What Do Prospective Students and Alumni Have in Common?
May 28, 2019
Prospective students and alumni have very different relationships with an educational institution. Alumni already have an emotional connection to their alma mater. But they’ve typically already gotten what they wanted out of the relationship. Prospective students may have feelings about their desired school, but they don’t have a sense of loyalty yet. But while alumni may or may not care about what the school has to say, prospective students care a great deal indeed. Communication with the two groups requires completely different approaches.
So what do they have in common?
They both respond better to personalized communications.
How Does Personalization Affect Communications with Alumni and Prospective Students?
A recent study by Ellucian examined how personalized communications for educational institutions affected the way that prospective students and alumni responded to those schools. They found:
87% of students who received personalized communications said that it was an important factor in their college decision
85% of alumni agree they would donate more often if they knew their money was funding organizations or initiatives with which they were involved as a student
For prospective students, for example, Ellucian reports:
“During the enrollment process, 87% of students who received personalized communications said it was an important factor in their college decision process. And almost half of students who applied to multiple colleges said they decided against attending an institution because of poor communications.”
The fact is, people respond better to outreach that specifically applies to their interests and backgrounds. Tailored communications get better responses than generic ones.
One way to make school communications more personal is through data. Sending prospective students communications that refers to their declared majors, extracurriculars, financial situations, and more will get their attention. The same thing goes for alumni–referring to what they majored in, what clubs they had participated in, specific professors they had, etc., helps them remember their ties to the communities they once belonged to.
Taking Personalized Communication One Step Farther
To take personalized communications to the next level, video has a lot to offer. How can you use video to make communications to alumni and prospective students feel more personal?
– Gather videos related to different topics. For example, try creating a short video highlighting work being done by a specific department. Imagine a cutting-edge engineering project or a visit to an ancient monastery to study a rare manuscript. Or you could include a snippet of a dance performance on campus or a debate. Then send the videos just to people interested in those topics. Prospective students will get a window into the community they’re trying to join. Alumni will be reminded of their own student days, and will feel a connection to the ongoing efforts in their areas of interest.
– Build a mini-site devoted to a particular area of interest, featuring playlists of such videos. In your outreach, you can invite your audiences to come explore. Leveraging VOD means less time pressure for you, while making them feel seen and understood. It’s great for SEO, too.
– Or take the opposite approach–invite interested parties to live video events to inspire a feeling of excitement. Are you broadcasting a guest lecture? A sports event? Commencement-related activities? Invite targeted audiences. The key is targeting. If people get a stream of invitations to events they’re not interested in, they’re going to tune out even the ones that do interest them. But if you send a link to a livestream of an orchestra concert to all applicants whose applications include playing musical instruments, and a lacrosse game to all the alumni who used to play lacrosse, you’ll have a huge impact.
– Try personalizing the messages themselves. Using personalized video messages, you can make a face-to-face connection with your recipients. It’s much more effective than a text email. A great tool for when you want to make a high impact with a specific person!
Personalized communications have a huge impact, whether it’s convincing students to matriculate or alumni to donate. You don’t have to dive in all at once; dip in a toe and see what a difference you can make!
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