How the Internet is Changing Alumni Communications Strategies


“What percentage of your staff’s time, resources, and energy is being spent on traditional communications strategies versus the Internet and e-mail? What impact is Web 2.0 having on alumni affairs and development? Explore these and other related questions. Take a look at what some of our peer institutions are already doing in these areas.

Main point: Alumni communications is now multichannel and personalized — it used to be like a bullhorn; now, it’s a collaboration.

Communications goals

  • Build awareness.
  • Change behavior.
  • Strengthen relationships.

Using the data

  • Measure effectiveness.
  • Guage resource productivity.
  • Target segments with programs.


  • Audience: mass to niche.
  • Cost: high (print and mail) to low (Web-based).
  • Engagement: passive to active.
  • Voice: institutional to personal.
  • Communications group role: publisher to moderator — if you don’t moderate the discussion, someone else will … good or bad.

Key concepts

  • Set business objectives.
  • Usability, design, and content.
  • Creatively use new tools.
  • Be selective.

Book recommendation: “Don’t Make Me Think” (Steve Krug)

What are your business objectives?

  • Ensure online alumni community is best in class.
  • Leverage community to strengthen relationships.
  • Raise awareness of alumni making a difference in the world.
  • Increase alumni activity.

Usability study

  • Interviews.
    • 45 participants (1.5 hour each).
    • Multiple geographic locations.
    • Representative demographics.
  • Survey
    • Web-based survey publicized by e-mail and posted on your site.
    • Keep it short (25 questions).
    • Site audits of your peers/industry leaders

Behavioral models/user types

  • Harvard developed six primary personas across three scales:
    • Career status: recent grad, mid-career, retiree.
    • Location: local, regional, far away.
    • Activity: high, low.

Moving to new channels


  • Easy to set up.
  • Push content.
  • Not well understood.
  • Slow adoption rate. [JC: not intended for end-users.]

Blogs and wikis

  • User-generated copy.


  • Producing is now pretty inexpensive.
  • Quality is less important.
  • Keep it short.

Staffing and resource implications

  • Communications staff structure changes.
  • Shifting budget: print vs. Web (Harvard: 80% print, 20% digital).
  • CMS options:;;;
  • Video hosting:; YouTube.