The power of networking at university level is well documented: ex-students who have moved on to the world of work have been a valuable source of jobs, mentoring and other opportunities to students in their final years. However, recently, many schools have started to realise the long-term importance of old girls’ and boys’ networks, otherwise known as alumni groups, for students who are still in school as well as for wider school marketing campaigns.
A strong alumni network can add direct and practical value to your school because it produces unique opportunities for your students to work with people who already have a reason to help your school: they have an emotional and historical connection with it and in most cases are happy to help.
But the other advantages to a strong network include the fact that it can help your school’s wider reputation as an increased number of people are publicly active around your school’s events, particularly if they are publicised on social media. The snowball effect created by wider social engagement from ex-students will give your school additional exposure to other parents and potential parents, having a direct impact on your potential admissions numbers.
Practical network help
Old students who are now safely entrenched in industry can offer boundless money-can’t-buy opportunities to your students. From work placements and shadowing to industry days and presentations at careers fairs, their experience, particularly in providing students with the much sought after real-world links to education is second to none.
It’s important to keep a list network of alumni who are keen to help the school in practical ways and not be afraid to ask for support.
If your school has an alumni association of any sort, make sure you are shouting about it on Facebook and LinkedIn. Ex-students are generally proud of their roots and will happily follow you on LinkedIn, provided the content is of interest.
Ex-students with a connection to the school are often interested in seeing how their school has changed over the years: reflecting on ‘then and now’ images and historical photos tends to generate a certain level of fond reminiscing.
Some schools advocate the creation of specific closed school alumni groups on LinkedIn. These not only provide a valuable source of information, contacts and potential work for ex-students, they are great advocates of your school. However, it is important not to forget the importance of a more general LinkedIn page. It is here that professionals with any initial interest in your school might look first, alongside your website, so any brand messaging used on your website needs to be reflected here also.
LinkedIn is the perfect channel for posting information about school events and open days as well as information about reunions and careers events. If these posts can generate interest or social commentary it can really widen the exposure of your school, particularly to prospective parents.
Build on your school’s successes
There is probably a huge amount of news and ongoing content being generated from events taking place at your school. Whether its news about sporting success, competition wins, school award wins or the development of new buildings, every piece of newsworthy content has the potential to generate interest.
Consider following up with the contacts involved in all these events to further your school’s network. If a team of Year 12s wins a science competition, be sure to build links and connect with the competition organisers to ensure you can take part again and become a ‘warm’ school to them should they need to work with schools in the future.
If you have a person of interest come to open a new building at the school, don’t be afraid to go back to them with follow up news and get them involved in events in the school in the future.
Every contact can be a potential source of help to the school and more importantly, its students.
The importance of your network on reputation
Your school’s reputation puts your school on the map and helps you stand apart from the competition. What you say and who you are saying it to crucial to making sure this reputation is built in the right way and that people are forming the right opinions. Not only personally, but because reputation amplifies itself: other’s opinions are influenced too. So, be sure to use every tool at your disposal to do this correctly.
One such tool is Unify for Schools, the software that gives schools the opportunity to really personalise their prospectus to make sure the most appropriate messages are getting to the right audiences. To find out more about how Unify for Schools can help your school with its messaging, including how excellent your networks are, visit www.unifyschools.com