There are few things so sweet in your career as setting your sights on an ambitious long-term goal and finally achieving it. This is a story about how Amélie-Anne Gauthier, Development and Communications officer with the Alumni Office of the Université de Moncton, teamed up with Foleon to do just that.
Watch the video or read more below.
“Everyone has been super impressed with what we’ve done on Foleon. A big part of that is the content, the design and our own knowledge of our community, but our secret weapon is the platform.”
Development and Communication Officer
When is it time to modernize the printed university alumni magazine?
It all started with a humble magazine back in the 1950s when the university was only a college. “We’d been doing this magazine since before the university was founded in 1963,” explains Amélie-Anne. The Université de Moncton, a French university in Southeastern New Brunswick, has kept students and alumni worldwide up to date with their annual magazine for over 60 years.
“We love to share success stories with our alumni, and storytelling is mostly what we do… it’s really at the center of our strategy.” Amélie-Anne and her small team were printing the university alumni magazine once a year and sending out 30,000 copies. But Amélie-Anne had more than a hunch that the medium that had proved successful for the university for so long was quickly becoming outdated.
“Our goal has always been to engage with the alumni base — keep them connected, make sure they have a positive experience with the university, and keep a relationship with the university after graduation,” tells Amélie-Anne. But they had one small problem: her team had no real way of knowing whether or not they were successfully meeting their goal.
“We had no idea how many people would actually receive it, and then how many of those would read it and love the content. So it was very difficult to justify the cost.”
In other words, Amélie-Anne and her team needed a way to measure the impact of their work — and they needed it fast.
The laundry list of content platform requirements
Amélie-Anne went to work finding a solution. “We knew that we were at the end of this era, and we needed to transition to something more interactive. We also knew that eventually, we would have to move to another kind of platform and that PDF was just not an option.”
They also wanted to know which content was more engaging for the alumni — what were they reacting to more? Did they like Q&As or interview-style, or even a simple spotlight piece?
Amélie-Anne definitely knew one thing for sure: “We weren’t willing to compromise the quality of the magazine just to switch to online.”
So she started researching solutions that would allow her team to publish the magazine online. It made sense — they’d be able to cut the costs of producing a physical product, and they would be able to gain the readership insights they so desperately needed.
The research phase was crucial, explains Amélie-Anne. “I was doing research because we have a board of directors, so I needed to actually present the project and make a comparison of different solutions.”
Why not just send out a PDF version?
Amélie-Anne’s team was already putting out a PDF version of their magazine, but it was far from ideal. You had to zoom in and out of a page to read, which wasn’t a good experience. And since the magazine was produced for print, there were very small columns that made reading online very difficult.
“And it was just not fun to read a long article,” says Amélie-Anne. “You could scroll through and have a basic idea of what the magazine was like, but not a very in-depth read of the articles. Not to mention that if there was a typo, it was sort of set in stone.”
And finally, there’s the fact that it wasn’t interactive at all. “We have a lot of services that are offered across the university, so sometimes we want to link to other documents, pages, videos, stuff like that, and that was just not something we could do.”
The ideal solution had to be engaging, intelligent, and scalable
The university’s audience was vast and very diverse, and they needed to respond to the needs of many generations. That meant the new solution needed to be:
- Easy to navigate — nothing too complicated
- Simple and straight to the point
- Engaging: the reader experience needed to be enhanced by the platform
- It couldn’t be flat like a flip-through PDF. As Amélie-Anne puts it, “We wanted something with depth.”
- Insightful: what were readers reacting to? What did they like? What were they reading, and what were they skipping?
- High quality: “We weren’t willing to compromise the quality of the magazine just to switch to online.”
- And easy for a small team to produce
“We decided to make the transition once we’d found a product that we could really get behind, where we could say, “Yes! The quality will still be there, and in fact, it will be even better.” And that’s when Amélie-Anne found Foleon. “From the first point of contact with Foleon, it’s been easy, simple, and the communication has been great — it’s just been a very, very good experience.”
