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November 6

The 5 Irreplaceable Pillars of Alumni Digital Marketing


Alumni marketing is presented with significant and unique challenges that digital marketing is well equipped to solve. But you must have these five pillars in place to make it work.

There are several big hurdles for the alumni marketing department to jump over that are unique to alumni marketing.

For one, alumni don’t always stay in the same region. In today’s global economy, alumni are traveling more and moving to farther-off  places in search of work.

Two, alumni don’t always self identify. Many times, alumni will go to different schools completing their degree, or they will go on to graduate studies in another college or university. And if the student services did not cultivate loyalty within the student during their studies, they may not put their school on their LinkedIn profiles.

Also, alumni are a very diverse group of people. The individuals in your alumni body have different experiences, backgrounds, and taste. It’s hard to serve all of them with the wide brush of being called or labeled “Alumni.“

That’s why having these five pillars of digital marketing in place is so important. They will keep you on track despite all of the distractions and possible pitfalls your marketing can experience.

Five pillars of digital marketing for Alumni

Pillar 1: Content

Digital marketing must begin with content. Great content attracts, converts, and cultivates your audience throughout the development cycle.

It’s also the building block of every digital marketing strategy or campaign you’ll launch. You can’t have a winning social media strategy without great content. Likewise, you can’t have a successful newsletterblog, or video blog without great content.

It’s been said before, and here it makes sense to repeat it again: Content is king.

So what kind of content do you need to be creating to cultivate and engage your alumni audience?

The answer is simple, yet hard to execute. You need to create content that answers their questions.

What are your alumni asking from you that other content sources cannot answer? Or, what questions would they rather you answer instead of other sources?

Here are a few common questions alumni look to their alma maters to answer:

  • Where can I find other alumni like me?
  • How can I get in touch with other alumni?
  • What is my school doing today that I can be proud of?
  • How is my alma mater making strides forward and getting better?
  • How can I help future and current students?
  • How can my alma mater help me now in my current career?

All of your content should be created with the goal to answer some kind of question that your alumni audience has and is seeking from you.

But you don’t want your content to come off as some kind of FAQ page. That’s why this next pillar that I’m going to show you is necessary to create the kind of content that will attract your alumni to you.

Pillar 2: Story

Great content is story-driven. By that, I mean every piece of content needs to be a story that fits into the metanarrative you’re telling alumni through your marketing.

What’s your metanarrative?

Your metanarrative is your brand. It’s the story you want your alumni and other audiences to be telling their friends about you.

So what story do you want others to tell about your school?

  • Texas Wesleyan University wants their alumni in general audience to tell others that they are the small school that knows your name.
  • Indiana Wesleyan University wants their alumni to tell their friends that they are the school that trains world changers.
  • Ohio Christian University wants their alumni to tell their friends that they are the school with a solid, biblical worldview in every subject.

When framed in these story-telling terms, every piece of content you create (like a blog post, infographics, or video) is to be written as a mini-story that supports and illustrates the larger story, the metanarrative, that you are trying to tell your alumni about your school.

So if your metanarrative is that you are a school that embraces innovation, then tell stories that illustrate the innovation that’s happening in your organization, or stories that inspire others to innovate.

Make sure every content piece drives your metanarrative forward with your alumni.

Another aspect of having story-driven content is that every story you tell (a.k.a. piece of content) should have an emotional driver behind it.

Stories are emotional. Stories stir our souls and our emotions. This is why they’re so effective at motivating responses and behaviors from the audience.

If you leave out emotion, you will suffer low engagement from your alumni audience.

Bland, dry facts, stats, and figures do not motivate us to do anything but sit and absorb the data.

Especially when you work in an academic institution, you must fight the temptation to default to an academic style of writing. Even if your alumni hold PhD’s, they don’t want to read a dissertation every time they open up your email newsletter.

Pillar 3: Goal-oriented

The best digital marketing for alumni has goals attached to it that clarify the objective of every content piece and identify the metrics that you will use to determine if the content was successful or not.

What are the larger organizational goals that you are trying to accomplish through your alumni marketing efforts? What are the key performance indicators that show you that you are hitting the mark?

These are key questions that can only be answered by having a pre-set goal for every content channel in your alumni digital marketing.

Pillar 4: Website-centered

All the various pieces of content you publish in your alumni digital marketing should drive traffic to your website. This could be your alumni microsite, or your college or university main website.

Digital marketing is like baseball. Your website is home plate, and your content should lead your audience (the players) there every time.

Your blog is not home plate. Your newsletter is not home plate. You don’t want your players to hang out at first base, or even third. You want to get them home.

And when your audience lands on your website, it should be written and designed to drive conversions.

In other words, when they land on the homepage, everything about that homepage should lead them to the behaviors that your school has decided are important for you to reach your ultimate goals as a school.

Pillar 5: Audience-centric

First and foremost, the alumni department is a service from the college or university to your alumni. This means that everything you do should be audience-centric.

This begins with identifying the questions that your audience has in mind, which we talked about earlier in the blog. It then goes to determining what channels are best suited for your marketing personas.

Different audiences prefer different channels of communication to get the answers that they’re looking for. Services like Instagram seem to do great with students, whereas social media platforms like Facebook and Pinterest do much better if you’re trying to reach out to moms.

Keeping your digital marketing strategy audience-centric is all about serving them.

So even if you’re not familiar with Instagram, you need to get your toe in the water and learn how to leverage this social media platform to reach your student audience. The same could be said for video content.

Audiences today show high response rates and engagement rates with colleges and universities that use rich content like video in their digital marketing. But sadly, many colleges and universities feel that content creation with video is too costly or complicated – so they simply miss out on a great opportunity for alumni engagement.

Holding it all together

There are lots of moving parts to Alumni digital marketing. But if you have these five pillars in place, you should be able to hold it all together.

These are the core concepts that hold up the entire strategy. They should also be somewhat of a roadmap for you to determine what is right for you and your alumni as you’re making decisions for your marketing efforts.

If there’s a pillar that you can use some help with, we’d be happy to help. With over 50 years of combined experience in marketing and development in higher education, the Caylor Solutions team is ready to help execute your digital marketing strategy.

Get a hold of us here. The call is free and there’s no obligation.

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