Let's Get Real: Alumni News is Not Actually Alumni Engagement

Pete Schauer

Marketing Director

We hate being the bearer of bad news. We really do. But if it can make a difference for our marketing clients, we can’t hold back. And that’s why we have to point this out: alumni news is not the same as alumni engagement.

If your higher institution attempts to generate school spirit, engagement and donations largely through alumni news, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, it’s a tactic that can be ineffective. Simply sharing stories of what past alums have achieved isn’t enough to make the reader get out and donate or volunteer their time. You need something more, and that’s why it’s crucial that you tie your content to specific goals.

Alumni content is NOT a wasted effort, but you can do more with it.

Creating content for your alumni isn’t the wrong thing to do. This content is what keeps graduates connected to your school and each other. It’s also an excellent means of communication that allows you to go into further detail about campus renovations, program changes, professor bios and more.

Not to mention, many alumni magazines are stocked with original photos that can’t be found on the web. When the alumni magazine rolls around, readers expect to be holding something truly unique.

What needs to change is having measurable goals connected to the news that you share. Higher institutions tend to write alumni news content because it’s easy and familiar. It’s also somewhat effective at fostering stronger relationships between alums and the university and the alums themselves.

For instance, when a fellow graduate achieves something big, their peers can’t help but feel happy for them. These familial ties are always present, and though the relationships that alumni have with their alma maters change from time to time, those ties can’t be broken. An education is forever.

Let’s dive into some of the ways that you can be more effective at increasing engagement through your alumni news.

Start by thinking about how you want alumni to get involved.

The first step in this process is to define the things you want your alumni to do. Ideas might include:

  • Make a donation to your school.

  • Volunteer time on campus, such as helping out at a regional club or joining the reunion class committee.

  • Attend a specific event, such as a reunion, homecoming or sporting event.

  • Update contact information in the alumni database.

  • Contribute content to your institutional blog.

  • Engage on social media by liking, sharing or retweeting your posts.

List out content ideas based on your goals.

Next, think about the types of content that will help you achieve your goals. If you are planning a reunion and want to increase the number of students that attend the event, your content should focus on things like:

  • Success stories from previous reunions.

  • How alumni can participate. Be sure to include all ways of participation, as not all alums live local or will be able to attend.

  • Content that details the benefits of attending a reunion, such as networking opportunities or top 10s.

  • Excite alumni by inviting someone special to the reunion and write a biography on that person.

Get your content into the right hands with a distribution strategy.

Once your content is created, you need to get it into the right hands at the right time. Some of your content might go in your newsletter. Others may be posted on your website or social media pages. Try to post your content on various channels so that the different audiences are seeing unique posts.

For example, LinkedIn is a professional social network so your followers will probably want to see information that helps them strengthen their resumes, network with others and move up the career ladder. A post on Facebook can be more friendly and laidback, perhaps containing information about your homecoming parade and football game.

Track and measure your performance.

The final piece to the puzzle is tracking and measuring the success of your content marketing. If you create a piece of content with the goal of increasing alumni donations, you need to calculate donations made from a certain timeframe and compare them to what you would normally see. Or, if you requested that alumni update their contact information, measure what percentage of people did so.

It’s not always easy to measure content performance, and there is certainly no magic bullet. Yet by using an analytics program like Google Analytics, you can get a better idea of what types of things are working and what are not. Of course, you can’t overlook the importance of time and how your content engages alumni in the long run.

In the end, make sure you are not just writing to write.

Alumni news is safe and familiar, which is why many higher institutions have continued on this path. Unfortunately, if you don’t connect your content to specific engagement goals, you’re halting your growth. Just because an alum picks up your magazine and reads an article does not mean they are engaged. They need reason to be engaged, and that’s why everything you publish should have a clear, measurable metric attached to it.

About the Author: Pete Schauer

Born and raised at the Jersey Shore, Pete Schauer is the Marketing Director at SEMGeeks. He holds a M.A. in Digital Communications from William Paterson University and has 8+ years in the digital space with companies such as Bleacher Report and Social Media Today in addition to SEMGeeks. His background includes creative and professional writing as well as strategic digital marketing communications and management.

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