From print alumni magazine to multi-award-winning digital content experience
Spoiler alert: it went better than Amélie-Anne ever could have anticipated.
It was a risk to switch from a printed magazine that had been around for so many years. “But to this day — and it’s been three years since we switched — I’m still waiting for a bad comment from someone. We’ve only had positive feedback from staff, faculty, alumni, and the wider community.
“Everyone has been super impressed with what we’ve done on Foleon. A big part of that is the content, the design and our own knowledge of our community, but our secret weapon is the platform. Because if we didn’t have the tools to support all of that creativity, it just wouldn’t be the same.”
Eyes on the prize
Amélie-Anne knew she and her team were on to something big. Back in 2018, she recalls, she was attending the CCAE (Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education) Prix d’Excellence award ceremony. “And there are different categories. In our case, in 2018, I was attending, and they gave an award for best online publication. And I remember nudging my boss and saying, I want that award next year. And she warned me that it was difficult. It was very competitive. We were a small institution, but still, I knew it: this was my goal.”
They didn’t win the next year, but Amélie-Anne and her team kept plugging away. They continued to learn and optimize their digital magazine based on reader insights. In that time, they brought the entire magazine production in-house.
“We have our own graphic designer/photographer/videographer, and he does everything,” tells Amélie-Anne. “We have a writer who takes care of all the text, and I’m kind of the middleman who puts everything together. Foleon makes it very easy for us to get to a final product fairly quickly.”
Because Amélie-Anne’s team no longer has to spend time going back and forth with an agency or other contributors, they’re able to carve out more time creating compelling stories for the university alumni readers. “It’s easy to work with the platform and use the drag-and-drop functionality. The fact that it’s easy to use and comprehend without much training makes it a perfect solution for a smaller team.”
“We just had a brainstorming session with our team, and I exported some stats that are available in Foleon to show the team which articles had more views, where we could see longer readership time, etc. It was great because now we can actually make decisions according to data, not just feelings. We’re a very, very small team, and we’re very proud of what we’re able to create.”
First prize goes to…
Flash forward to 2020, and Amélie-Anne is ready to win that prize she’s had her heart set on for so long.
“Now I know what I'm doing. And we have a great magazine. That was in the Spring of 2020, and unfortunately, we weren't able to travel for the CCAE conference. But they still held some conferences online.
“So I was at home alone, in front of my computer with my team across the city. Everyone was connected and waiting. They awarded the third position and then the second position. And then they suddenly switched to French and announced that the winner of the first position for Best Online Publication was Université de Moncton with our alumni magazine.
I literally screamed in my office! I was so, so, so proud of our team for accomplishing this. It was a great recognition, and it's been celebrated throughout the university. Our president was very proud to say that we got this award, and now it's displayed in my office for anyone to see that we got a gold medal for this online publication.
In the first year of switching to an online magazine, we even won an award which is a national Prix d’Excellence gold medal from CCAE, and it was our great pride and joy to receive this as a very small team from New Brunswick.”
Tripled production with a quarter of the budget
Amélie-Anne has a good laugh about being a Foleon fan girl. “I’m very proud of this project and the brand,” she smiles. “Since day one, I have been telling everyone in the office that I should be wearing a Foleon shirt.” And, well, we agree.
“For us, it was completely groundbreaking for an institution because universities can be very much set in their ways. So to come with something like this, it was very out of the box for us.”
All in all, working with Foleon has delivered some serious results for the Université de Moncton:
- Reduced magazine production costs by 75%
- Went from 1 printed copy once a year to 2-3 digital magazines a year on a quarter of the budget
- Introduced video content to their magazine
- Moved production fully in house
- Won 1 national award
- “The response was great; people love this interactive way of communicating.”
- Received immensely positive internal recognition
Amélie-Anne couldn’t be happier, “If you’re thinking about trying Foleon, 100% go for it. It’s the best move that we’ve made internally, and we’ve had great success with the platform and with the product.”
See it for yourself
- Company: Université de Moncton
- Featured content: Allumez digital magazine