I developed and gave this presentation on how to communicate with Alumni on the web during my time at New York University. The presentation was given along with a person in the Alumni office and helped to guide the strategy of them in their community-building and fundraising efforts. The full presentation is embedded below, followed by the script. 🙂
Slide 1: Hello, everyone, and thanks for giving us a chance to talk to you about Alumni Relations on the web and how we use Steinhardt’s web presence to connect with our various audiences. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover today, so we’re going to try to move quickly. Of course, we will have time to take questions and ideas at the end.
Slide 2: A quick overview of what we’re going to talk about today. First off, I’m going to tell you a little bit about how people use the web, what they expect from an organization’s website, and how the web has transformed marketing and communication and left us in an entirely new landscape. Stephanie will then talk through some of the web initiatives that we’re currently engaged in at NYU Steinhardt. Then we’ll both talk a little bit about the kinds of things we think Steinhardt could and should be doing on the web to engage our audience.
Slide 3: First, I want to share three book titles with you that, in many ways, guide my philosophy about how to rule the web. Those books are “The Cluetrain Manifesto,” “Here Comes Everybody,” and “Everything is Miscellaneous.” If you really want to get a handle on how to communicate in this new landscape, these three books are indispensible.
Slide 4: But the most important one, I think, is the Cluetrain Manifesto. It a set of 95 theses put forward as a manifesto for all businesses and organizations operating within the newly-connected marketplace. Its a great read, and I want to quickly bring up a slide that has what they call their “Elevator Rap” and to read it out loud to you, just so you can get a sense of where we’re coming from.
“When Inter-networked markets meet intra-networked workers. The connectedness of the Web is transforming what’s inside and outside your organization – your market and your employeers. “Through the internet, the people in your markets are discovering and inventing new ways to converse. They’re talking about your organization. They’re telling one another the truth, in very human voices. “Intranets are enabling your best people to hyperlink themselves together, outside the org chart. They’re incredibly productive and innovative. They’re telling one another the truth, in very human voices. “There’s a new conversation between and among your market and your workers. It’s making them smarter and it’s enabling them to discover their human voices. You have two choices. You can continue to lock yourself behind facile corporate words and happytalk brochures. Or you can join the conversation.”
These are, of course, the words of the authors, not mine. Throughout the book, the authors suggest many ways in which the landscape we’re working in (and the world) has radically changed thanks to the network effect.
But what does it mean for those of us who work in communications, either in marketing or development?
Slide 6: Well, there are certain basic expectations that our audience has in this transformed marketplace. And they are vastly different from the world of just 10 years ago filled with glossy brochures, superbowl halftime commercials, and robo-signed direct-mail. We are savvier than ever and our attention-span has been shorted by an overstuffed inbox… And we have become very very good and filtering out the noise. So, what does the customer/donor/prospective student demand from their relationship with an institution like NYU?
Slide 7: It has to be interactive. Steve Jobs used to use an interesting metaphor when describing the difference between watching TV and using a computer: He called them a “lean back” and “lean forward” experience, respectively. Well, I think he was right and, in fact, I think we’re now living in a “lean forward” world. We’re no longer content to be passive receptors of our media… We want to remix it, comment on it, share it, and make it our own. A recent study revealed that 80% of iPad use happens in front of the TV. This is an example of us taking a “lean-back” medium and making it “lean forward.” And if you want to find out what’s going on, try going on Twitter during an episode of #glee.
Slide 8: Content has to be personalized the the user. The one-size-fits-all message is a thing of the past. Small is the new big. Thanks to digital mediums, we can send a user a message that is customized based on the users likes, location, past behavior, and preferences. Personalization also improves the signal-to-noise ratio because it makes content relevant.
Slide 9: The content needs to be authentic. We have trained our audience well with our endless marketing, glossy viewbooks, and PR language. We’ve trained them to ignore and mistrust us. The language of PR has a big PR problem… It is synonymous with BS. The more we try to present a manicured and pristine image of the University, the less our audience will trust us. The audience expects us to show a little flawed humanity. It proves to them that we’re people.
