In the good old days of college recruiting, it was all pretty straight-forward.
You wrote a letter, and they’d read it.
You called them on the phone, and they’d talk to you.
You went on a home visit, two parents and a polite, enthusiastic recruit were there to meet with you. (And the parents let their kid do the talking). That’s about the same time we Liked Ike, and gasoline was 25-cents a gallon.
Today, things are different.
Parents are acting as agents and public relations representatives, recruits mumble on the phone because they’re busying talking with their thumbs on multiple social media networks, and they’ll only read your letters and emails if you’re telling them the things they want to know the way they want it told to them.
Talking to recruits – something many college coaches are preparing to do with a new class of prospects in the not-too-distant future – has become a new and more complicated adventure. So today, I wanted to give you some advice on how best to launch your new communication plan with your new class of recruits. You’ll have to pick and choose which ideas apply best to you, the way you talk, and your approach with your prospects, but I think you’ll find this a good beginning to developing a better roadmap to connecting with this generation of teenager (and maybe even their parents who are acting as their kid’s agent):
- Be o.k. with asking them which social media platforms they use, and if it’s permissible to communicate with them through those networks. Our expanding research on this topic indicates one very important “rule” that this generation seems to gravitate around: There are different rules for different kids. About half of the recruits we are hearing from indicate that they have absolutely no problems with a coach communicating with them through following them or direct-messaging them on social media. The other half, on the other hand, have big problems with coaches who want to use social media to follow them or communicate with them. My advice: Ask your prospect what they’d be o.k. with. Keep it simple, keep it direct, and let them know the reason you’re asking them is because you want to be a coach who wants to communicate with them the way they want to be communicated with (they’ll appreciate it more than you can imagine).
- Be o.k. with talking to your prospect’s parents. As we explain in our On-Campus Workshops we conduct for athletic departments and coaches, one of the big differences between this generation of recruits compared to past generations of recruits is this: Not only do they want their parents to be involved in the recruiting process, they expect their parents to be involved in the recruit process. While this is a frustrating fact for coaches, it’s a fact nonetheless. So, my advice is probably what you’d expect: You should be o.k. with talking to your prospect’s parents in place of your prospect. Not every time, all the time…but most of the time. They’ll usually accurately speak for their son or daughter, and actually give you more intelligent, useful information.
- Be o.k. with texting instead of talking. In an effort to make you hate where this conversation is going even more than you did after reading the first two pieces of advice, I present the pièce de résistance: Most prospects would probably prefer to “talk” to you via text messaging instead of talking on the phone with you. I think you shouldn’t make too much of this inconvenient new fact of life; I guess the question I’d ask is, would you rather have a rather one-way six minute conversation on the phone where you do 90% of the talking? Or, would you want to have an information-rich exchange over an hour by text message? I know which one will carry the recruiting process forward (and so do you). If you sense that a prospect is not going to be comfortable talking on the phone, ask them if they’d rather have text message sessions with you. It’s not a sign that they are deficient or poor communicators, it’s a sign that they’ve grown up using different methods of communication. Don’t over-think it, Coach.
Those are the three most important beginning communication strategies as you attempt to deepen your connection with this next class of prospects. Just make sure you’re playing by their rules as much as you, and not necessarily yours.
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