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October 30, 2007

Honor Alumni and Increase Contributions!

You've heard me say it before - but I'm going to say it again.  Recognizing your alumni for their achievements on your alumni website isn't just nice; it is very, very smart!  Marshall University has developed an engaging front page of their campus website that could easily be used for alumni associations to recognize alumni achievements.  Take a look!

Marshall University's website front page shows HUGE images of smiling student faces scrolling across the screen.  Viewers have the ability to click on any one of the pictures, and when they do, a short story the person wants to tell pops up.  It's engaging, involving, and it focuses on the people of Marshall University.  It's a terrific method!

You can do the same on your alumni website!  After all, this is what your alumni association is all about: GREAT PEOPLE doing GREAT THINGS!  Capitalize on this, and you'll soon find plenty of alumni with stories to tell, and plenty of alumni who will come to the website regularly to check the focused alumni out and read their stories.  When you do this, not only will you be developing a way to make your alumni "stars," but you'll be showing all of your alumni that your association is fun.

Check out this concept by visiting Marshall University's website.  Then, begin thinking about how you could highlight and honor your alumni.  You could do one alum per week, two, three, or more!  This technique can be used in many different ways, and all would bring success.  You will increase alumni satisfaction, interest, and contributions! 

Let me know your ideas as you mull this over.  And, if you create something similar, post a link - I'd love to go check it out.  Making heroes of your alumni is a concept I am 100 percent behind - and you should be too!

Posted by Don Philabaum on October 30, 2007 at 07:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | Links to this Article

October 29, 2007

Newsletter Video Captures a MILLION Words!

Do you send, either by regular mail or by email, a newsletter to your alumni each month?  If so, how many hours do you spend each and every month preparing the newsletter?  After all, you have to write it, proof it, run it by others, and then worry that you missed something.  All of this can add up to a lot of man hours each month.  Who reads your newsletter, anyway?  Is all this work in creating a product well spent?  Maybe, maybe not, but here is another idea to consider:

Ramapo College of New Jersey decided to move into the video era and use video for their monthly newsletter.  This is a fantastic idea, so I had to share it!  Each month, Ramapo College alumni conduct interviews for their monthly Newsletter Video.  Once they're ready, they go on the alumni website, so it's easy for alumni to find, view, and enjoy.  This is such an easy technique that can also be a lot of fun to do!  So far, Ramapo alumni have interviewed department chairs, student government leaders, faculty, and more.  Check it out!

If you're interested in the idea, I'd definitely recommend it.  Your challenge will be to include changing content, so that each month is new and different than the previous month.  However, it's a great project for your PR/Journalism students.  Once you get it set up properly, it can be their responsibility to keep it going.  Everyone wins in this scenario.  You get the content you want for your alumni website.  The students get real life experience.  And - your alumni have terrific video newsletters to view each and every month.

Think about the different ways you could utilize this concept in creating video content for your alumni to consume.  I'd love to hear more, so drop me a line.

Posted by Don Philabaum on October 29, 2007 at 08:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

October 28, 2007

George Mason University - Website Design

Simple, fast website design gets alumni where they need to go easier and quicker.  In the twelve years that I've worked with alumni professionals, I've seen their website designs go through a series of phases.  The first phase was the "Mona Lisa" design phase.  Everyone wanted their website design to be incredible looking with amazing graphics, great lettering, etc.  Unfortunately, these great-looking websites weren't always very functional, because as they were being built, the focus was on the looks, and not on how well alumni would actually be able to use the website.

Over time, we encouraged the industry to go toward more of a portal design, one that replicated a newspaper like USA Today.  The reason?  With lots of photos, short stories, engaging tools, and techniques to capture alumni participation via talkback and rating systems, overall participation is higher, as is the interest of your alumni.  After all, you want to give your alumni the tools they need, but you also want them to be able to find that information easily - without a lot of fuss. 

