Don't Sweat Budget Crunch
December 15, 2011
MILWAUKEE -- Funds for exhibit space and advertising have been shrinking the last few years. For recruiters who rely on the ready availability of money, this fiscal year's reduced budget will present a challenge.
Three senior noncommissioned officers who have endured similar conditions in their recruiting careers explain how the situation could actually improve the quality of recruiting. They contend some recruiters have been overrelying on funds and neglecting networking responsiblities.
"One of the most important things that recruiters don't do is develop (centers of influence)," said Master Sgt. Daniel Gore, Milwaukee Recruiting Battalion operations noncommissioned officer-in-charge. "The COI development has been missing because of the amount of money that we used to have."
Winning over key people at job fairs or public events could help recruiters participate without cost to the government. A COI will want to help a recruiter not just because he supports Army recruiting but because he likes the recruiter.
"Developing trust and rapport with COIs needs to be re-emphasized," Gore said.
In fiscal year 2011, the Milwaukee Battalion monetarily supported 48 job fairs and exhibit space events altogether, costing an average of $309. That kind of support will not be duplicated this year.
"Recruiters now have to be a little smarter. Just because there's little or no money doesn't mean they can't do these things on their own," said Master Sgt. Julio DeLeon, battalion senior master trainer.
Recruiters should get to know their local Partnership for Youth Success firms, ROTC leaders, and Army Medical Department partners who actively recruit at job fairs or exhibit space events.
"Our recruiters can pair up and attend their (PaYS, ROTC, AMEDD) recruiting events if they have a good relationship with these partners," said DeLeon.
Gore said he often teamed up with his AMEDD partners when he was recruiting.
"AMEDD goes to public events looking for physicians, but if interested people who are not physicians approach the table then a recruiter can talk with that prospect," Gore said.
Master Sgt. John Lowery, battalion Reserve operations NCO, suggests collecting reports of how much money a college received from Soldiers who use tuition assistance or veterans who use the GI Bill.
"If schools can see the long-term benefit of students joining the Army, then they might waive job fair fees for recruiters," Lowery said.
Another functional area traditionally covered by Advertising & Public Affairs funds are Total Army Involvement in Recruiting teams. The number of teams available this year will signficantly decrease but that does not preclude recruiters from leveraging local Reserve units.
For example, the Pathway to Success campaign at Rockford, Ill., in September 2011 benefitted from two Reserve units willing to help the recruiting mission. Teams of drill sergeants and combat medics supported the event without cost to the battalion.
But recruiters cannot assume a good working relationship exists by default.
"That's where a company commander can help out a recruiter," DeLeon said. "Company commanders should improve their relatlionship with their local (Troop Program Unit) commander."
Lowery recounted how he once hand-receipted a dog tag machine to a TPU when the unit conducted an annual Soldier Readiness Program.
"Dog tags are a big issue during an SRP because of the paperwork and time involved. But if a recruiter provides a dog tag machine and a TPU commander sees a recruiter there, then he is going to give that recruiter what he needs for his mission," Lowery said. "My station got anything we wanted from that TPU from lending that one dog tag machine."
Whether recruiters have ready access to a dog tag machine is not nearly as important as recruiters finding ways to make a difference to their TPUs. Showing initiative and cultivating a relationship is what counts, Lowery said.
In spite of the limited funds, Gore said he does not think it will hurt the recruiters ability to make mission.
"If a Soldier is out there hustling doing his job, making his phone calls, conduting appointments, using COIs, combining efforts with AMEDD and ROTC, then recruiters do not have to worry about a lack of advertising," Gore said.
A Soldier who makes his presence known and builds relationships with key people is the best form of advertising, said Gore.
When Gore was a recruiter he took a donated holiday tree to a school every year. Lowery had recruiters volunteer to receive tickets at high school football games or work the concession stands wearing an Army polo. Those activities resulted in raising Army awareness and building relationships that could be leveraged to gain school access.
"Word of mouth goes a lot further than a billboard," Gore said. "In my opinion, it is the attitude of a recruiter that determines his success."