Fraternity Stores Should Tell Stories

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Many fraternities have online stores. Many are well run with plenty to choose from. None build better men or women.

Fraternities have one product – our membership – and we are quickly losing in a race vs. TED Talks to convince the world of the value of our product. Rather than suffer a slow, painful demise Uber-style, we should fight back.

Sorority and fraternity online stores are a simple way to rake in royalties, but I have yet to find an organization which has taken its online store to the next level. What is that next level? Your online shop should be considered as valuable and essential to building better men or women as your educational programs.

If that sounds like a tall order, it isn’t. In fact, with some simple changes to how we view our online stores, they could easily become our most valuable asset in marketing our membership and building public relations.

But We Do Service!

Presently, fraternity and sorority public relations center on the idea of brushing aside bad press or refusing to acknowledge realities as a collective whole, then shouting as many statistics as possible to prove that we are of some value to the people around us. It’s desperate really.

Some of those statistics are aimed toward proving that fraternity men and women are better off after (and during) college than their peers or that we take on positions of leadership in business and government. That’s all fine and dandy, but if we are so vital to these individuals’ ascent after college, why is it that people aren’t already aware of our value?

Why aren’t the leaders of business, science, government, entertainment or philosophy recognizing the value of their fraternity or sorority experience? Could it be that we do little to acknowledge or assist members aside from writing articles and press releases when our members have already done something exceptional?

Think Of Your Store Like A Magazine, Journal or Infomercial Channel

Rather than limit online stores to swag, which appeals first and most to our poorest members, undergraduate students, we should consider our online stores to be an essential part of our storytelling.

Go to any college or university that has its stuff half together and you’ll notice a section in their bookstore dedicated to books written or co-written by faculty of the college or university. They too miss out on an opportunity to reach beyond paper publications.

If John Doe starts a great business, writes a fantastic book or has done great things for his country, why not use your online store to share more of his story? We could call it a “store-y” . . . get it?

Kappa Alpha Order’s store is the first fraternity-specific store to pop up on a Google search, but I can assure you that every other fraternity or sorority store I have seen replicates this formula. Take a look:

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Now my fraternity doesn’t even have an online store, so I’d love one like KA’s. They’ve got tons of swag, resources for chapters, and are savvy enough to create merchandise specifically for their 150th anniversary, which was sure to generate some additional revenue. But there’s something missing.

Rather than just promote a bunch of clothing or items specific to KA, why not market products of their membership? Why not have a section dedicated to books or media written/created (or co-written/created) by members of Kappa Alpha Order?

Remember, John Doe building himself into a popular, relevant person is a good thing for John Doe’s fraternity. We know this because his fraternity will likely use his success to suggest that they had something to do with it in a newsletter/magazine/website article.

Instead of just talking about how successful our alumni are, why not turn our online stores into their platform to become successful?

Started A Business?

Let’s have a map on our online store that shows all of the locations across the country (perhaps the world!) at which our members who own businesses have set up shop. If I live in Chicago, why wouldn’t I be interested in knowing which Chicago-area businesses are owned and run by Delta Sigs?

Perhaps the businesses will offer discounts to members, or perhaps they’ll simply receive a small boost in sales thanks to our efforts. In any case, it’s a simple, affordable way to market a business, and would also encourage business-owning members to pay attention to the online store of the fraternity or sorority.

Maybe You Didn’t Create Anything. Maybe You’re Just Famous!

A governor or actor may not have much to sell (unless you choose to sell Blu-Ray Discs of his/her movies. . .more power to you!), but they could assist in providing some exceptional store promotions.

Perhaps a popular or famous member is selected each month, quarter or year to choose his or her favorite products from the store, which are then highlighted along with his or her story.

Speakers travel across the country educating students and professionals alike on how to be a better leader, friend or how to deal with the challenges we face in life. Why not sell, for a limited time, the same books they recommend while on the road? Why not stream one of their speeches or a video about them on your storefront?

Why is the only reason people go to our online stores to purchase items with our names plastered all over them?

Combined With A TED Competitor

A robust online store, focused not only on collecting royalties for branded products, but for boosting the careers and reputations of an organization’s member, would serve well to compliment a true online learning experience.

I am firm in my belief that the future of education and fraternity membership is modeled well by TED Talks, so it would make sense that a video of a speech given by an alumnus writer would then link to his products in his fraternity’s store.

It makes sense that a sorority woman and congresswoman, after addressing her organization (and the world) via livestream from the organization’s convention, would suggest members check out her reading list and favorite products from the online store, which incorporates additional bits of information about her story or the work she’s done while in congress.

We have so many members to choose from. There are so many members, not even famous members, who own businesses, who are elected to office, who are building brands and names and products for themselves and who are under-supported until they’ve made it big.

Instead of waiting for someone to get big, simply retool your online store to help them get big.

If I wrote a book, I would be elated if my fraternity chose to include it in its online store. If I created a business, I’d absolutely love my location to be included on a map for fraternity men and women to see.

I can guarantee that if no organization decides to take up this cause, or even if they do, that Fraternity Man (dot com) will do it for them. Why not support other fraternity men and women who are making changes in the world? Why not give them a reason to credit their fraternity or sorority for helping them “make it”?

That’d be a way better PR move than attempting to cash in on their success years after they’ve graduated from college.