Find a Growth Strategy That Fits (Part II): Marketing the Sorority Experience?

by National Panhellenic Conference | @NPCWomen

College Panhellenic communities are experiencing new challenges around enrollment and growth, some seeing numbers higher than expected or lower than experienced in decades. With these fluctuations, fraternity/sorority advisors (FSAs), College Panhellenics, and National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) member organizations have put the growth of sorority communities at the top of their priority lists. In Part I, strategies for encouraging growth were detailed, including primary recruitment data collection and analysis, shifting recruitment styles, increasing participation through continuous open bidding (COB), and adding a chapter with extension, but sorority communities can only grow if more individuals are aware of the opportunity to join and choose to participate. Therefore, recruitment marketing is a foundational element of a growth strategy. This article details best practices, resources, and additional steps a Panhellenic community can take to enhance its sorority marketing efforts to increase visibility, focus on connection-based opportunities, and, ultimately, grow the community of sorority women on campus.

Sorority Visibility

In a world with competing interests for a student’s time, sorority visibility and messaging matter more than ever. As campus-based professionals engage Panhellenic communities in growth discussions, promoting the sorority experience is paramount – and this activity should take place year-round, not just in the short window leading up to primary recruitment.

FSAs should encourage College Panhellenics to create a visibility action plan to increase awareness of the sorority experience to potential new members (PNMs). This plan should be a simple system that is easy to execute and repeatable. Sorority visibility goes beyond aesthetics-focused marketing content and provides clear connection opportunities for active sorority women to tell their compelling stories and inspire other women to want to join.

Communicate Benefits

Panhellenic communities can begin by communicating the facts and benefits of sorority membership. Many school and unaffiliated women could benefit from learning more about sororities, as the reality of being a member can differ greatly from what TV shows, movies, and the media portray. Messaging and storytelling matter to expand and increase the awareness of how membership can positively change a college student’s life.

Promotion of the sorority experience should include basic principles of membership, such as:

  • Community – a place to find a sense of belonging, connection, and genuine lifelong friendships
  • Value – an opportunity that invests in a student’s present and future
  • Impact – an invitation to be an agent of change by making a difference
  • Acceptance – a place where women feel seen, valued, and celebrated for being themselves

Sororities allow collegiate women to grow and develop personally (Biddix, 2022), find a sense of belonging (Biddix, 2022), make lasting connections, and be part of the largest network of women (Turk, 2004). According to a 2021 Gallup study, sorority members had great college experiences, felt more prepared for life after college, and were likelier to thrive in their well-being (Gallup, 2021). All of these benefits to membership are known to members and alumnae, but a key to growth is communicating these benefits to PNMs in a way that encourages them to join.

Marketing the Sorority Experience

Develop all sorority marketing materials and messages to be clear, straightforward, and easy for their intended audience to understand. As higher education enrollment diversifies, Panhellenic communities must eliminate jargon and abbreviations. PNMs unfamiliar with sorority membership surely do not even know they are a PNM, so considering the content of Instagram posts and TikToks with this simple fact in mind can help remove confusing communication. Additionally, a recruitment terminology page on a website or in a sorority recruitment guide is helpful as long as it accompanies a genuine description of the experience geared explicitly towards PNMs.

To get started, review the recruitment marketing checklist on the NPC website. These five strategies will kick-start thinking and planning for recruitment marketing. FSAs and sorority leaders can also find webinars on how to support College Panhellenic marketing efforts and other resources on the NPC website.

Web Presence

As discussed in the first article, Find a Growth Strategy That Fits, College Panhellenics must remove barriers to membership. A web presence audit can help achieve this goal. Start with the institution’s website for fraternity and sorority life and, if applicable, the College Panhellenic website.

Ask these questions to conduct the audit:

  • If [school name] sororities” is put in a search engine, can PNMs, caregivers, and others interested in learning about sororities easily find accurate information?
  • Does the website share the benefits of sorority membership?
  • Are the dates of primary recruitment easy to find?
  • How many clicks does it take to get to the recruitment registration page from a search engine?

The same questions apply when expanding the audit to social media (e.g., Instagram, Facebook). 

Email Marketing

Once PNMs have established their campus email accounts, email marketing can be effective with social media marketing. To use email marketing well, consider a few tips:

  • First, plan out an email strategy and calendar of key messages. Emails should be timely and coincide with appropriate deadlines, FAQs, or key messages.
  • Secondly, ensure they are short, to the point, and free of jargon.
  • Lastly, think of the information important to convey, emphasize the most important calls to action, and use all parts of the email, including the subject line, to call attention to the key message.

Access the email analytics after sending all communication. Some university systems use Salesforce, Mailchimp, or the like; all have robust analytics to help inform future emails. Knowing what is most important to readers can help shape Panhellenic’s marketing strategy for the future.

Paid Digital Advertising

If the College Panhellenic can budget for it, one option to include in a recruitment marketing plan is to run paid digital ads about sorority life on campus. Paid ads are a simple way to promote and market the sorority experience to drive interest and increase registration numbers. In the summer of 2022, NPC embarked on a significant strategic project to raise awareness of the sorority experience through coaching on direct marketing and paid ad campaigns for social media channels. NPC provided over 300 College Panhellenics with grants to pay for the cost of these ads.

