Expert Advice on Alumni Magazines with Michele Tjin, Marketing/Communications Editor, Saint Francis High School

Last fall, Kalix Marketing partnered with Saint Francis High School (SFHS) in Mountain View, Ca. to write and design the SFHS twice-yearly alumni magazine Progress and its annual donor report. This month, we chat with Michele Tjin, Marketing/Communications Editor, Saint Francis High School about why SFHS revamped its magazine process and what she learned.

Kalix: Why did you decide that Progress needed a revamping? What were the factors in that decision?

Michele Tjin: It wasn’t so much that we needed to revamp the magazine content. We needed to revamp our process for producing it. I’ve been doing SFHS’s magazine and donor report for 12 years, with two, annual issues of the magazine. Every year, we never had a firm deadline [to produce] these. It got easier and easier for other projects to take precedence. I was dropping issues, and soon, I realized that we needed outside help.

Kalix: How did you determine which elements would be included in the magazine to reach your targeted audiences of alumni and current, past and prospective families?

Michele: We knew that we wanted to keep our alumni and teacher profiles and sports and arts roundups. I also knew that what I had been writing for [past] issues needed to be presented in new ways. People were no longer interested in a ten-paragraph description. We wanted more polish, more visual appeal and copy that was easier and more engaging to read.

Internally, I had to adjust my approach to reporting and writing and educate my team members about what we were doing. People who run programs often feel that giving more words to something legitimizes it. I had to educate them that just because you give something 1,000-words or less doesn’t mean that it has less importance. I learned the value of a Q&A, for example, that’s short, sweet and effective. You want to give people nuggets of what you want them to walk away with.

Kalix: You’ve sent out one revamped issue with the spring 2020 issue getting underway. How are you assessing its success in reaching your marketing goals?

Michele: At a broad level, our goal is to engage our alumni, parents and past parents. We haven’t done a reader survey but anecdotally, it’s gotten good reviews. People really like the new visuals. Our Baby Lancers [traditional page of photos of alumni children] was a hit. It just makes people smile. The Alumni Office told me that, so far, they received 13 responses from alumni with more photos. That’s the largest number yet in response to the magazine’s request to send in photos of alumni children.

Kalix: This is the first time you used an outside firm to write, edit and design content. Was there anything that surprised you about the process?

Michele: I didn’t have doubts, but the first time I saw the cover, I thought it was so different and exciting. I never had that reaction before to a cover. We had worked with a design agency before, but I had to provide a lot of the ideas and direction. It has been great to get outside perspective and creativity.

Kalix: What are the pros and cons of working with and outside firm vs. doing it in-house?

Michele: Keeping it in-house means that those writing, editing and designing it know the school and culture and are in close proximity.  Using an outside firm means that there is an education process. The team we used had to learn our culture and process. But you also have an editorial team that is not sidetracked by other in-house projects. Also, an outside person(s) can see things we can miss and from a higher perspective. Hopefully, you work with someone that you can learn something from.

View Progress, the SFHS alumni magazine here.

Photo of Michele TjinAbout Michele Tjin

As Communications/Marketing Editor for Saint Francis High School, Michele has been creating an array of content across print and digital platforms since 2007. Prior to joining SFHS, she was a reporter for the Silicon Valley Community Newspapers and legal reporter for the Chicago region and Washington, D.C. correspondent for the Medill News Service. Michele holds a M.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University and a B.A. in History from the University of California, Berkeley.

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Jonathan Oleisky

Jonathan Oleisky

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