Alumni share their stories on WeAreND
Nicole Simon | Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Sharing the stories of those who carry on Notre Dame’s mission of being a force for good long past graduation, the Alumni Association publishes weekly profiles of notable Notre Dame alumni from all around the world.
This online publication, We Are ND, was started by Kevin Brennan, the Alumni Association’s associate director of marketing and communications and Josh Stowe, the Alumni Association’s writer and editor, as part of a greater initiative within the Alumni Association.
“One of the areas we looked at was our digital strategy overall, but also our storytelling,” Brennan said. “One of the goals coming out of that was to do digital storytelling at a higher volume. [We wanted to] release more than we had been, more frequently, but also to do some digital storytelling that explicitly told the story of our Alumni and friends living out Notre Dame’s mission in the world. We’d told stories like that before from time to time, but we never had that focus.”
One of the main reasons the Alumni Association sought to increase the number of profiles they published was because they felt there were so many stories to be told, Brennan said.
“Almost everyone in the Notre Dame family has a story about them in some way in their professional or personal lives — living out the University’s mission of being a powerful means of doing good in the world,” Brennan said.
In addition to featuring more graduates, Brennan said they wanted to ensure these graduates’ stories were heard by the wider Notre Dame community.
“Increasingly, we see that we want to meet our alumni and friends where they are … and for some of them who are not able to get back to campus or engage with our clubs, [we can do that] digitally,” Brennan said.
In order to cater to a growing digital audience, the Alumni Association designed the website to be mobile-friendly, Stowe said. As a result, they keep the stories relatively short and distribute them widely through social media and email.
“By having a responsive website, having social media distribution, having a way to get an email alert, [we’re] just trying to make it easy for people to find the content,” Stowe said. “Because we publish so often, we felt like it was important to be places where people were going to go a lot, whether that’s email or social media.”
In fact, the Alumni Association has their online presence to thank for many of their stories, as many readers contact them with recommendations of people to feature online.
“It’s a fairly organic process,” Stowe said. “We constantly have people contacting us to let us know about alumni who are doing interesting things. We’re constantly talking about story ideas, and so we have a pretty good idea as input comes in on [whether or not] this person seems like they would be a great fit for our website.”
People may submit story ideas through We Are ND’s online form, email or other social media platforms. In addition to receiving submissions, the publication often hears of potential profiles by staying connected to the Notre Dame community, Stowe said. Since their ideas come from a variety of sources, their stories reflect a diverse range of subjects.
“We try to crisscross the Notre Dame family. We try to have Domers of all ages, some of them are more recent grads, some of them have been out for decades,” Stowe said. “[It’s] a good mix of people from across the Notre Dame family.”
“We try to have diversity in our story-telling, not just in terms of the age, race, gender of the subjects, but also in terms of the types of stories,” Brennan added. “And that’s one of the things I love about the site. We’re telling stories of Notre Dame people doing good in the world, but that can mean so many different things.”
Brennan said he envisions the publication continuing far into the future.
“We didn’t know, frankly, going into it, how difficult it was going to be to identify stories,” Brennan said. “Notre Dame instills this culture of service in people and a culture of wanting to do good in the world, in whatever way that is. More than a year into it, we don’t feel like we’re going to run out of stories to tell.”