What makes watching people drive around in cars so interesting? From Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee to James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” segments, drive-around chats with celebrities have attracted millions of views online.
Besides the obvious comedic appeal, these skits are so successful because they help viewers feel a deeper connection with celebrities. Celebrities can let their guards down and talk about everyday subjects, giving viewers an intimate glimpse into their lives.
In essence: it’s a scalable way of engaging fans without having to sit down with each and every one of them.
Aren’t we trying to do the same thing in alumni relations?
Just as fans want to feel connected to their favorite celebrities, alumni want to feel a personal connection with the administration or with high-profile alumni.
But it’s hard to deliver that level of stewardship when you have thousands of constituents. Alumni who aren’t major donors most likely won’t get that type of one-on-one contact.
As alumni relations professionals, we should be thinking creatively about this challenge. How can we give all of our alumni—not just high-level donors—access to campus “celebrities?”
Driving Around With Notable Alumni
As we saw with the Comedians in Cars and Carpool Karaoke examples above, video is a great way to connect with mass audiences online. Nowadays, it can even be a cost-effective option; you just need an iPhone camera (or, on the higher end, a GoPro) and someone on staff who can do basic video editing.
Some universities have even created their own versions of the driving-in-a-car interview to showcase alumni and campus leaders. Take a look at the examples below for some inspiration.
Stanford Alumni Association’s “Golf Cart Confessions”
Stanford’s video series brings an interesting twist to the driving-in-a-car concept; the interviewees are regular alumni, not well-known alumni or administrators. In each episode, alumni share stories about their time at Stanford (while riding in golf carts, of course!).
Shot on location at Reunion and Homecoming over the last few years, the videos mimic the types of conversations you might have if you came back to campus for reunion weekend. They’re authentic, fun to watch, and a great way to bring alumni closer to the action on campus. It’s no surprise the collection has scored over 11,000 views on YouTube.
Northwestern University Alumni Association’s “’Cats in Carts”
With “’Cats in Carts,” Northwestern invites high-profile Reunion attendees to tour campus in a golf cart as they reflect on their college days. The series has featured interviews with trustees and accomplished alumni alike—including sportswriter Alan Abrahamson and ESPN personalities J.A. Adande and Michael Wilbon.
Besides doing a great job of selling reunion, the series gives viewers an insider’s look at why these famous alums love Northwestern. It creates a sense of shared experience by showing viewers that these individuals reminisce on many of the same campus landmarks and activities as they do.
Keep in mind that reunion isn’t the only kind of event that can benefit from video marketing. Video interviews are also a great way to support events like homecoming or the launch of a new campaign.
Regardless of the scenario, here are a few pieces of advice about conducting video interviews:
- Provide the questions ahead of time. While you do want the video to feel authentic and off the cuff, if you’re working with school leaders or notable alumni, they’ll appreciate seeing the questions ahead of time. This isn’t as important if you’re interviewing randomly selected alumni across campus, but do make sure to get as much footage as possible so that you have enough usable material.
- Don’t ask the interviewee to make a specific call-to-action to the viewer. It can feel forced and unauthentic if you ask all of your interviewees to say, “Make sure to attend reunion next time!” Try to keep it unscripted and let the conversation flow.
- Turn it into a series so that viewers look forward to seeing the next episode. Make a list of topics to tackle and alumni to interview, and create a release schedule so that you can continue to engage your alumni through video every few weeks.
Video is no longer a big budget spend thanks to the amazing technology available at our fingertips. We can create compelling videos in much less time—and with fewer resources—than we could in the past, helping us increase our reach and engage alumni who may not be responding to our traditional channels of communication.
So why not give it a shot? Driving around in cars or not, video content is an amazing way to bring personality to your alumni association or annual giving office.
Enjoyed this piece? You might also like “Increase Your Fundraising Video ROI With These 4 Tips.”
Tim Ponisciak is director of graduate alumni relations at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. Tim also runs the blog Alumni Catalyst and is passionate about promoting how higher-ed institutions can learn from marketing agencies, advertising agencies, and great brands. Tim loves old movies and board games, and is currently trying to visit all 30 major league ballparks.