After a two year, highly enjoyable slog I have completed my Executive MBA at Cass Business School. Despite the air of celebration, I am feeling a certain loss; in a few weeks my identification card will expire, my passwords that give me access to the e-learning environment will become redundant and my only point of contact with the Business School where I have spent much of my ‘free time’ over the last two years could be an entirely new website to me, specifically targeted at me as an ‘alumnus’. Seems in fact I’ve been hooked for some student mentoring and MBA introduction days so in my case things may not be quite so black and white!
Despite this, the experience has brought home the digital reality of the segmented communications model replicated in almost every university in the UK. Whilst making the decision to apply to Cass, I interacted heavily with their public facing website being enticed by the excellent thought pieces, events and persuasive arguments in favour of an MBA. The day I joined the course I was pointed to the e-learning environment, which whilst providing an excellent learning resource, failed to promote the wider activities of Cass, meaning I needed to use two systems to get a rounded picture that suited my current status. Now after two years of building familiarity with the e-learning system, relying on it for all my vital course operations information and learning resources, I have to start again as a ‘new’ alumnus.
Cass has a wealth of data about me – my interests (specifically the electives I chose to take), my colleagues (the students I studied with), indeed my musings on a student blog. However none of this information will be leveraged to deliver me a more personalised experience as a member of the alumni. I will no longer be able to access the course resources that have been available to me, events relevant to my elective selections will not be promoted to me, and relevant career opportunities will not be apparent (not that I have plans to move from Precedent!).
So how do universities start to combat this siloed, segmented approach to communications? The first step is to acknowledge the need to create a holistic relationship with students that evolves naturally into an alumnus relationship (the subject of our Alumdergraduates report which can be requested here). The second step is to develop a digital channel that is capable of implicitly and explicitly personalising the user experience as individuals move through this transition. With the right content management system, an integrated CRM solution and most importantly a connected communications strategy, universities can provide a seamless transition from student to alumnus, gently closing access to student resources, whilst opening new related doors to alumni material.
Do this right, and the opportunities are endless; creating new revenue streams through promotion of life long learning opportunities, involving the alumni in current student mentoring and networking, fund raising from alumni, and ultimately building a powerful group of advocates for your brand. However, get it wrong at the point of transition and you may have lost your alumdergraduate forever, giving out the message ‘we’re done with you’, rather than, ‘now we’ve got to know you, and you’ve got to know us, we truly value you as part of our growing family.’
Precedent can help you solve these problems, both at a strategic communications level, but also at an information architecture and technology level. We can show you how new approaches and technologies can be harnessed to deliver a more personal, flexible and malleable digital channel that can support this more complex holistic communications approach.