Be good neighbors. Don’t cause problems at their events. Compliment them on their successes. Be a good sport on the athletic fields. At the end of the day you want everyone to think highly of your chapter.
Your standing in the Greek Community can’t be strong unless you have a strong relationship with sororities. Your brothers need to have friendships with sorority members. This is where it all starts. From there, relationships between organizations can form. Invite sorority members to your social events. Set up closed events with sororities. Volunteer to help them with their community service events. Whenever you engage with a sorority, be sure to send a thank you note. This is subtle act of a gentleman and will make them know they were appreciated.
Finally, make sure your chapter makes winning awards a priority for the public relations team. Being awards whores isn’t really a noble goal in life, but it gives validation that your chapter is one that should be respected. It is third party validation that your chapter is one of the better ones on campus.
It is a lot of work to fill out an awards application correctly. For this reason, many people don’t apply. The same goes for fraternities – most chapters don’t even apply. Find out your school and fraternity’s individual and chapter awards, and make a sincere effort to get your chapter and your deserving brothers to apply. Many times in life the person who win the award is simply the person who shows up.
Local Community Public Relations
Public relations also means engaging positively with your community. In my opinion those who are more fortunate have an obligation to give back to the less fortunate in their communities. This giving back will lead to others having a positive opinion of you and your fraternity.
The obvious is to engage in local, philanthropic events. Community service events are great for building your fraternity’s public image. Don’t do the events for that reason though, do it because you want to do good for your community. Any positive PR you get is an added bonus.
A great way to do good for your community, and develop positive relationships that help your public relations is to co-sponsor community service events. Why not partner with a sorority and do a joint philanthropy? If done correctly, this is a positive PR move on multiple fronts.
Don’t forget that how you are in class is also a public relations opportunity. If you show up to class unkept and hung-over, you are reflecting poorly on yourself and your chapter. If you are active and engaged in class, but also a top student, you will reflect positively on your fraternity. Outsiders will notice, and they will think a little higher about your fraternity as a result. So will the faculty teaching those classes.
Further, don’t forgot to take the time to let the world know that fraternity’s do a lot of good in the world. This is a public relations move that helps us all. If you do something noteworthy, write an article and send it to your school’s paper. Post the news on your social media. Let your nationals know about it.
I wrote this article years ago: Fraternity Public Relations Challenge. In that article I offer that if anyone can get positive news published about their fraternity, I will send them a copy of my book The Fraternity Leader for free. That article has been up for years, and exactly no one has taken me up on it. I challenge you to be the first.
What’s the Point? Why is Fraternity Public Relations Important?
I have a certain respect for those who live their life to the best they can, and don’t give a damn what others think about them. I do my best to live my life that way.
However, you can’t have that attitude as an organization. You fraternity has to care about public relations.
The reason is your reputation is so important in the college environment. The life-blood of a fraternity – your recruitment – depends on it. Guys don’t want to join fraternities with a bad reputations. This is just like how girls don’t want to go to a party at a fraternity with a bad reputation.
Further, more opportunities will come your fraternity’s way if you have a strong reputation. The Greek staff at your school may offer special programs to you. Sororities may seek to schedule closed events. Your chapter may be given more leniency should you violate a policy because you have been such strong university citizens.
Take pride in having a strong public relations program. Your chapter will be better for it.