The Proof is in Your Product — Six Ways to Tell Stories of Your School’s Alumni

One of the opportunities I enjoy is conducting focus groups at schools. While the schools are different in their focus and reach, the parents are typically consistent in their questions, expectations and decision making processes.

I remember one father in a focus group meeting last year. He said that the way leaders should market a school is by sharing “real stats and real stories” about the school’s graduates.

He was interested in the return on his investment. Prospective parents want to know how a school will prepare their child for success at the next level. I am finding that even parents with an entering Kindergarten student want to see your school’s college acceptance list!

Whether your school ends at 8th or 12th grade, you have the opportunity to tell the story of your graduates. This is the proof of your school’s product—in the real stats and stories of your alumni.

Parents want to know where your graduates get accepted into college and where they go. They want to know how well they are prepared for college.

They want to know this because it will affect their child and their future. They want to know if there investment will pay off and provide the future that they want for their child. If they can see the proof in your graduates, then they are likely to invest in your school.

Because of this, it is cricital for admissions directors, marketing directors, and the head of school to tell stories of their school’s graduates. This is an essential component of every private school’s marketing strategy.

In my recent review of private school websites, I found several examples of how alumni stories are being told on the Web.

Berkeley in the World Today — On the homepage of the Berkeley Preparatory School’s website, a unique visual of a world map is available for the user to click on to discover “Berkeley in the World Today.” By clicking on the map you can go to a larger map which allows you to click on the dots to discover how Berkeley students and alumni are making a difference in the world. While their approach doesn’t focus solely on alumni, this concept could easliy be applied to your school’s alumni around the world.

Cranbrook Schools — The Cranbrook Schools website features alumni in their special section entitled, “Cranbrook Schools Alumni Shaping the World One Story at a Time.” I really like the title of this section and its focus on alumni stories. On this page, Cranbrook features several alumni stories as well as providing a listing of notable alumni. In addition, they ask alumni to submit their story to the school.

Life After Chapin — On the homepage of The Chapin School’s website, a special feature area directs the user to find out more about “Life After Chapin.” By clicking on this link, the user is able to discover stories of their alumnae who have become leaders in their field. I really like this concept and encourage every school to add a “Life After Your School” section on your website.

A Brief Study of Life After Dana Hall — In their series of unbound books, Dana Hall shares “a series of short books about subjects that mean a lot to us, featuring stories, facts, lists and more.” One of the books focuses on alumnae — “Dana Hall loves to see a girl today become a leader tomorrow.” In this book, they tell the story of two alumnae in a brief study of life after Dana Hall in a visually compelling way on the Web. They also have three other books on their website sharing other stories of life at Dana Hall.

Maret School’s Throwback Thursdays
— Maret School does a great job of telling  stories on their Facebook page of their alumni through their special “Throwback Thursday” posts. Every week an “old” yearbook photo is posted to celebrate the previous students at the school. Several weeks ago they posted a black and white photo from their 1976 football team and asked their fans to identify the players in the photo. This is a great way to get your fans involved in identifying and tagging those in the photo.

St. John’s Prep “In Their Own Words” — St. John’s Prep shares stories from their soon to be alumni before they graduate and go on to college. This page features 12 video vignettes of their graduates reflecting on the St. John’s Prep experience. This is an effective way to capture stories of your graduating class before they leave campus and to share stories “in their own words.”

The proof is in your product and it is essential that you share alumni stories on the Web. These great ideas from other independent schools should give you some strategies for how you can tell alumni stories in your school’s marketing effort.

How are you telling alumni stories to market your school?

In what ways are you using the Web to showcase your graduates?