More and more alumni websites are using this simple, fast design.  In fact, recently I came across the George Mason University alumni website.  They've designed their front page to be a master index of what an alum can do while at the site.  They have an easy index along the side of the front page, so alumni can quickly pick out what they're looking for, click on it, and find it in mere seconds.  It's simple, eye catching, functional, and is filled with news, content, and other areas of interest for their alumni.

If you are looking for ideas on how to get alumni where they want without thinking too heavily about it, it's a terrific technique to consider

Posted by Don Philabaum on October 28, 2007 at 07:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

October 26, 2007

Promote Your MySpace Page On Your Alumni Website!

How many visitors do you have at your alumni website?  Why not remind them that you have your own MySpace page?  Besides, MySpace is huge, so many of your alumni are probably already familiar with it.  In fact, many of them likely have their own page and are visiting MySpace on a regular basis anyway.  Why not combine that visit with a visit to your MySpace page?  When your alumni register on your MySpace page, you have another opportunity to share content, news, and other information, but in this case - from a different source. 

My goal would be to get 100 percent of my alumni also registered on my MySpace page for that very reason.  It's all about marketing!  The more ways you can reach someone from delivery channels, the more successful your campaigns will be.  It's definitely something to think about and put into practice.  MySpace is a powerful tool, and if you already have a page there, it only makes sense to advertise that on your alumni website. 

Having said that, Fayetteville State University is one of the first I've run across that has actually placed their MySpace logo on their alumni site.  They encourage their alumni to visit their MySpace page by posting the link, along with an invitation to FSU Alumni and Friends.  And on their MySpace page, they encourage visitors to check out their website.  Both sites complement each other and, even more importantly - will drive traffic in both directions.

So, if you already have a MySpace page, think about ways you can use it to complement your alumni website, and vice versa.  If you don't already have a MySpace page - what are you waiting for?  MySpace is easy to learn, free of charge, has lots of great tools, and gives you the opportunity to create a network easily.  Taking advantage of both your alumni website and your MySpace page is a fantastic way to communicate and connect to and with your alumni!

Posted by Don Philabaum on October 26, 2007 at 12:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | Links to this Article

October 20, 2007

Yearbooks Online Will Bring Your Alumni Back To Your Website!

I say it all the time, but I'll say it again: our behaviors are changing and we are becoming a digital society.  We like our content online, when we want it - anyplace, anytime.  One of your challenges is to continually add content to your online community that will engage, connect, and encourage your alumni to keep coming back.  We've shared some techniques for adding content to your online community in pervious blog postings, but I wanted to give you another idea.  Ramapo College of New Jersey is a terrific example of this idea.  So, what am I talking about?  Putting your yearbooks online!

Ramapo College of New Jersey has designed their online yearbook website so you can easily click on the year you want to view.  Alumni love memorabilia and being able to view their yearbooks online increases their feelings of nostalgia.  It's a fantastic method for connecting to your alumni!  Take a look through Ramapo College's online yearbooks and you'll quickly see the benefits.  If you want to bring your alumni back to your website - scan those yearbooks!

This is a simple way to get started.  Simply scan a dozen pictures of each book and then over time, gradually add more photos.  As you continue to develop this strategy, you can also add technology to allow alumni to post their own photos, comment on the photos, and rate the photos.  When you give your alumni the opportunity to connect with each other, you're increasing the potential of your online community, alumni participation, and alumni giving.

Ramapo College of New Jersey has reminded us how you can take small steps to get a project noticed.  Before too long, they'll have more photos and more years captured online for their alumni to view.  What about you?  Have you considered putting your yearbooks online?  I think you should! 

Posted by Don Philabaum on October 20, 2007 at 03:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | Links to this Article

October 19, 2007

Marketing Strategy and Video Testimonials

Arizona State University has embarked on an ambitious and very professional marketing strategy.  What they're doing is creating video testimonials of students, alumni, faculty, and others to use as a part of their marketing efforts.  By focusing on the individual stories of people involved with Arizona State University, they're opening a virtual door so viewers can get a "real-life" peek at university life.   

