by Matt Mattson and Josh Orendi
We recently received a great question via E-mail about why it is or isn't a good idea to trash talk other fraternity chapters while recruiting. We’ll share the E-mail and our responses below. Thanks to the students at Salisbury University (Maryland) for sparking such an interesting conversation.
From: Salisbury University Fraternity Community
Date: Thu, 08 Nov 2007 15:52:13
Subject: recruitment question
Thanks for all of the work that you do in helping Greeks to recruit the right new members the right way.
A question regarding the success of negative recruitment or “mudslinging” came up at IFC the other night, and we haven't been able to find a satisfactory response.
Most of the National Fraternity HQ recruitment resources send pretty much the same message, “Don't bad mouth or stereotype other fraternities. Focus on your chapter's strengths.” However, the explanation why and supporting evidence is often lacking.
Using the Panhellenic quota/total system and simple math, we can illustrate why negative recruitment does not work for the women. For example, no matter how horribly Alpha Beta Gamma trashes the other sororities, Alpha Beta Gamma cannot bid more new members than quota/total.
Choosing an analogy from the world of politics, most voters claim that they dislike negative campaigning. However, negative campaigning has proven to be a successful strategy in some elections.
Could you guys address this topic in a future blog? What do you say to the Joe Average Frat Guy who still feels the need to cut down other fraternities in order to build himself up? Other than the “IFC encourages potential new members to check out all of the chapters in order to make an educated decision” message, how can we sell the concept of recruitment courtesy?
Salisbury University Fraternity Men
This is an excellent, well-thought-out question that deserves an in-depth response.
Matt's first instincts when posed with this question were to go back to what he learned as an advertising/public relations major in college. It was amazing how much “no trash talk” was drilled into PR students throughout that curriculum. The simple reason being that “trash talkers” had a scarcity mentality and saw a limited marketplace, while those that took the high road understood that good companies didn't see their audience as needing to choose either OUR PRODUCT or THEIR PRODUCT, but consumers have a very important third option" NO PRODUCT.
To apply this to the fraternity world, most campuses have no more than 15%-20% of the undergraduate population involved in Greek Life" Most students are choosing the NO FRATERNITY option on their campus, and the more we talk badly about XYZ fraternity, the more people will be unable to differentiate the messages about XYZ from ZYX, ABC, and YBA fraternities ‐ and our fraternity. We're trash-talking about ourselves.
Then Matt and Josh both got into the conversation, and Josh sparked the creation of a LIGHT HEARTED but accurate list of"
THE TOP 10 REASONS NOT TO BE A TRASH TALKING FRAT GUY
1. You're a values-based fraternity. Remember? Act like it! Let's just consider the “golden rule” that we should treat others the way we want to be treated.
2. Fraternal gentlemen. There's an unspoken rule of social etiquette that comes with being a fraternity man. Consider is a “Man-Law,” or special code. Bagging your neighbor is poor form and results in YOU losing 3 gentlemen's points in the eyes of whoever you're talking to.
3. You look like a shmuck! Sh*t talk about someone else and you're the one that smells like a turd.
4. Business principles: Why is there a Walmart near every Target?
Why do gas stations tend to cluster? Why is Eckart across the street from CVS and down the street from Walgreens? Answer: healthy competition creates healthy options for customers and works toward the betterment of the entire community. You don't have to “promote” the competition, but you’ll never hear the CEO of Walmart telling his customers that Target's CEO is a man-whore.
5. Your Inter/national fraternity belongs to an alliance of fraternities that have mutually agreed to support the success of each member organization. Do you take pride in defacing the credibility of your entire organization? Like it or not, when you joined you took an oath to respect the commitments of your organization, and one of those is to be an overall fraternity promoter.
6. Fraternal roller coaster… Remember that like roller coasters, your chapter's position on campus will likely have big highs and deep lows. “Hating” on your interfraternal brothers tends to extend those extremes, not to mention limit the number of people that want to get on the ride in the first place. You won't be on top/bottom for long, so again, let's go with the “golden rule.”
7. Here are a few articles and resources on negative campaigning/smear tactics from a quick Google search. Clearly they “work” or nobody would do them, but those results come at a “cost” you should be aware of before making the attack.
8. “A rising tide raises all ships.” This popular quote reminds us of the importance of lifting up our neighbor and investing into resources that better the community.
9. You sound like an idiot! Every time you open your pie-hole and spill negative on someone else you're reminding people why they don't like to be around you and you're framing yourself as the poster child for compulsive stupidity.
10. Man up! Men don't let men gossip like 13 year old valley girls.