We see it all the time in the world of K-12 alumni outreach. School leaders and communication professionals will discover a new tool, such as a mobile app or social media network, and immediately decide to try it out and incorporate it into their marketing and outreach efforts.
We should always be on the lookout for new tools and methods that can help us communicate more effectively with our stakeholders. However, it's also important to avoid chasing the latest shiny object, especially if it doesn't quite fit with our current alumni outreach strategy.
Goals come first
That's why we recommend starting your alumni communication plan by establishing clear goals. Think to yourself: a year from now, how will we know that our alumni outreach efforts were successful? What you come up with will form a series of three to five goals you aim to accomplish through your efforts.
With goals, it's important to be crisp and specific. A goal that's too vague might be "To form more engaging relationships with our alumni." A better, more targeted goal would be "To increase the amount of alumni donations to our schools by 20 percent." The second goal has clear metrics that you can use when it comes time to evaluate your strategy later on.
Once you've established some goals, think about the stakeholders you would like to reach. When it comes to alumni outreach, this is obvious: your former students. However, you may also want to include potential donors, local business leaders and community members.
Then, determine which messages you want your stakeholders to know and understand about your school district. If you could communicate directly with each one of your identified stakeholders, what exactly would want to tell each one of them? These are messages.
Only then is it appropriate to think about the tools you will use to reach your stakeholders with your messages. This may come in the form of social media, e-newsletters, blog posts, direct mail, alumni events and various other tactics. When you know your target audience and the messages you wish to convey, it becomes much easier to find the right tools to use to make it all happen.