It’s no secret that I love print alumni magazines. But your team communicates with your school’s alums and larger community in lots of different ways. New platforms and opportunities — Threads, Bluesky, Mastodon — are popping up all the time.
So is your print magazine really necessary? And if so, how should it do things differently than these other channels to maximize its impact?
To see how print might fit within the larger scope of your communications plans, let’s go through a brief list of each channel’s major strengths.
When you understand where print shines compared to other options, you can use it in ways that make the most sense.
While each platform has different capabilities, social media platforms offer institutions the ability to share information quickly and often more informally than other channels. Social media feels more conversational and offers participants opportunities to connect more directly and personally to people at the institution and engage with the stories an institution shares.
As new platforms pop up, there are many opportunities to try new approaches and connect with an audience in unique ways. Social media rewards speed and direct connection.
Social media is a FAST, INFORMAL, DIRECT, and EXPERIMENTAL channel.
Email is a “lean forward” experience. When you’re emailing, you’re probably getting stuff done! Those actions might be clicking to sign up for a reunion, donate for a giving day, or send in an address change or a class note. Many of these actions end at your website, but they start with email.
Yes, you might share fun profiles or newsy updates in your emails. But email is where alumni typically take action, and it’s why it’s tied as the #1 channel for your alumni (note, you’ll need to be a CASE member to get access to this research).
Email is a INFORMATIONAL, ACTION-ORIENTED channel
This is often “the everything store” for an institution. It’s very likely a beautifully designed tool for prospective students. For alumni who are willing to do a little digging, there’s usually plenty of stuff for them, too.
You can throw it all on here: audio, video, text, photos. Your website can help you sell branded sweatshirts or help alumni find a long-lost roommate.
Your website is part treasure chest, part jam-packed attic.
A website is a COMPREHENSIVE, MULTIMEDIA channel.
Your print magazine, along with email, is tied as your #1 communications channel for alumni.
It often ends up reaching the widest swath of alumni because it doesn’t require readers to click a link, follow your school’s handle, subscribe to updates, or whitelist an email address. It literally arrives at readers’ homes, and it is your institution’s chance to put its best foot forward, because you — not an algorithm — controls exactly who receives it and when it arrives.
Of the many tools you have to reach your alumni, this one is tangible: readers can hold it in their hands and put it on their coffee table as a beautiful object or a subtle signaling brag. They can tear out a page for their fridge or scrapbook.
Because of the time, effort, and cost of developing a print publication, you must be especially thoughtful about what earns its way onto your pages. Print is where you should be showcasing your school’s biggest and best stories in compelling ways through strategic storytelling. Yes, it should be fun and delightful. But it should never feel haphazard: it should feel beautifully curated from the perspective of readers and wisely strategic from the perspective of your institution.
Print isn’t the fastest, the most comprehensive, or action-oriented channel. It isn’t supposed to be! It’s a gift that you can send to your alums a few times a year that helps remind them why they appreciate the education they received — and why they can be proud of their alma mater.
Print is a PREMIUM, CURATED, CONTROLLABLE, and METHODICALLY STRATEGIC channel.
Print is an incredibly versatile tool. Harness its strengths to make the most of very page.