What does your audience actually want to read these days? What stories can you tell that will feel like a welcome shift from the daily deluge of bad news?
These are questions a lot of schools are asking right now.
It’s not just that we don’t want stories to feel stale when they arrive on readers’ doorsteps weeks or months from now. It’s also that we want to tailor stories and messages in ways that are emotionally resonant in a moment like this.
Your magazine is your flagship publication for your alumni and donors, so it’s important to get this balance right.
We’re thinking about this a lot at Capstone, and here are some of the messages we think are essential for you to share with your readers through your stories.
Message 1: We’re doing good work.
Colleges have tried hard to be reasonable and decisive as we’ve all moved through this historic, fast-moving pandemic.
Not everything has been perfect! Lots of people are feeling frustrated, scared, and sad about all of the changes.
At the same time, every school also has plenty of incredible stories to tell from this time as well. Your magazine is a great way to highlight all the smart decisions, heartwarming connections, and courageous people that are in your community.
Your alumni don’t need to be changing the world to have great stories that people will want to read!
You can write up a tiny profile of the alum who used a home 3D printer and an open-source design to provide a half-dozen face shields to the local hospital. Or the student who took their popular campus event online. Tell the story of your on-campus heroes whose work makes the college function, even now.
Message 2: We are ready to help.
Your alumni office likely offers lots of under-the-radar services to your alumni — many of whom might benefit from a boost right about now.
Does your school offer mentoring services? Help connect people to their local chapter events? Have a free on-demand webinar on self-care and meditation?
Now might be a good time to pull together all of these disparate services into a feature package for your magazine. As a template, you might consider this list-based piece from Real Simple about the cool and unexpected services of your local library. A similar package about alumni services could be a useful read for your audience.
Most schools want their alumni to feel connected to them for a lifetime. Right now, you want to show that you stand at the ready to support your graduates however they need it. Your magazine can highlight this work beautifully.
Message 3: We still need you.
It might seem like a tone-deaf move to ask for gifts during this moment when unemployment is sky-high. But the reality is that charitable giving is very high right now.
At my own alma mater, an “SOS fund” has been wildly successful. It supports students in need right now: tech and wifi hotspots to support their online learning, storage costs for their belongings, and holistic health services.
Your school is a trustworthy organization to your readers, so if you can show how their support will make a difference right away to those in acute need, they’re likely to consider a gift.
You probably can’t tell individual students stories here, but sharing some collective numbers about the travel costs you’ve covered or the technology you’ve purchased for students might help put your support into perspective for your readers.
Even if you don’t typically make a direct request in your magazine, now might be the right time to do so.