Consider the ideal audience for targeted paid ads. NPC’s marketing coaches guided College Panhellenic officers through running paid ads on Instagram and Snapchat with positive results. An FSA can engage Panhellenic leadership in discussing where community members spend their time in a digital space and find the platforms students use most on campus and in surrounding communities. Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat might be the social media platforms that first come to mind, but campus communities might use other platforms unique to the student population (e.g., discord). Beyond social media platforms, targeted paid ads can address even smaller pockets of people with details such as location, age, affinity groups, and other demographics.

The beauty of digital marketing is that College Panhellenics can pivot when necessary. Review and analyze the paid ad progress throughout the summer and make adjustments to see more significant results. During the 2022-23 academic year, more than 300 College Panhellenics received direct coaching from NPC on best practices related to paid social media advertising, and their communities are reaping the results. 

In-person Campus Marketing

On-campus marketing has become a lost art due to the pandemic because of the need for social distancing. Classic elements like tabling, collaborating with campus partners, and attending campus events or traditions of campus marketing are necessary parts of the larger strategy for promoting the sorority experience and growing the community. An FSA can coach and encourage students to use campus activities to connect with others as campuses return to pre-pandemic socialization.

One effective way to raise awareness about sororities is through tabling. However, it should not be a passive marketing strategy. Instead, it should be an engaging and intentional approach toward PNMs. To make it more interactive, consider incorporating a small activity or something that PNMs can do while at the table. The council or chapter leadership working at the table must initiate conversations with PNMs instead of waiting for them to show interest. Additionally, provide future engagement opportunities, such as registration details or collect the PNM’s information, so the College Panhellenic can share essential information after tabling concludes.

Collaborating with campus partners is a resourceful way to engage the campus community. Other campus offices and departments have the same goals to engage and get students involved in the collegiate experience. Partner opportunities may include the Office of Admissions or First Year Experience to participate in orientation, welcome week events, and specific first-year or transfer student activities. It would be ideal if these offices provided a list of non-Greek women to contact with direct and intentional outreach about the sorority experience.

Tabling, campus partner collaborations, and other campus events are ways to engage with people unfamiliar with the sorority experience. These activities are opportunities for increasing awareness and relationship-building.

Connection-Based Focus

Paid ads increase awareness, but strategic marketing must go beyond advertising. Relationship-building is key! College Panhellenics must focus on organic community outreach and develop customized efforts to connect with PNMs. College Panhellenics can be successful when they engage the entire sorority community with marketing in a fun, authentic way. Another opportunity is for the Panhellenic leadership team to contact incoming students with genuine outreach and continue the engagement before recruitment registration closes. 

Resources and Next Steps

  • Take the next step and contact the NPC College Panhellenic area advisor to learn more about growth strategies.
  • Visit the NPC website for more detailed extension, recruitment, and marketing resources.
  • Contact the NPC recruitment team for a virtual consultation. Schedule an appointment with mincey@npcwomen.org and rebekah@npcwomen.org
  • Sign up for recruitment marketing coaching consultation here. A coaching consultation could look like reviewing marketing plans, creating plans, and discussing paid advertising.

 Conclusion

Marketing the sorority experience is paramount to every Panhellenic community’s success and growth. FSAs can positively influence relationships with College Panhellenic leaders by coaching them to create a dynamic marketing plan that uses various modes of communication to share the actual value and benefits of Panhellenic sororities. Increasing sorority visibility and awareness through connection-based outreach and engagement with PNMs will help develop relationships and positively impact recruitment. If College Panhellenics can budget to run paid ads, it is a simple way to enhance the marketing plan. Lastly, growth is a team effort, and everyone in the Panhellenic community is responsible for recruitment marketing. There are resources available to help every College Panhellenic achieve growth in their community. 

 

References

Biddix, J. P. (2022). NPC sorority belonging, diversity, wellbeing & joining survey. NationalPanhellenic Conference. https://npcwomen.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/NPC-Sorority-Belonging-Survey-Spring-2022.pdf

Gallup. (2021). Fraternity and sorority outcomes: Experiences and outcomes in college, work and life.  https://npcwomen.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Fraternity-and-Sorority-Outcomes-Gallup-2021.pdf

Turk, D. (2004). Bound by a mighty vow: Sisterhood and women’s fraternities, 1870-1920.University Press.

About the National Panhellenic Conference

Made up of 26 women’s-only inter/national member organizations, the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) is the world’s largest trade association specifically charged with advancing the sorority experience. Through its advocacy, NPC seeks to enlist nearly 5 million collegiate and alumnae sorority women in its efforts to showcase the transformational power of the sorority experience.

As values-based organizations, the 26 members of NPC live their missions, with their members providing millions of dollars in philanthropic support to dozens of worthy causes and pursuing millions of additional hours in community service. From supporting victims of sexual assault, to leading bystander intervention programs, to fighting for body-positive campus cultures, sorority women are at the forefront of solving some of the most pressing challenges facing collegiate women today.

NPC also supports a national network of collegiate and alumnae Panhellenic associations that are crucial to nurturing healthy fraternity and sorority communities. Through its programs and initiatives, NPC encourages the sharing of information, resources, and best practices to ensure the sorority experience continues to meet the needs of today’s collegiate women.

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