NPS Blog

Planning the marriage (not just the wedding)

Net Promoter System podcastPeople in the US are intensely loyal to their universities. Alumni brand themselves with sweatshirts, T-shirts and even underwear bearing their college’s name. You’ll find them drinking from mugs emblazoned with mascots and driving cars with rear-window stickers broadcasting their alma maters.

Some super-alums have been known to hire their university’s mascot to appear at their weddings. I even have a friend who had his alma mater’s crest tattooed on his body.

Universities depend on this fierce loyalty. Alumni fund research, scholarships and major capital improvements. They interview applicants, fill seats at football games and help raise a school’s profile. They’re a college’s product, as well as its customers and benefactors.

cunningham-reedMy latest guests on the Net Promoter System podcast work hard to fan the flames of alumni loyalty at their respective colleges. Linda Reed and Jennifer Cunningham work in alumni relations at Stanford and Cornell, respectively. On the surface, they organize reunions and other events designed to strengthen the bonds among alumni. But on a deeper level, they view themselves as “engagement officers” who work to nurture these relationships so that they endure for an alumnus’s entire lifetime.

They use the Net Promoter System to guide their efforts. While the system was developed to support businesses, Linda and Jennifer have adapted it for use in the academic world. After all, many of the same rules apply. For example, just as promoters tend to buy more from retailers they love, alumni promoters tend to donate more, go to more events and volunteer.

The Net Promoter System helps Jennifer and Linda focus on the things that truly matter to alumni, rather than event planning minutiae, such as the quality of the coffee that was served.

“It’s sort of the analogy of planning the wedding versus planning the marriage,” Jennifer says. “We want a marriage with our alums, and the event is just sort of the wedding. So even if the wedding is a disaster, as long as you have that relationship, you know you’re winning.”

During the podcast, we talk about everything from the history of alumni organizations to how the simple act of following up can help mend a soured relationship with an alum.

You can listen to my discussion with Jennifer and Linda on iTunes or through the player below. Click here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.

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