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Some groups go beyond posters to recruit members

Any student on any given day is likely to come across a variety of advertisements for different groups on campus. Whether it’s fliers on kiosks or sidewalk chalking, campus is littered with publicity.

For each of the organizations registered on campus, getting their message out in an efficient manner is a top priority. But sometimes, the best advertising is the one others do for you.

Cru, one of the largest Christian organizations on campus, is one group whose success is mostly due to word of mouth advertising, according to Michael Brown, Cru’s adviser.

He said that Cru continues to grow because of friendships.

“It’s rare that someone comes who hasn’t been invited by a friend,” he said. “Friendships breed involvement, it’s all about people.”

While 250 to 300 students typically attend Cru every Thursday night, reasons for going differ.

Angie Juricak, sophomore, recently joined Cru.

“The first time I learned about Cru was at Campus Fest. I really didn’t know what to think about Cru before Campus Fest,” she said. “What made me truly decide to go was the feeling of safety from people that already attended Cru on a regular basis.”

Susan Kleine, an associate professor of marketing, said word-of-mouth advertising is successful because it’s more credible than regular advertising messages.

“Word of mouth often involves storytelling which makes the message much more vivid and memorable than an advertisement can,” she said. “So the message has a more lasting impact on the person.”

Another well-known advertising technique Cru uses is the Cru card, which provides students with discounts on items purchased at businesses such as Sam B’s, Jed’s, Pita Pit and others around Bowling Green. The front of the card has information about Cru’s meeting time.

“We do hear that people who get hold of a Cru card will come,” Brown said. “But very rarely do we advertise.”

Kleine said the goal of advertising is to find a creative way to get people talking about an event, which creates “buzz” and attracts interest and positive attention.

One way Cru created “buzz” was through a recent event in conjunction with Marble Slab, the ice cream company on Wooster Street. Students donated a dollar to any non-profit organization, such as Habitat for Humanity, in return for a small bowl of ice cream. The event boosted Cru’s name recognition as more than 650 students attended.

Alisha Biler, a senior and Cru member, agreed that most people hear about Cru through word-of-mouth and attend with friends.

“It’s not the type of thing that people will go to by themselves,” she said. “Mainly because of preconceived notions of Christian organizations; people don’t always feel comfortable showing up alone.”

Those preconceived notions include ideas of some religious promoters being biased or pushy, which may be why word-of-mouth is a better advertising tool than others for religious organizations, according to Kleine.

“When a student hears a friend or acquaintance talk about involvement in one of the groups on campus, they are more open to the message than if they encountered an ad or someone selling the organization,” she said.

Ryan Rahrig, a graduate student and vice president of Creed, a Catholic organization on campus, said the group grew also through word of mouth.

Creed began with three undergraduate girls who started a prayer group and, as word spread, the organization started growing and now has 60 members, according to Rahrig.

Some of Creed’s other advertising methods include fliers with organization information and meeting times, weekly newsletters, e-mail invites, chalking and banners.

“We also send e-mails to Catholic high schools to see what students may be coming to Bowling Green,” he said.

Teresa Lopez, junior, said she’s seen lots of advertisements for Cru, as well as advertisements for Creed. But she thinks there isn’t enough information about the groups themselves in the ads.

“I had no idea what they were about,” she said. “I found out more at Campus Fest. With Cru you see so much, so you think maybe it’s a big organization and it makes you want to know more about it.”

Kleine agreed, explaining any organization must make sure messages communicate the organization’s benefits that attract members, communicate them in a way that is credible and believable, and make sure to communicate what is unique about the organization.

“Advertising is a good way to get across information and reach a lot of people at once, but publicity and personal influence are better at persuading people to take action,” Kleine said.

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