Fall comes to private college and university campuses with the fragrance of apple cider… and Alumni Relations events! It’s time to crank up your alumni cultivation efforts — so here’s how to get the most out of your alumni event marketing this season.
1. Know what you want… and write it down for the team.
If you don’t have a clear goal for your upcoming alumni events — stop right now!
Go to your campus coffee shop. Sit down with your favorite caffeinated beverage.
And think through what you want out of this event…
- How will this event help you reach your alumni marketing goals? Like…
- Build awareness of your alumni association
- Build trust in your school’s brand
- Honor alumni who make you proud
- How will this event help you attain your school’s advancement goals? Like…
- Raise pledge support for the annual fund
- Begin cultivating major gifts by introducing a new capital campaign
- Honor a donor who has advanced your mission
- What messaging, images, and video assets can best convey to your alumni what this event needs to be? Be sure to bring your camera and gather content, even if you have a shoestring budget.
- Private interviews in a greenroom with alumni who are attending the event
- Random “on-the-street” interviews of alumni during the event
- Pictures of the keynote speaker, honorees, etc.
- Student blog posts covering the event as if they were celebrity journalists at the Grammy’s
It’ll be easier to craft your alumni event marketing strategy when you know what each event is supposed to do and the types of marketing media you need to create to make it a success.
Social media marketing means you can get a lot of mileage out of your alumni event without a huge budget.
2. Ride on the power of hashtags.
According to Twitter, a hashtag is “any word or phrase with the # symbol immediately in front of it.” Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram then organize the content on their sites using those hashtags.
- Create a hashtag for every event, and encourage event attendees to use it when posting pictures and messages about the event
- Retweet or share attendees’ posts and place your hashtag in the share
- Also use generic hashtags so that your event gets more exposure in other hashtag streams
- Open a stream in your Tweetdeck or Hootsuite dashboard and follow the people who’re using your alumni event hashtags
Check out my recent article to learn more about streams and see how hashtags can amplify your social media marketing messages.
3. Ask for Retweets.
It’s amazing what happens when you just ask. One Hubspot study showed that simply using the words “Please Retweet” generated four times more retweets!
4. Let your inner child go crazy with selfies.
No matter how much groaning you hear about it — people love selfies! And they share them…
So assign at least one student, staff, or faculty member the selfie stick and gather executives, alumni, and other guests for group selfies.
(And remember, put your hashtag on them when you post them.)
Taking selfies with attendees at your alumni event will expand your social media marketing reach.
5. Promote the event on social media before and after the event.
Post pictures and videos of memorable moments before and after your alumni event. It creates energy to see the setup and preparation for an event, so don’t be afraid to…
- Show your students or staff working hard to get the banquet room ready
- Share pictures of crews prepping the football field
- Broadcast updates while the symphony, orchestra, or band rehearses for your alumni event
- Post messages from alumni encouraging their peers to attend
- Thank attendees with post-event pics, videos of tear down, and “backstage” interviews with staff and alumni
6. Recruit students to help you with your alumni event.
Especially if you have a vibrant foreign exchange student program or scholarship program, you need to get these students out on the floor mingling and meeting your alumni.
Alumni love meeting the new generation of students and hearing how your school is making a profound difference in their lives!
Assign students to “escort” your VIP’s, like donors or high profile alumni, around campus and during your alumni event.
These students can assure that your guests are where they need to be and are getting an example of your finest students. Be sure to adequately train the students and help give them tools to provide the very best experience.
7. Be generous with the freebies.
Give your attendees something to remember the evening with brandable items such as T-shirts, polo shirts, and string backpacks.
Also, this is the perfect time to put your print marketing to work for you.
Insert brochures, magazines, flyers, yearbooks, and other high quality print items in alumni goodie bags to take home and share with their friends.
8. Enhance your alumni event with rich media.
There are so many ways that you can set your alumni event apart by involving the strengths of your academic and artistic programs.
- Chamber choir
- Jazz band
- Literary or poetry readings
- Art shows
The point is… get away from the ordinary and create an event your alumni will never forget.
9. Honor the parents.
Did you know that mothers are the number 1 influencer of college decisions?
Make sure your event has a way to connect and honor the parents that attend with their children. More than likely, they’ll be the ones making the gifts later in your year-end fundraising campaigns.
- Put up a picture booth or picture stand for parents to take photos with their children
- Host a separate luncheon or meet-and-greet for parents to answer their most pressing questions such as safety, financial aid, and student support
10. Make networking happen.
This one might be the most obvious one on the list — but I really encourage you to think out of the box on this one.
Every alumni marketer knows that alumni events should connect alumni to each other so everyone benefits from the relationships.
But have you ever gone to an event where you’re expected to make friends, like networking mixers?
Then you know that they produce more anxiety than enthusiasm to come. So throw out alumni pre-event worries by…
- Centering your alumni event around an activity such as volunteering on campus, a 5k run, a harvest festival, etc.
- Offering child care (The administrative work necessary for childcare can be tough — but this is a huge concern for many alumni)
- Outline travel, lodging, and marketing options in your pre-event marketing materials
- Seating or grouping alumni by class year or affinity group so they’re with their peers
By making networking less stressful, alumni at your events will be more likely to enjoy themselves and share about their experiences on social media.
Your next alumni event can be the talk of the alumni community.
With these alumni event marketing hacks, you’ll have all of your marketing potential running full blast.
And with decades of alumni marketing experience, the Caylor Solutions team is here to help you get the most out of your alumni events.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation and see if we’re the right fit for you!