Slide 10: The content needs to be social. Social media is no longer optional. It is no longer new. It is no longer an experiment. Social media is the dial-tone of the 21st century. It is the means by which people communicate with each other and our organization was on social media long before we started participating in the conversation. There are thousands of people who are actively engaged with our brand on the dozens of social channels out there. Our audience expects us to be on those social media sites, and if we aren’t there… They’ll talk about us anyway.
Slide 11: So, that’s a bit about what the audience expects from us. Now, I’m going to hand it over to Stephanie to talk about about how we’re currently using online media to communicate with Alumni, and some of the other initiatives the web-team is working on… Including some that she’s helping out with.
Slide 12: The Steinhardt Alumni Website: Update Information, Alumni Profiles, Events
Slide 13: The NYU Alumni Website: NYUniverse, the social network of nyu.
Slide 14: Email communication, news for Alumni and event invitations.
Slide 15: Social Media. Rather than talk about these channels, I thought it might be more fun to show you some of the actual channels. Switch to browser…
Facebook: So, this is the Steinhardt Facebook page, which is managed by the Web Team, along with a team of students who help contribute content, links, and stories to the page. Here, we post regular events, contests and ways for people to interact. But our page isn’t just a place for us to blast out our marketing… It is a place that people come to ask questions, share ideas, or connect with others. There has been a recent uptick in the posts coming from our users and we’re very excited about that. There is communication happening between prosects, current students, and alumni… And its all happening in public.
In addition, whatever is posted on the Steinhardt Facebook page is also sent to the News Feed of all of our fans. Basically, if someone likes us then every time they log in to facebook, they’ll see news of what’s happening with us and our community mixed-in with updates from their friends, family, and favorite bands. And, most importantly, they have the ability to share our content with all of their friends. Our 4,500 fans may not seem like much, but they give us a reach of about 2.5 million people if you include all of their friends
Twitter: We’re a bit newer to Twitter, but we’re very excited about where its heading. Similar to Facebook, its a place where people go to post updates, photos, videos, and links. Unlike Facebook, all of the content is available to everyone.
LinkedIn: We have an Alumni network on there, but there is very little actual community engagement on LinkedIn that isn’t specifically job based. Unless we want to get in the job-placement business, then we’ll continue to have a presence but we won’t push too hard.
Slide 17: A few other things I want to touch on. Of course, mobile has seen a ton growth over the past few years, and Steinhardt has been keeping pace. Earlier this year, we redesigned our website to make it friendly to all devices including iPhone, Android, and Blackberry devices. If the predictions are correct, we may see a massive replacement of the home PC with mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.
Slide 18: Finally, one of the advantages of the web is it allows you to deliver all sorts of different rich media. Text and images are nice, but we can also do inline videos,
Slide 19: audio podcasts
Slide 20: live video events… Which Jim has been running for the Admissions Office and he’ll talk a bit more about those later.
Slide 21: So, that’s some examples of what we have going on. I’ll ask Jim to join me up here and we’ll both talk about some of the opportunities that we think are unique to the Alumni office and which are totally possible if we can commit the human resources (time) to doing them.
Slide 22: So, before we start offering you ideas, we want to make it clear that no strategy decision should be made in a vacuum. We’re going to offer you some ideas for opportunities that we feel are unique to the medium… But none of them will be effective or useful if they aren’t a part of a broader institutional strategy. So, to that end, any ideas we offer should be subservient to the strategic vision of the office.
Slide 23: Building Community. Why its awesome and why we should do it.
Slide 24: Microdonations. They work. They are everywhere. And people love them. Mention Kickstarter.
Slide 25: Multimedia and live web events. Jim talks about the live webcasts and how they run… Stephanie offers an example of a possible event using a recent guest from an alumni event.
Slide 26: And that’s it. Of course, its important to remember that any initiatives must be backed up with the right amount of resources. The cost of money is low, the cost of time is high.