March 27, 2018

The most efficient ways to stay in touch with alumni

Getting news across to students can be fairly easy if you post in enough different places. However, once they leave the school corridors and stop looking at their intranet and their inbox, the task can seem harder but is just as important. You still have several ways of reaching out to your former students. Here they are, ranked from lowest-effort to highest-effort initiatives.

Through alumni associations

How important are alumni associations to your institution? You might want to delegate the outreach efforts to them. Alumni will trust and want to help fellow former students, and you can rely on a small number of alumni ambassadors to communicate in your place.

Going through alumni organisations means that you will spend less time and energy working on your outreach efforts and getting news across and that the results will be outstanding. It is more of a long-term option, as you will need to onboard the first generation very carefully. Once the initial onboarding is taken care of, though, the alumni ambassadors from every year group will learn from the previous ones. The transition will go smoothly, meaning you can simply check in once in a while on what they do.

Focus instead on keeping a good relationship with these organisations. Help them manage the alumni database and sponsor alumni events, from cocktails to yoga classes and including seminars. You can even give them their own intranet, as emlyon business school did, so they will keep in touch with each other – and with you.

Social media

Most year groups have their own social media group, where students communicate among themselves. The two main networks used for these groups are LinkedIn and Facebook. On LinkedIn, former students will be glad to welcome you and see you post, as long as you try to limit your publication frequency and don’t drown them in official announcements. This is the solution that was chosen by Henley Business School at the University of Reading, according to The Economist.

On Facebook, this can be a little bit more tricky, but there’s an easy fix. Students might ask for their classmates’ notes or have complaints about administrative questions, that they do not want to share with the administration. The easiest way to know if this is the case is to reach out to the administrators of the group to ask if they would mind you joining.

On the longer term and to reach everyone at once instead of going through year groups, you can also create a social media group for all your alumni, that students will most often join while they are still enrolled. In there, you can announce events or the school’s big news, for example!

Email

When people sign up for your school, they do so with a personal email address. Try sending alumni emails to personal addresses. There are, however, a few limitations to consider.

To make the transition smoother and protect privacy, make sure that you ask for every student’s permission to email them. Do it through their intranet, registration form or institutional email address, before they graduate and leave the institution.

When they graduate, you can give them the option of getting news on their personal address, on their institutional address, or none at all. This way, you comply with privacy laws and you reach out to them on their preferred outlets. This database must be updated regularly: once a year, send an email to your whole database asking which email address they would rather use for alumni communications.

Calling

Your institution has former students’ phone numbers, which usually don’t change often. For the most important information, where you need an answer at all costs, you may want to take the time to call them. Calling alumni is a highly efficient, but time-consuming, strategy.

The best way to add phone calls to your outreach efforts is as a last reminder. For example, let’s say you need your alumni to answer a placement survey. Post on a social media group and send an email, then wait for a couple of weeks, with maybe one or two reminders in the meantime. Then, phone those who have not answered yet. Sometimes, if they don’t seem engaged, you can even go as far as to walk them through the survey on the phone.

Always assume good intent. The people you call might have simply not seen the news: tell them about it as you have never sent out emails and social media announcements before.

When you need to reach out to your former students, you get the highest effort to results ratio by going through alumni associations. Other low-effort solutions include social media and email. If you need everyone to know about it, devise a reminder strategy based on phone calls, which is time-consuming but yields first-rate results.

Posted by
Lexane Sirac
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