Developing A Successful Corporate Alumni Strategyby Community Admin in Video | Last Edited: 10th September 2020
In our most recent webinar, James Sinclair of EnterpriseAlumni is joined by panelist Richard Millington, the founder of FeverBee and author of both ‘Buzzing Communities’ and ‘The Indispensable Community’.
Recognizing The Value Of An Alumni Community
Digging deep into the notion of developing an alumni community strategy, James and Richard take a look at what it means to have an evolving strategy that lays the groundwork for a thriving community. Beyond the technology that supports interaction, fundamentally, if a community is to really work, you need to understand the psychological motivators for participation.
The current business climate brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an upsurge in the interest of alumni communities. Companies have started to understand the value of a corporate alumni program in a very real and tangible way, paving the way for the normalization of community establishment.
5 Core Learnings To Work Through
Whether you are thinking of initiating a large global program, a small regional project, or revamping your existing alumni efforts, here are the five core learnings from the session:
1. Stories Sell
Making the business case for an alumni program can be a tall order. In moving from the basement to the boardroom, the case needs to be signed off by the powers upstairs.
Explaining potential ROI in terms of statistics and KPIs is all good and well and absolutely needed. But you are far more likely to convince C-suite execs of the benefits of a program with relatable stories and successes.
Stories inspire emotion; people remember them. So, you need to get the right stories to tell if you’re looking for buy-in.
2. Zaps Don’t Work
If your program does not have strategy or cadence, you will find yourself having to ‘zap’ life into your community, whether it be utilizing random acts of marketing, or reactive emails and posts. Essentially your community remains on life support, and all you are doing is endlessly trying to breathe life into it.
In short, it’s an unsustainable strategy.
When tracing back the issues of communities that aren’t functioning you will normally find one of two issues:
- the person managing the community doesn’t know what to do, or
- they know what to do but don’t know how to do it.
It is a strategy issue VS a training issue. Without training and strategy, it’s hard to sustain activity.
On the other hand, when a community is run by someone who knows what they are doing and how to encourage community members to engage (e.g. that was a great answer to that question, would you perhaps be interested in writing a blog post on that topic?) engagement levels will skyrocket.
3. Build Statues To Entice Senior Members
Senior alumni are often the hardest to entice. The best way to engage them in a community is to show them that it can help them ‘to build a statue’, i.e. cement their reputation, impress their peers, and/or help the next generation through mentoring.
At a certain point in their career, people want to feel that they have a unique impact; allow them to flex a little bit, and showcase their unique talent.
4. Be Proactive And Report Regularly
One of the biggest issues alumni program managers can encounter in-house is push-back from legal and compliance teams. Legal teams want to reduce risks to zero; communities can be unpredictable – you need to find some kind of balance.
Go to these teams at the very beginning and get feedback on your ideas. When it starts with a conversation, it normally goes much better than just dropping it on them.
Back this up by reporting across the organization regularly. When legal and compliance teams can see the benefits of the program and that you are being proactive in addressing risks, they are far less likely to put needless dampers on proceedings.
5. Nail It, Then Scale It
Start small. Identify a couple of members to have a real conversation with who can help you understand what value you can deliver. Root the members in the process of developing the community.
The key lies in finding out what alumni need from this network. What can you give them that they can’t get anywhere else? Start from a place of honesty and be real about the fact that you need their indispensable input – don’t try to dress it up as anything else.
If you have an existing community that is not functioning optimally, build a strategy based on current resources and what you know about the community right now – what’s working, and what’s not.
Be honest with them – it hasn’t been working, and we would like your advice on how we can make it better.
When you get that advice, use it. Make it relevant to the day-to-day lives of the members. Achieving success is a collaborative process.
Highlights and Notable Quotes From The Alumni Community Strategy Session
“Community managers can get so busy ‘doing the work’ they don’t realize their communities aren’t making anywhere near the progress they should be making.” These managers often fall far behind best practices, struggle to gain internal support, and disappoint members. This is often because they keep doing the same activities over and over again without any idea if a) they are the right activities, and b) if they are actually working.
“A strategist is a catalyst.” A great community strategy isn’t written; it’s facilitated. The ideal is to set up collaborative processes to educate and solicit the opinions of your stakeholders. Then you bring everyone on the journey with you.
“You need someone in the trenches to suss out the rich resources.” Alumni programs work best when it’s run by someone who has the skill to do so. Hire someone who is passionate about the topic, or find someone in-house who fits the bill and give them training. There are lots of industry-based resources available to facilitate continued education.
If you can relate to the challenges associated with engaging your community, watch the one hour webinar to learn how you can approach the problem from a new perspective, focusing on value identification and creation when it comes to alumni community strategy.
James Sinclair, EnterpriseAlumni
Richard Millington, FeverBee
You can find more research and insights on alumni programs here.