Make this year the best yet for your print alumni magazine

Over the past few years, I’ve learned it’s a fool’s errand to make predictions for the coming year. At the end of 2019, for example, I shared everything I felt certain the following months would hold for print alumni magazines.

But 2020 had a few other ideas.

Then 2021 and 2022 added their own unique twists, as paper supply chain issues and dramatic cost increases upended plans for many institutions’ alumni magazines.

Fortunately, I feel confident that absolutely nothing bad or unexpected will happen in 2023!

If there is one thing that I’ve learned from all of this chaos — and if there’s one thing I do think you can take forward from these past few years, regardless of what the next year holds — it’s this: you’ve got to have a strategy.

Your print alumni magazine must have a rock-solid strategy

I get thousands of alumni magazines in my mailbox every year, and thousands of emails from the editors of these magazines.

What I’ve noticed is that the magazines that struggled most have been the ones that swung wildly to react to the moment — pivoting online, going on hiatus, upending decades of steady work to pursue shiny tech that turned out to be more misfire than miracle.

It’s true that the Covid era may have been a “move fast and break things” moment. But turns out that when many of us moved fast to transform what we offered to our readers…we really did break a lot of stuff, too!

It may just be time to return to what most academic institutions are designed to do best: thoughtful, methodical work that’s improves steadily over time.

That’s why I predict that the magazines that make the biggest impact this year will make sure that they have — and relentlessly execute on — a solid strategy. Those that do will see good results: more meaningful engagement, helpful feedback, more recognition, and more significant return on investment.

Those that don’t will likely see cuts: fewer issues each year, fewer pages each issue, fewer people on the mailing list, and most worryingly: dwindling impact.

Do you have a smart strategy for your print alumni magazine?

Every institution will have a different strategy for their alumni magazine, but if you to see if yours is on track, review the questions below to see if you can answer them clearly and purposefully.

  • Who are your primary readers — and how are you devoting your time and resources to giving them what they most want and need from your magazine?
  • How do your magazine’s mission statement and values guide your decision-making from issue to issue — even story to story?
  • What boundaries have you set? What do you say ‘no’ to — and why?
  • What are you tracking to determine if your publication is on course?

If you can answer these questions about your publication, you’re probably in great shape! And if not — you’re not alone.

I’ll be talking a lot more about your print alumni magazine strategy, including the specific tactics that work IN PRINT to achieve your institution’s goals, whatever they are.