Homecoming season has come once again! Hands down, it is the biggest opportunity for building loyalty to your school’s brand and cultivating the next generation of students.
That’s why you can’t afford to let your homecoming be like everyone else’s. Here are 7 game-changing ideas for your college or university’s homecoming to set it apart from the crowd.
1. Sell the benefit for the alumni to attend… not the benefit for your school.
While homecoming for you is all about promoting the school’s brand and securing its future, that’s not why your alumni are coming. Honestly, they’re coming for completely different reasons that have more to do with them than you.
Your alumni are coming to resurrect old friendships, reconnect with mentors and faculty that made a difference in their lives, or maybe even rekindle old romances.
So why are you trying to sell alumni on coming to your homecoming when they’re not coming for you?
Alumni come to your homecoming because there’s something in it for them — so sell them on the benefit they’ll get out of attending.
This simple, but profound, change in your messaging makes all the difference in the world. Show alumni how your homecoming is the perfect place and time to… 1. Have some fun, 2. Be a part of something bigger than themselves, and 3. Stay connected to their college family.
2. Create alternative events to major events… not everyone wants to go to the football game.
The parade, the dance, the bonfire — these are all alternative events that have become tradition at many homecomings across the country.
The beauty of these events is that they’re not sports, giving alumni who’re not that into football, a reason to come. As crazy as it sounds, these people do exist, and they need your attention, too.
Here are some non-football events that do well at homecomings:
- Homecoming Court
- Marching Band
- Dress-up days like coming to school in school colors
- Alumni Band
- Competitions like powder puff football
3. Celebrate the past, present and future.
There’s little that will make the present state of your college or university more exciting than to see it in the light of the past. And there’s little that makes donors more excited about giving than an inspiring view of the future.
Use homecoming to give students and alumni a panoramic view of where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going.
- Show historic photos of your campus and classes
- Honor alumni and class years or decades during special events
- Give tribute to past and present faculty that are especially dear to your students and alum
- Feature a vision wall or hall to show alumni where you’re going
4. Create a carnival experience.
Remember your hometown carnivals? They were definitely no Disneyland, but they still managed to create that bigger-than-life feeling.
Even without a Disney budget, you can still create that fun, carefree, friendly environment!
Leverage mood-enhancing lights, seasonal decorations, and bright colors everywhere to brighten up the place. Offer delicious, fun food that fills the air with mouth-watering aromas. Put on live music that keeps people’s feet tapping.
5. Set up booths during the event for various initiatives and alumni demographics.
To draw your young alumni to the event, set up at least one booth for the kids.
Kids love to build crafts, create art, or play on musical instruments. Petting zoos, and festival midway games are also sure-fire kid pleasers.
The strength of this idea is in the connection between your college brand and the children.
Have actual college students (especially if they’re childhood education majors or kids ministry majors) work with the kids at these booths to create a strong memory and affinity for the campus and your school.
Set up booths for special initiatives such as capital campaigns.
Homecoming is a perfect time to acquaint alumni with your most visionary initiatives, like capital campaigns. Because alum are being reminded of your school’s rich history, the strong ties of alumni, and the competence of the leaders, your initiatives will have more of an emotional and rational appeal.
Booths featuring your initiatives create conversation points with attendees that would not happen otherwise. Be sure to staff your booths with students or staff who’ve been trained to answer attendees’ questions.
6. Live Stream the events.
In 2016, we started talking about using live streaming technologies as part of video content marketing for colleges and universities.
And this area of content marketing has really exploded since its beginning with Twitter’s Periscope platform!
Now, there are more live streaming services out there like Facebook Live and YouTube, both of which are great options for higher education.
However, if you have to choose between the two, pick Facebook, as that’s where most of your target audiences are hanging out.
Consider live streaming homecoming activities such as your homecoming court, banquet, contests, and parade so that alumni who can’t attend will be able to reconnect with your school and share the event on their social media.
And here’s a guerrilla marketing tip for football…
If your football program won’t allow you to live stream games, try live streaming interviews with players and coaches before, during, and after the games to create buzz around the game.
7. Pass out posters to all kids… they will become more permanent and longer-lasting marketing messages in the years to come.
As you know, I love how print and digital marketing enhance each other. So make sure your event has plenty of the traditional print media like brochures, flyers, bookmarks, etc.
But the most strategic marketing opportunity is passing out posters to all the kids at your homecoming event.
Education marketing doesn’t have to begin with sophomores or seniors in high school. You can start much earlier with posters that tap into the interests and cultural trends of kids as young as 10 years old.
For example, check out my son’s bedroom wall to see how you can begin making connections between your brand and a younger audience.
Be sure to pass out posters to all the kids at your homecoming event.
Posters are long-lasting, durable print materials that keep your brand messaging in front of the generations of alumni family members.
Homecoming is a magical — and profitable — time for alumni and higher education marketers alike.
Enjoy your time during homecoming. Have fun with attendees — but make sure you have these marketing ideas in place before you begin so that you get the very best results from your homecoming marketing efforts.
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