Are traditional Alumni Associations passé?

A few months ago, a representative from my alma mater called to confirm my personal and professional listing information for a book they were putting together–an alumni directory. It was free to be included, but (of course) I could purchase a copy for myself for the low, low price of $65.

Book

We’ve seen or heard of these books before. They’re right up there with those “Who’s Who” books that are completely bogus collections of folks who paid to be included. In fact, I think my parents paid for me to be in the Who’s Who of American High School Students publication back in 1995. Yes I was a great student, top 5 percent of my class, but it was at one of the worst high schools in the nation so I really doubt that I was spectacular enough to be included in such a prestigious (looking) national publication. Nonetheless, there’s now a book with my name in it on a shelf in my parents house.

I understand why a college would want to put these books together (of course it’s to make money) and I love to support my undergrad college and their fundraising efforts, but I just couldn’t get past this one question: How is this book better than LinkedIn? The caller was getting annoyed with me for asking it again and again. But, think about it: This book will be outdated the day it’s printed. This book cannot possibly include the number of alumni I can find via LinkedIn using a simple university search. This book is heavy and expensive to produce, print, and ship.

This book, however, is an example of the “olden days” of alumni relations and fundraising tactics that are (unfortunately) still alive today, probably due to those old people at colleges and universities across the United States failing to realize that new technology is making these types of programs and approaches obsolete.

Case in point: With last week’s official launch of LinkedIn University Pages, colleges and universities now have easy access to thousands of graduates who have “claimed” them in their online profiles; whether they’ve official joined the college’s on-campus Alumni Association or not is a totally separate matter. This is powerful stuff. For example, a college may boast an “official” Alumni Association of a couple hundred, but through LinkedIn University Pages, the “virtual alumni association”–a bi-product of the tool’s creation–could be in the thousands.

Read about the establishment of LinkedIn’s University Pages

College’s and Universities should be looking at this tool and examining ways to cultivate the contacts connected with them in a social media capacity in order to convert it to a more meaningful, offline connection. This tool opens up doors for planning and announcing alumni events and fundraising campaigns…your pool and your “mailing list” of potential attendees and donors has now grown exponentially!

For marketing and PR professionals like myself, we can tap into the tool’s “notable alumni” feature to highlight how former students are using their training and degree today. We can ask to highlight them in our marketing materials, or solicit them as guest speakers for campus or community events. These “notable alumni” are also ones that the college Foundation will want to court, since LinkedIn merges both education and career metrics to showcase the college’s most successful grads. They are the CEOs, VPs, business owners, and trailblazers who have the capacity to give, and–with their already established connection to you–the higher-likelihood to give.

With the successful rise and obvious popularity of LinkedIn, the LinkedIn University Pages, and Facebook, will traditional, campus-controlled Alumni Associations survive? If so, what will they be able to offer (besides a book) that I cannot already get online? How will colleges and universities motivate and engage their online de facto alumni associations? This is a new challenge, and it’s an exciting one.

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LinkedIn needs a “liar” button

In Their Dreams LinkedIn liars

Today on LinkedIn, one of their recommended stories was “How Job Candidates Lie, and the Best Lies They Always Seem to Tell.” It’s somewhat ironic that such a post is featured on a professional networking site that’s packed full of lies (or liars, depending on how you want to look at it). I often come across over-stated titles, inflated skills lists, and requests to endorse connections for abilities they completely lack. When I do, I long for a big, red, flashing “LIAR” button.

Experience

It seems strange that people would pad their online resume and then anxiously connect with past and present co-workers that would instantly recognize their overstatements and omissions.

“Wow, you’ve been a Vice President for ten years at the same company? Impressive! But wait, what about those seven years you spent as the assistant there prior to your promotion?”*

“Oh hello former assistant. Glad to see you’re in the job market again. Wow, you worked for me until June of this year? That’s strange, I remember firing you in October…of 2005!”*

*Titles and situations have been altered to protect the guilty.

In the article I mentioned above, author Tim Sackett believes that “candidates continue to lie because Talent/HR Pros don’t call them out on it,” and I believe that the same is true on LinkedIn. If LinkedIn would provide a way for users to anonymously report suspected “errors,” just the existence of such a feature might cause users to think twice when creating their own profile.

 

Are your e-mails making people angry?

I’ve only been back from vacation for one day and already I’ve weeded through at least a dozen e-mails that have irked me. It’s not so much the content of those e-mails, it’s that some people just continue to do these three things that are on my strict “do not do this” list:

  1. Do not attach files that are 20MB in size
    You’re killing my e-mail and our company’s server when you send attachments that are this big. This is especially true for unsolicited e-mails. If you are trying to send me your media kit, I haven’t asked for it, I’m not expecting it, and it’s humongous, I’m probably just going to delete the e-mail so that I can free up some space for other incoming messages.
    TRY THIS INSTEAD: Save whatever you are sending as an Acrobat PDF and/or remember to do a “Save As” selecting “Reduced File Size PDF” for anything over 4 or 5MB. You can also compress multiple attachments into one folder using WinZip, or use the Outlook tools to send reduced file size attachments (here’s how).
  2. Do not send out mass e-mails to multiple recipients trying to set up a meeting
    Whenever I get an e-mail asking me “What time are you available for a meeting next week?” I cringe at the thought of responding. That’s because by the time the 20 other people “reply all” and you compile all of those responses, next week has already come and gone.
    TRY THIS INSTEAD: Use a Doodle! www.Doodle.com is great for scheduling meetings with multiple participants, and it’s free. You simply input a variety of times for your guests to choose from, send out a URL to your custom Doodle scheduler, and track the responses. www.doodle.com home page
  3. Do not use a colored e-mail background, colored type, fancy fonts, or inspirational quotes
    Every time I get an e-mail with a colored background, I think to myself, “Is this coming from a 12-year old girl?” When you send e-mails with a colored or patterned background, curly-q typefaces, colored fonts, or inspirational quotes at the bottom, it’s hard for me to consider it a professional communication. It’s also hard for me to read. Your words might be important, but they are lost in translation. All I see is this:
    Example of a terrible e-mail style
    TRY THIS INSTEAD: Create a professional signature line in Outlook (or your e-mail program) that includes your name, title, company, phone number, e-mail, website, and social media sites (for your company, not your personal social media sites) and use that on every company e-mail, internal and external. Add in your company logo too if you want to get super fancy. Also, set your default setting to a simple background (white is just fine) and a standard font like Arial, Helvetica, or Times New Roman. Lay off the Lucida Casual and Script typefaces please.