It has become a common practice for companies to refer to former employees, especially those who left on good terms, as “alumni.” This is more branding than anything else, but it has some HR strategic advantage. In many of the sectors that do this, employees switch jobs frequently and might be good networking contacts in the future. The company might want to reach out to the alumnus at some later point to make an introduction, to collaborate on a project, or to buy-out their new hot startup. Who knows, the company might even want to recruit them back for a new position later.
Some companies are even creating alumni newsletters similar to the ones we get from our universities. These keep the former employee up to date on all of the exciting things goes on at their former employer. Again, this is largely branding (they haven’t started asking for donations yet), but it also keeps them primed for the time when the company does want to ask them for introductions or collaborations.
But I was a little shocked when the Atlantic Magazine sent me a notice that my subscription had expired and they wanted me to resubscribe. I get these all the time, usually with a special rate for former subscribers. But the Atlantic referred to this as their special “Alumni” discount.
I am cynical enough to see through labeling that is designed solely to frame the brand relationship. Kind of like companies calling their manual labor, minimum wage employees as “associates” or a “family member” and then refer to their customers as “patrons” or also as “family member.” There are some pretty outlandish stretches of the imagination out there for both categories. All intended, of course, to make people feel special without actually doing anything to make them special, which might cost some money.
But for a magazine to do for a former subscriber takes some chutzpah. I got the subscription using frequent flier miles and never renewed even once, so I am the least likely to renew or to be considered any kind of preferred customer. I guess it doesn’t hurt. But it does seem quite silly.