Elizabeth Allen (@LizAllen) is the director of online communications and alumni relations at the American School in London.
“Rest of World” is the term we use around the office at the American School in London when sorting outgoing mail for direct mail appeals. There’s local mail (UK), mail to continental Europe (a different postage charge, but not quite as much as an international rate) and then “rest of world”—the mail going out to every other country outside of those described above: the United States, Singapore, Brazil, India and so on.
While these categories might work for sorting out postage, they don’t work when developing a strategy for international alumni. Lumping graduates who live overseas into one big group overlooks their needs as individuals. An alumnus living and working in Berlin may have next to nothing in common with an alumna in Beijing. Different languages, time zones, professional goals and communications channels all play a role in effective engagement.
As John Arboleda stated in his April CURRENTS article, “Find the Right Fit,” “…institutions adopt a one-size-fits-all strategy for engaging international alumni… your alumni relations strategy should reflect the needs and realities of graduates who live in different countries and often experience different cultures and dynamics.”
While Arboleda references these principles with respect to alumni events, programs and services on the whole, they also apply to social media strategy for international engagement.
Tailoring content for international audiences is key. For example, as William Foreman, University of Michigan’s global communications manager, explained in “The China Connection,” a CURRENTS article by Becca Rampsott, ‘We learned that if our content wasn’t in perfect Chinese, then people wouldn’t want to read it.Getting the language right is so important if you want to be credible.'”
And on Sweden’s Lund University’s international recruitment Facebook page for international recruitment, all questions are asked and answered in English—not Swedish—to reach the largest possible international audience. There’s also a human touch: the page’s administrators, Megan Grindlay and Maria Lindblad, respond individually to each question posted on the wall and sign each response with their names and titles.
These examples are just additional proof that while “rest of world” might be easy in terms of categorization, it isn’t a persuasive engagement strategy. Care and attention to cultural details will go a long way toward effectively communicating with international audiences.