One of the best things about blogging is the thoughtful and provocative replies from attentive readers. This kind of engagement keeps me on my toes and, I believe, informs other readers.
Here are five of the many comments that readers left this year. I selected them because they illuminate larger issues in advancement, while addressing a specific, narrower topic. This gives them both tactical and strategic value.
I hope they spur your own thinking about some of the issues. Note: I've edited the comments for length in a few spots.:
I asked: "Is Alumni Relations a Form of CRM?" Keith Lue responded:
In the alumni relations profession we tend to compartmentalize our constituents based on demographics versus psychographics. This mistakenly focuses on who is in the database instead of why people might want to stay connected. Any tool which can help you deepen the relationships between the institution and the alumni should be embraced. Yes, as alumni professionals, we manage relationships or what I prefer to describe as facilitate meaningful connections.
In reply to the same article about CRM, Andrew Gossen said:
I agree with...the goal of having the user experience of transition from student to alumni be as seamless as possible. A significant impediment to this is often not insularity, lack of creativity, or absence of good intention but the long shadow of FERPA. The most elegant and user-friendly system in the world isn't going to help you any if you've got people in your institution arguing that any and all data relating to any aspect of what an individual did as a student is off limits because of FERPA. Sadly, many American institutions seem more worried about CYA than positive, integrated relationship management.
[Keith Lue: We mistakenly focus on who is in the database instead of
why people might want to stay connected]
One of many challenges of brand-building for a university system has to do with creating coherence for the "system" brand among its many distinct campuses. The bigger the system, the more challenging that is....What is the purpose of the system brand as opposed to the campus brand(s)? Maybe the system is the superbrand, a la Procter & Gamble, and the individual campuses a brand unto themselves (a la Tide, Crest, Charmin, Bounty, Luvs and the other various brands that are part of the P&G house). So, yes, universities do have a consumer positioning strategy. But when I'm buying toothpaste, I'm not buying Procter & Gamble. I'm buying Crest or one of its competitors. In the same way, consumers of education aren't buying the superbrand of a system. Not if there is differentiation among their various campuses...
...Negative comments received via social media provide a unique opportunity to change attitudes/perceptions. If people post a "negative" comment on a photo or lodge a complaint on Twitter/Facebook take the time to respond and counter that assumption, if appropriate, or admit it's an area for improvement. In my experience this type of candor is appreciated. Either way, negative responses provide an opportunity to learn something new, and perhaps win over a naysayer in the process.
it's the means to an end]
One of the issues many alumni associations struggle with is why we exist. It's all too easy to focus on what is best for the alumni association, and not on what is best for the institution. Alumni Relations is not the end in itself – it's the means to an end. The "end" should be the complete and total investment of our alumni in their alma mater.