Here’s how they consistently publish stories their alumni love
We’ve all been there: a million different writing projects that you’d love to get done — and not enough people to do them.
Hiring a solo freelancer for the occasional project may not be enough. It can be time consuming to get them up to speed, they might not be great at all the diverse projects you want to throw their way, or they might not be available when you need them.
But if you’re a small shop, you might not have the option to hire a part-time or full-time writer, either.
So what’s next?
Here’s how Capstone worked with a communications VP to develop a system that helps her organization consistently publish fresh stories that their alumni love — and that are aligned with the institution’s larger goals.
The starting point: Kristen Pironis, vice president of marketing and communications for the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association and Foundation, reached out to Capstone in the summer of 2017. Her organization’s magazine, Shipmate, was at a turning point. “We’ve recently redesigned,” she wrote, “and we’re looking for new ideas and fresh voices. We want to push our editorial.”
The organization’s need for content was significant. It published eight issues of Shipmatealone every single year in addition to a wide variety of other print and electronic material.
Enter the Capstone Pitch Subscription: Pironis had been receiving the Capstone newsletter for more than a year, so she knew about the team’s experience in higher ed writing. When she saw the offer for the pitch subscription, she was intrigued.
Her team was eager to amp up their storytelling, and the subscription was an easy way to get several great ideas perfectly customized to her institution for every issue. She had the option to assign — or not assign — any story idea she received, so there was no risk that she’d receive a story that wasn’t a good fit. Plus, Capstone incorporated feedback from the organization to include alumni and donors into the pitches and eventual articles.
Ideas built on research: Once signed up, Pironis answered a questionnaire and Capstone did a deep dive into her organization’s needs. Capstone reviewed readership survey results, dug deep into the Alumni Association’s strategic plan and mission, and learned more about Shipmate’s larger and longer-term objectives. Together, they developed an “aspiration roadmap” that would serve as the North Star for all future story development.
The Capstone team developed several story ideas based on this initial research, complete with links to similar pieces for comparison. Story idea topics included everything from Naval Academy history, unique careers, the power of competition, and the emotional connections people have to campus, or as they call it at the Naval Academy—the Yard.
The pitches were just what Pironis and her team had hoped for. “We were impressed with the ideas,” she says. “It forced us to think about our editorial more broadly.”
Tapping a team: The ideas the Capstone team developed are as diverse as the Naval Academy community.
Stories benefit when writers have not only higher ed writing experience, but subject matter expertise. At Capstone, we make sure to connect the right stories with the right writers. Every story is completed by a writer with both higher ed writing chops and subject matter experience. Through Capstone, Shipmate has benefited from perfectly targeted stories written by award-winning writers.
Beyond the words: Any writer can submit a story. But at Capstone, writing is just one part of our process. The team starts with outstanding ideas, developed from our decades of experience in higher education publications. Our top-notch team helps track down the best sources for a story, sends every story through complete source approval, and collects headshots of all sources.
Our goal? To make sure every story we develop for a client is perfectly targeted, design-ready, and positioned to succeed.
Results: With five Capstone stories under their belt, Pironis and her team at the Naval Academy Alumni Association and Foundation are ready for more: they’ve continued with the Capstone subscription into a second year.
If you’re ready to move from one-off freelancing projects to a system that’s designed to succeed — and gets better over time — contact us anytime.