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Why alumni are essential to your PR strategy

McKinsey’s ‘war for talent’ isn’t restricted to businesses anymore; it rages throughout the business education sector too. Business schools compete to attract the most talented students into their flagship programmes.

As a candidate sifts through their options, they are primarily looking for two things. What will their life look like in this particular programme, and will the course provide them with the necessary skills and qualifications to pursue the next phase of their career?

 

Leveraging alumni is a powerful part of schools’ PR strategies because it goes a long way to answering both of these questions. Plus, it achieves this in a way that feels natural and less advertorial.

A high level of alumni engagement communicates that former students still want to be associated with their alma mater and that the school is invested in maintaining a supportive community even after graduates exit the classroom.

In practical terms, alumni stories paint a vivid picture of life studying in a particular course, potential extracurricular activities, and the kind of networking opportunities available to you before and after graduating. All of this is useful information that could be crucial in someone deciding which business school they trust to offer the most valuable experience for them.

Five tips for how to engage alumni in your PR strategy

Categorise your alumni

The first step in crafting a media strategy that draws on alumni experiences is identifying the most suitable profiles. A useful starting point is to group alumni based on categories like programme, location, industry, and year of graduation.

For instance, if you have identified a specific country as a key market for student recruitment, it makes sense to look for opportunities to secure coverage in that country’s media. Having a pool of alumni with interesting careers from that country is a great place to begin.

From there, you can look in more detail at their stories. Have they won any awards or received recognition for their work? Have they overcome significant hardship? Did they use their programme to take their career in an unusual direction? These factors will determine what goes into your pitch to journalists.

Communicate effectively with alumni

It’s fantastic to have plenty of information on alumni who would be great for responding to media opportunities. However, this doesn’t translate into actually securing coverage unless your school is good at communicating with its alumni community.

Dialogue should continue even after graduation. You can keep former students up to date on what is happening at the school through newsletters, blogs, podcasts, social media, and in-person events. This creates lots of wonderful opportunities to showcase the expertise of your alumni, through guest lectures, panels, and career fairs.

Ultimately, alumni are likely to be keen to participate in media opportunities you have secured for them. It’s an opportunity to highlight their expertise, after all. However, it’s especially true in the case of more media-shy individuals that maintaining a strong connection with the school increases the chance they would be willing to speak to journalists about their time studying there, and all the doors it opened for them in their careers.

Do not be content to let your alumni drift away. Stay in touch so they remember the wonderful time they had studying at your school, and how foundational it was to their current career.

Ensure alumni are media-savvy

Some people are more comfortable engaging with the media than others. It may be due to their character, or perhaps some people have already undergone basic media training as part of their jobs.

Either way, it’s important to ensure the alum is prepared and knows exactly what is required of them for any opportunities you send their way. If it’s an interview, they should know in plenty of time which topics the journalist wants to focus on, and how the call will take place – Zoom? Teams? Mobile phone?

If they have to write comments or a short profile for themselves, you will need to provide them with details such as word count and editorial guidelines, as well as information on which experiences or topics the commissioning editor or journalist is most keen for them to focus on.

Share coverage on social media – with lots of tags

So, you’ve secured an excellent piece of coverage for one of your alumni. The article looks fantastic. You’ve shared it with the alum and they are very happy. What now?

Post about it on your social media channels, and remember to tag people. It’s still good to tag the featuring alum, even if you shared the article with them already over email. Don’t just rely on the publication to drum up attention. Make the most of your school’s network and their personal network.

Encourage people to engage with and repost the article. You could even suggest to the featured alum that they upload comments or testimonials on their own platforms, such as blogs, podcasts, or online forums. Just make sure that you obtain permission from the journalist and publication before republishing content from an article.

Some media outlets are fine with this as long as you include a link to the source article. Others like to protect the exclusive nature of their content.

Analyse the results

Exactly how you measure the success of PR work is a hotly debated question. There are many different metrics to look at, which, in isolation, paint only a partial picture. Nevertheless, there are some guiding principles to analysing the effectiveness of your PR strategy.

Monitor engagements on your social media posts. Compare the number of impressions, likes, and comments you receive. Check for reposts. Keep an eye on traffic to your school’s main website. Do you notice an uptick in all of these metrics when a piece of coverage is published? Do some publications or alumni trigger a bigger reaction than others?

It’s sometimes also worth reaching out to your alumni community for more qualitative feedback. How do they feel about the opportunities you’re presenting to them?

All of these factors will determine how you can tweak your strategy going forward.


jamie

Author: Jamie Hose

Having developed his craft as a writer under the guidance of world-renowned novelists, poets and playwrights, Jamie has also spent a couple of years as a content writer for a primarily American readership, with over 150 articles published under his name.

 

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