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Things are changing for the Cornell Alumni community. Learn about the future alumni communications hub, and what it means for you.

Why are communications important for alumni engagement?

  • Communications are a part of the foundation for alumni engagement and building a robust alumni community—to help connect alumni to the university, the university to alumni, and alumni to each other.

Why create a new alumni communications platform?

  • We have an incredible opportunity to broaden our reach and engage more alumni than ever before via a new digital-first communications platform.

     

    Over the years, a growing number of alumni have asked to receive and interact with Cornell information online/digitally—and we have heard them! While our focus in this initial phase of work will be on designing and bringing to life the digital version of a new alumni publication as the core of a new alumni communications hub, this project will include the development of a print option for anyone interested in subscribing to a more traditional magazine.

     

    We want all alumni to feel engaged with the university and to be able to access the stories and connections that pique their interests. Creating a new communications platform will provide alumni with increased access to a diverse array of topics and communities. Additionally, the core digital publication will be more accessible for most of our alumni with disabilities, which aligns with our university efforts to promote equity and inclusion.

     

    In developing our 2020-2024 Cornell Alumni Engagement Strategic Plan, we received a lot of feedback from alumni about communications—in particular, that alumni were receiving too many communications and there was a lack of clarity on how all of the various channels fit together. Building a new digital-first alumni publication integrated within a new digital communications platform allows us to streamline communications and create a better user experience for our alumni.

     

    At the same time, a review of peer institutions and university-wide communications launched by University Relations and the Provost’s Office identified alumni communications as an area with significant potential growth for the university.

Tell me more about this new platform.

  • The new alumni communications hub will provide one-stop shopping for news about Cornell alumni, and connect users to news and storytelling from across the university. At its core will be a free, digital alumni publication designed with the digital user in mind.

     

    In addition to news and features, the communications platform will include opportunities to volunteer and attend events, and eventually, provide an alumni-to-alumni component.

How will the new hub's content be different from the content that is already online?*

  • The new communications hub will allow us to aggregate content of interest to alumni from across the Cornell web space. For content that is original to the hub, we hope to take full advantage of digital modes of storytelling—audio, video, interactive—that weren’t possible with a print magazine.

Will there be an opportunity for groups to have chat areas or advertise events?*

  • The initial phase of the project is focused on the editorial core. Chat areas, discussion forums, and other interactive elements are part of the vision for future phases.

Will the alumni publications hub serve alumni affinities (including athletic teams, organizations, etc.)?*

  • That functionality will not be available at launch, but is part of the vision for subsequent phases. Alumni affinities will also be reflected in storytelling content.

Will non-alumni have access to the hub?*

  • Some areas may have limited access because of privacy concerns, but the non-alumni audience should have access to the editorial content.

Are you looking at building a hub, or do software packages already exist that handle these functions?*

  • The design implementation team is working through our options.

How frequently do you plan to issue the digital publication?*

  • This is still a work in progress. Original editorial long-form content may be produced at a regular cadence, with the ability to publish shorter news features and other content in real time.

Will this be more like a media center, an online community, a scheduled online publication, or is it an actual hub with constant news updates and various interactive community sections?*

  • With the initial rollout in July, it will be a scheduled online publication with the ability to highlight news from around the university in real time, evolving into a hub with interactive community sections over time.

What is the timeline for sharing this platform with alumni?*

  • We are at the beginning stages of developing this new digital publication and communications hub. We will roll it out in phases, beginning in July 2021.

     

    With Cornell Alumni Magazine and Ezra sunsetting after the May/June 2021 issues, we chose July to launch the first phase of the online platform to avoid any engagement gaps with our readers.

     

    We will share progress on this website and on university news sites such as the Cornell Chronicle as updates become available. In addition, groups such as Cornell Association of Class Officers (CACO) will host Q&A sessions and share updates on a regular basis.

Were any alumni involved in the decision-making for the new hub?*

  • Yes, we assembled an ad hoc committee of highly engaged alumni, university leaders, and staff members. Many of the committee members have extensive experience in publishing, communications, print, digital, and social media, as well as current or past engagement with CAM. Jenny Barnett, Editor and Publisher of Cornell Alumni Magazine, has been an integral part of the committee since the beginning.

     

    Alumni volunteers on the current task force have extensive industry experience, including experience transitioning print publications to digital, and have been involved throughout the year-long planning process.

     

    In addition, Cornell contracted with Mule Design to conduct audience research. All alumni were invited to participate via a survey. Over 1,000 alumni responded.

     

    Results of this research will help us finalize the scope of the alumni hub, and build out the timeline to the July 1 launch date.