In addition, these videos give the viewers a real world look at the effects the university has had on them, their careers, and others around them.  This is a compelling message they're sharing in a personal, up-close, and exciting manner.  Videos are powerful content that can be used in a variety of ways, from student recruitment, to fundraising, to advocacy programs, and much more!  Videos bring your viewers up close, so they're a part of the action and feel more involved simply by watching. 

We no longer live in a brochure world, but rather in an increasing technological one where our resources to connect to others are many.  Your college has a significant amount of these resources in equipment, talent, and opportunity.  You can recreate this idea at a very small cost.  Check out what Arizona State University did and do it on YOUR campus.  Then, use the content on your online community and in your annual giving marketing programs.

Videos are an excellent way to connect to prospective students, alumni, and others interested in the college.  By taking the time to create a series of videos to use within your marketing strategy, you'll quickly see the benefits.  What are some of your ideas for using video to reach your alumni, connect them, and get them excited about the alumni association and their alma mater?  I'd love to hear them, so chime in!

Posted by Don Philabaum on October 19, 2007 at 12:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

October 16, 2007

Have Fun and Show Your Staff's Personality!

I've seen hundreds of alumni websites and nearly all of them have a page dedicated to the alumni office staff.  This page normally lists the names, titles, and contact information of the alumni staff.  Some contain a picture, but many do not.  Usually, what's shown is fairly dry with only the needed facts.  There's nothing wrong with this, but if you take the time to add a bit of personality to this page, not only will you and your staff have a lot of fun - but your alumni will too.

Neil Goodell, Director of Alumni Relations of Northern Arizona State University, has done just that by taking their alumni office staff page a step further.  Neil encourages his staff to include zany photos of each other.  His staff has embraced the idea and has posted fun pictures on the alumni association staff page.  One colleague is sitting fully dressed in a rubber boat with an oar, others have crazy hats or are striking crazy poses, and Neil is dressed in full western garb - complete with a hat!  It looks as if all of them had a lot of fun thinking up their photos.

This is a great way to give alumni a feeling that the alumni association is all about fun!  By adding flair, personality, and a spark of fun to your alumni website, even on the staff page, you'll see alumni coming back more often to see what else is new and exciting.  Be creative and think out of the box - your alumni will love it!

Do you have any ideas to add fun and zaniness to your website?  If you do, I'd love to hear about it!  Jot me an email or leave a comment.  Maybe we can get some other ideas up for making alumni websites a fun place to visit

Posted by Don Philabaum on October 16, 2007 at 12:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

October 15, 2007

Bring Your Alumni Back To Campus Using Web Cams

Our behavior is changing.  We are living in a "digitally now" era more than ever before, and as we become more accustomed to it, it continues to change and affect our behavior.  The resources available today give you a fantastic opportunity to engage your alumni and bring them back to campus as often as you want!  How is this possible?  By using web cams!

The University of Texas Medical Branch is already using web cams to give their alumni a birds-eye view of campus.  They have three web cams set up at various areas of campus, and they've made it really easy for viewers to check out what's happening!  Beyond the three areas the University of Texas Medical Branch already has set up with web cams, they also ask for suggestions for other areas to use web cams in.

The great thing about web cams is they truly do give any alum a birds-eye view of what's happening at that moment.  Consider placing web cams strategically around your campus where events and activities are occurring.  Some ideas are:

1.  Student Commons
2.  Football Field
3.  Student Recreation Center
4.  Student Center
5.  President's Office!

Okay - just kidding on the president's office!  Though, I'm sure others would love to see what the president does all day long.  Heck, now that I'm seriously thinking about it, a web cam in the president's office could be a really fun campaign to run - A Day in the Life of the President! 

The point is to be creative and to use web cams as a way to give your alumni a method to reconnect to the campus and to their memories of life on campus.  When your alumni feel more connected, amazing things happen.  Give web cams a try and let me know how it works out!

Posted by Don Philabaum on October 15, 2007 at 12:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article