November 09, 2007
Merrimack College - Celebrating Merrimack Marriages
I've posted several previous blog articles about the importance to recognize all alumni. Giving your alumni their fifteen minutes of fame is a terrific tool to use, and it's one that I think that all alumni associations should include in their alumni online community. I've talked before about different methods that can be used to do this - from posting pictures with short stories about the alumni, to alumni interviews, to linking to alumni websites, and more. However, recently I came across Merrimack College's online community, and they're recognizing their alumni in a unique way that I love.
Merrimack College is giving their alumni their fifteen minutes of fame by recognizing those that marry other alums. What a terrific idea! They have a web page dedicated to this, and they list the names of their alumni, along with their graduation year, with a short blurb beneath detailing when they were married, how they met, and a little additional information about the couple - such as if they have children, etc. And, not surprising, most listed fall within a couple years of each other age wise.
I also like that Merrimack College has created a special event around their married alumni called "Alumni Valentine's Day Celebration." Visitors can click on a link to see photos snapped at the event. It looks like a lot of fun! There's also a link to read a press release about the event, and one for alumni to send their love story in to be posted. Also, special recognition is given to those marred at the "Collegiate Church of the Christ the Teacher" on campus. All in all, Merrimack College had done a terrific job in recognizing their alumni in this unique, fun, and romantic web page.
I can't express how important it is to recognize your alumni. When you do so, you'll find the rewards to be a more connected alumni, higher participation, and greater contributions.
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
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!
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!
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!
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
September 19, 2007
Engage More Alumni by Live Casting!
Drury College is recognizing alumni for their outstanding participation during their alumni weekend. I've talked before how important it is for alumni associations to honor and recognize their alumni, so this is great. However, Drury College is missing out by narrowing their thinking to local instead of global. With just a little bit of effort, they could turn their alumni weekend into a global event. How? By live casting!
I live only thirty minutes away from my alma mater, but most of the time, it might as well be 3,000 miles. There are many events held that I'd love to attend, but can't due to meetings or travel time. I've often become excited about a speaker, dignitary, or celebrity who's going to be talking, but find that I'll be out of town on the date of the event. When this happens, it doesn't matter how excited I am - I can't attend, so I have to miss out. How many alumni wish they could attend an event, but can't - either because they live too far away from their alma mater, or as in my case, they're traveling?
It doesn't have to be this way! Today, you can live cast your own events and make them available for others. Not only for alumni, either! Alumni who are speaking at their alma mater, or are receiving an award, likely have family members that live too far away to attend. Maybe Grandma would love to be there, but is unable to travel. With live casting, Grandma can see the event from the comfort of her own home. It's not just family and friends! Colleagues could be notified and watch the award ceremony/event as it happens.
Live casting your events will engage more people. An engaged alumni is a connected alumni, and a connected alumni is a more-giving alumni. So, why aren't you doing it? Visit www.upstream.tv or www.mogulus.com to see free technology that will let you broadcast your events live!
September 12, 2007
Use Video to Bring Events to Alumni
Our industry is not using video nearly enough. Video allows you to connect your alumni, no matter where they live, any time of day, 24/7/365. This, on its own, is amazing, but when you consider the abilities to engage, connect, and share with your alumni, plus the benefits that will result, video has a power that little else does. When you combine the power of video with the power of the Internet - you have the best of all worlds.
Lately, I've been talking about a concept called NET Centered Alumni Associations. The idea behind this is that you can serve more alumni via the Internet than you can through events. Recently, I ran across this really interesting article in The Advocate about an alumni band who is going to be performing in October. As I read this article, it occurred to me that the thousands of alumni that can't make this performance would love to see if the old members still have "it." Easy to do! A couple of video cameras managed by a few alumni can capture the entire event. Imagine the response if this video was available for viewing from the alumni online community? Add a place for comments, and watch the fun begin.
You can do this too! Have alumni videotape events, students could do the editing, add splashy music and/or graphics, and you have a showstopper guaranteed to pull alumni interest. If you really want to have some fun, use a laptop with a broadband card, and a web cam, and offer a live cast of the event in your alumni online community.
Videos can be amazing tools to pull your alumni together, and when they're used to bring events to those who can't attend, they'll feel even more connected. Once connected and engaged, your alumni will return to the alumni Web site more frequently to see what's new!
September 07, 2007
Austin High School - Using Video to Remind Alumni of a Common Bond
Austin High School in Austin, Minnesota, has been working on a video for the past four years for their students, alumni, and faculty. This film, titled, "Reflections: A History of Austin High School," is ready to make its debut on September 16th in an Austin, MN, theater. The video showcases Austin High's fight song and school song, pictures, other music, interviews with retired coaches and teachers, and even some footage of the school being built in 1940. In addition to the public viewing of the film, DVDs will also be on sale, both at the showing of the film and also by order.
Video is a terrific way to remind alumni of a common bond - their alma mater, but it's also a great way to tell a story. Sharing special moments of the school's history; interviews with alumni, current students, and faculty; clips from events such as football games and dances; and pictures of points of interest on campus are all bound to tug at the nostalgia factor for all alumni. Add in the school song and jazzy graphics and you have a tremendous way to bring your alumni back into the fold.
While selling the DVD copies is a great way to bring in some revenue, you could also allow your alumni to view the video for free in your alumni online community and/or on YouTube. This would give alumni the opportunity to connect instantly, without waiting for a DVD to be mailed to them. And, once they view it for free, they may decide they want their own copy. Also, by offering it on the alumni site, you could then give the alumni the opportunity to rate the video and comment on it. By doing this, you open more paths for your alumni to connect on.
One last thought is to have your students and faculty create the video for you. Not only would students have a lot of fun with this, but it's yet another way to begin the transition from "student" to "alumni," because the students will see firsthand some of what is available to alumni. Plus, having the students and faculty create the video is very cost effective.
Developing a video for your alumni is a lot of fun, and by sharing a story with them, you'll remind them of the bond that exists. This bond is critical in your ongoing relationship with your alumni.
August 31, 2007
Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Next Generation eCards
Many alumni associations are offering electronic postcards to their alumni. This is a terrific method of connecting your alumni to the school and increasing their nostalgia at the same time. And this is especially true when the postcards contain images of college life, campus scenery, and other shots that will elicit strong memories for your alumni. Plus, they're fun!
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has expanded their offering of electronic postcards, and categorized the types of postcards available. They now offer nearly fifty different views of campus spread over eight different collections, which are viewable in their online showcase! When's the last time you received an electronic greeting card? Many people, as soon as they receive one, turn around and find one to send back to the original sender. MIT is giving their alumni a way to connect with each other and reminisce about their time on campus!
One thing you need to think about is constantly expanding and improving this service. Look at what works and then make it bigger. Today, you need to be thinking about multimedia eCards. With images and video, you can create an entire story to send to your alumni. Add some sound and it's even better. This is a great way to use user-generated content too!
One potential third party tool to use is Splashcast.com. Your alumni could mix and mash. Another example is Eyespot.com, where you can edit and mix your videos with other videos on Eyespot. In fact, with the tools they have, you could easily edit video images of campus, including overlays and audio, and then send them off to alumni. Great stuff!
Your alumni are being pulled in every which way, every day. The Internet offers them a place to go for anything they want to see. Use your creativity, think outside the box, and deliver more to your alumni. Electronic postcards and multimedia eCards are a fantastic method to use to connect, engage, and communicate with your alumni.