What does this mean for Cornell Alumni Magazine and Ezra magazine?

  • Cornell Alumni Magazine, in its print form, will be sunsetted with the May/June 2021 issue. Ezra magazine, which is now completely digital, will see its final issue in spring of 2021.

     

    We are committed to transforming the heart, the soul, and the spirit of CAM and Ezra that alumni have come to know and love into the new digital publication and communications platform.

     

    We will continue to help connect alumni to the university, the university to alumni, and alumni to each other. Creating a new communications platform will provide alumni with increased access to a diverse array of topics and communities. We want all alumni to feel engaged with the university and to be able to access the stories and connections that pique their interests.

Will there be a cost to access the alumni communications hub and digital publication?*

  • The alumni communications hub and digital publication will be free and open to all alumni online. The print publication will be available at a cost to alumni. The print subscription rate and details are still being determined.

Why eliminate both print publications?

  • Currently, less than 10% of our 280,000+ alumni receive either Cornell Alumni Magazine or Ezra magazine.

     

    In addition, it is no secret that the past 10-15 years have been challenging for print publications. We’ve continued to see a steady decline in subscriptions, while the resources needed to produce these publications have remained substantial. We aim to use Cornell’s resources as strategically as possible—and to reach as many alumni as possible—which necessitates a digital approach.

Will the authentic alumni voice that we’ve come to expect from CAM carry over to the new digital platform?

  • The new digital publication and alumni communications hub will embody an authentic, genuine alumni voice—and tackle relevant subjects that resonate with alumni with “sympathetic objectivity” toward the University. While we are in the early stages of this process, we are committed to this being a partnership between Cornell alumni, University Relations, and Alumni Affairs & Development. Prior to the new publication going live, we intend to install a governance process, which will include an alumni advisory board or committee.

I really enjoy holding a print copy of a magazine in my hand. Will that still be an option?*

  • While our focus in this initial phase of work will be on designing and bringing to life the digital version of this new alumni publication, this project will include the development of a print option for anyone interested in subscribing to a more traditional magazine.

     

    Alumni can subscribe to the print edition of the publication directly, instead of paying through class dues.

Will classes still collect dues? Without CAM, what will dues go toward?

  • Yes, classes will still collect dues to build class treasuries, and class officers will still determine how those treasuries will be allocated to support Cornell. Class officers will still set their own class dues rates, and they will continue to work with staff to determine their dues solicitation plans and messaging.

     

    Beginning on January 1, 2021, however, alumni will no longer have the option to subscribe to CAM with their dues payment. Since CAM subscriptions will no longer be received as a benefit of paying dues, alumni affairs will emphasize that class dues are fully tax-deductible.

     

    In the future, classes who wish to explore options for funding their class treasuries in ways other than collecting dues may do so by working with their alumni affairs staff contacts.

     

I’ve already paid for the magazine for the July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021 time frame. Will I still receive my CAM issues?

  • Yes, you will continue to receive your print issues concluding with the May/June 2021 issue.

What will happen with Class Notes?*

  • Class Notes are important to many alumni, and they will have a place in the new communications hub and the eventual print publication. Our long-term goal is to provide avenues for other Cornell communities to share news and information with their members as well.

     

    Class Correspondents will continue to collect class news and write columns for Class Notes, which will move online beginning in July. Columns submitted by Class Correspondents by April 15 will appear in the first round of Class Notes published online in July. Specifics about submission of news, frequency of Class Notes, and the print publication are still being determined.

     

    One of the major benefits of a communications hub is that Class Notes will be available for free to all alumni online. Only the print publication will require a paid subscription.

     

    The Alumni Deaths column will continue to be published and will be available online.

Will colleges, schools and other units at Cornell be part of this new alumni publication?

  • Right now, communications teams from colleges, schools and other academic and administrative units work together with University Relations and Alumni Affairs & Development to find, tell and share stories from throughout the university. Those partnerships will continue and help feed this new alumni communications platform, with colleges, schools and units being invited to play a robust part in this new effort.

Did you research how peer institutions are communicating with their alumni?*

  • We benchmarked against the other Ivy Plus institutions, looking at their business and editorial models, their online presences, and their circulation. We also did deeper dives with alumni publications staff at Columbia, Stanford, and the University of Michigan to learn more about aspects of their online presence and inform our decisions.

Can alumni participate in the development of the new publication?*

  • Currently, the alumni publications team is busy working on launching the first phase of the publication hub by July 1. There may be opportunities for additional alumni involvement and beta testing in the future. Please contact Lauren Coffey at lauren.coffey@cornell.edu for more information about your interest and expertise.

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