The Staying Power of Alumni Magazines

Image of Alumni Magazines

Soon, the fall issues of the seven alumni magazines my family receives will start to arrive. I couldn’t be happier about it.

As an educational marketing business owner, longtime publishing executive, and most important, a reader, I am delighted that my mailbox is filled on a regular basis with alumni magazines from institutions I care about. (Four of the seven come three times a year.)

Before I founded Kalix Marketing six years ago to serve the educational market, I earned my marketing chops in the publishing world. I have been involved on the business side of newspapers and magazines for over 28 years. When social media erupted, all we heard was that print was dead, that magazines – especially alumni magazines – were dinosaurs.

Sure, many schools, colleges and universities have cut back the number of annual issues, but I doubt any went away. In fact, your alumni magazine is one of your best marketing tools. Recently, a communications director at an independent school told me that his school went from one annual issue to two because the magazine tells the school’s story better than a viewbook.

Think about your favorite magazine. If it’s a newsstand magazine, why do you subscribe? If it’s an alumni magazine from your alma mater, what keeps you from immediately recycling it?

How long do you spend reading it? How long does it stay on your coffee table or nightstand? I am guessing a lot longer than a Facebook video about your college or school. I spend more time with Towson University’s magazine more than any other educational publication because I am interested in what is happening at my alma mater.

Research shows that the focus we have when reading a printed magazine cannot be replicated with a digital version. When was the last time you spent 30 minutes on a website? But you can easily spend that (and more) engrossed in a printed article.

You can pick up and feel a magazine. Its tactility is one of its great strengths. It’s portable. You can take it to the gym or beach, and it’s great on an airplane. And you can step away – and back – at any point.

To get the most from your magazine, make every word and image count. Each piece from campus “wrap-up” news to class news needs to make the case for our institution’s value and value-adds.

Your development office may use words like “impact” when asked what it wants a magazine feature to accomplish for a reader. Communications and editorial staff talk about “storytelling.” Both answers are right and not mutually exclusive. Every word and story should reflect your mission for your readers of prospective families, alumni, past and current parents and educational consultants.

As to format, here’s a short list of what any engaging and effective magazine is using today:

  1. Shorter reads
  2. One-page profiles
  3. Stunning visual images with full-page, full-bleed photos and engaging digital illustrations
  4. More infographic lists and icon-filled sidebars, etc.

There are exceptions, of course. My oldest daughter is a proud graduate of Kenyon College. Its magazine, The Kenyon Review, is known for its longform essays. This format reflects the education my daughter received and the Kenyon experience we all enjoyed.

And a few magazines are combining print with the darling of the digital world, the podcast. My wife received her M.Ed. at Johns Hopkins University, and Johns Hopkins Magazine is an exceptional publication. This past spring, its talented editor Dale Keiger (and alumni magazine legend) launched The Known World, a podcast series inspired by the magazine’s pages. It’s a novel and noteworthy way to continue telling stories and literally have them jump off the page into another medium.

Since you spend a great deal of your budget and time on your magazine, make sure you are flexing its marketing muscle. Instead of sending it to prospective families, educational consultants and feeder schools with a label, why not send it in an envelope with a letter, pointing out an article of interest? Ask your printer how much overruns of selected pages of a feature article would cost to print. How could you use theses for admissions or alumni relations?

In the next month, as alumni magazines begin to fill your mailbox, I encourage you to spend time thinking about why and how you read them.

For a good read, here are the magazines my family is proud to receive:

Albany Academies’ A2 Academies Magazine 

Bowdoin Magazine

Garrison Forest School Magazine

Johns Hopkins Magazine

The Kenyon Review

Sweet Briar College Magazine

Towson University Magazine

Happy Reading!

President’s Notes
Jonathan Oleisky

Jonathan Oleisky

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