Most professional services firms operate alumni programmes at some level. Many are informal programmes that are hung off the back of existing marketing and BD efforts. That is a missed opportunity.
The very large law and accountancy programmes have sophisticated and well-funded alumni programmes. Their success is based, as this excellent article below on EY's alumni's programme illustrates, on two things.
1. By encouraging staff to get involved in alumni programmes and activity from the outset. They will see the value of that programme should they decide to leave the firm.
2. Engage with all alumni at every level. Not everyone will leave a firm to become the CEO of a listed company or create a new Facebook, but many will have considerable influence. This might mean alumni activity for more junior and senior staff.
Successful alumni programmes also need their own dedicated comms and events programme. It is not enough to simply rely upon existing marketing activity.
Consider a dedicated newsletter or magazine that shares insightful content, thought-leadership and profiles on alumni. Do include video and perhaps a dedicated and regularly updated online presence.
Create a bespoke programme of events - perhaps one or two a year. Younger alumni are all too often overlooked - and that is a mistake.
And don't forget social media. LinkedIn, where people will self-identify with their past employers provides a useful and easy way to reach alumni.
EY has a $50bn problem. In the words of partner and global alumni leader Michael Destefano, EY is “unlike Amazon or Apple, where your consumer can connect directly with a product and have great loyalty”. Nor can the firm rely on undercutting or outperforming its Big Four rivals. “There are other organisations that can do what we do.” Instead, EY’s publicly stated aim to generate annual revenues of $50bn by 2020 hinges on relationships. That differentiation is a task familiar to all comms professionals who operate in a competitive market. What’s interesting is that EY has decided not to blitz mainstream media channels with promotional messages. Instead, it’s focused on engaging with its network of former employees to enable it to achieve greatness. “For us, that’s exactly what an alumni programme can do, and has done,” says Destefano.