WEA Branch Planning & Publicity

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1 WEA Branch Planning & Publicity We recently took a closer look at branches across the southern region and it is evident that many branches have some interesting and effective ways of publicising their courses and running their branch. Therefore we thought it would be a good idea to share some of these ideas with all branches across the region. Here we list some things that branches have already tried and tested successfully. Before the programme starts Local Branch Brochure Most branches now produce their own local branch brochure, which is usually distributed locally and sent out to previous students. This year one particular branch recorded a 75% return rate of preenrolment forms that they attached to their local brochure, which is excellent. Many of you have said that you think the regional brochure is produced too late in the year, so the need for your own local branch publicity is even more apparent. A lot of branches have reported that they mail out their brochures to previous students in July to prepare for the new academic year starting in September. This is also when many branches distribute their brochures in the surrounding areas. However, more branches are now aiming to have their brochures/leaflets produced by May to distribute during Adult Learners Week, which is 18 th 24 th May in Adult Learners Week may also be a great opportunity to approach the local press with details of your upcoming courses. It is a good idea to include a tear-off slip with the brochure which will give the prospective student instructions for pre-enrolling with the branch. It may also be worth including an invitation to the branch AGM, if you have set a date at this stage. It has been known for branches to stock their local brochures at classes too and to encourage current students to take a few copies away with them to give to family, friends, neighbours or any clubs/societies they may be members of. At least one branch has reported that they pay a company to distribute their local branch brochure door-to-door. The brochure is only dropped to carefully selected postcodes using demographic data sets; including their own records of bookings by postcodes, to ensure that they are reaching their target students. The cost of this will probably vary in different areas, but this may be something worth exploring if your branch has the money to do so. There are templates to produce your local branch brochure currently available on Moodle, but if you need some additional support, please contact Roya Shabani in advance and she would be happy to help. 1 By Roya Shabani, Southern Region Cultural Studies & Volunteer Support Administrator, January 2013

2 Newsletters Keep in touch with past and present students as often as possible via newsletters and class announcements. The cost of postage and printing can be expensive; so many branches are now trying to keep in touch with past and present students via . Some branches send class reminders to previous students once a month in the lead up to the course start date. If you feel this is too much, perhaps try sending a class reminder to previous students at least one month prior the course start date and state a date when people need to pre-enrol by. When possible, attach the course outline to the so that the prospective student has all of the information they should need. Some branches have also found it useful to send out electronic copies of their branch brochure to past students this way, which again, reduces cost of printing and postage. Course Outlines Many branches have reported that they often attract past students on to a course by sending them the course outline. A good course outline should inform the prospective student of all the essential details of the course, such as start date, venue, contact information and fee and it should also provide a publicity blurb, which can be used for promotion material. Again, try to this document when possible to save time and cost. Posters and Leaflets Producing and distributing posters and leaflets wherever possible is a good way of reaching the general public and pulling in new students that is, if you can convince a venue to display them! We are aware that many venues, including some libraries, are reluctant to display posters and leaflets. But here are some places where branches have managed to display posters: tourist information boards; libraries; surgeries (doctors/dentist/vets); train stations; book shops and even pubs. Try to think of a place to display a poster that is particularly relevant to the course for example, a poster for a horticulture course in a gardening centre or leaflets for an English literature course at the venue where a book club meets. Sometimes a venue may be more willing to display a poster if they have a date to take it down. For instance, if you have a poster advertising a course which starts on 10 th September and the date is clearly stated on the poster, ask the venue if they can display it up until that point only and assure them that it can be removed on that date. Imagine the volume of posters and leaflets libraries are approached with to display them all indefinitely would produce a lot of clutter. Giving the venue a set date to display your poster may increase the chance of them doing so. Some branches set up a stall at local farmers markets and boot fairs equipped with branch brochures and leaflets, which is a great way to attract new students and to promote your branch. If you do produce a poster for a single course, please ensure that you mention on the poster that the branch has many other courses on offer and provide contact details for people to find out more about them. Think about the size of your poster/leaflet. One branch has found that venues are often more willing to display an A5 size poster opposed to an A4 one. It may be difficult to fit details of all courses on one A5 poster, but it could be the perfect size to advertise a single course. 2 By Roya Shabani, Southern Region Cultural Studies & Volunteer Support Administrator, January 2013

3 Again, templates for posters and leaflets can be found in the Volunteer Resource area on Moodle, but please contact Roya Shabani if you would like some assistance. Press Releases Getting your branch and courses mentioned in the local press is a great way of advertising courses, but it can be pricey paying for advertising. Therefore aim to get some editorial in a newspaper or magazine about your branch and courses and this can be done by sending publications press releases and copy. A press release doesn t necessarily have to be creative giving it a creative flare is the job of the journalist who picks it up but it does have to be informative. Make sure you always provide: who, where, what, when, why and how in your press release and don t leave questions unanswered. Always include a photograph if possible and it is also useful to include a quote from someone; perhaps a sentence or two from the tutor explaining what the course is about or a few lines from the Branch Secretary to say that the programme is set to be interesting this year. Always provide contact details and outline how people can find out more information. Newspapers will receive many press releases every day and every article that appears in a local newspaper must have an angle. If you can link the course to an anniversary or an event that is going on in the local area, that will certainly increase the newsworthiness of the article and the chances of it being published, for example, 2013 will be 200 year anniversary of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and your branch has an English Literature course starting where you look at Jane Austen s work. Not every course will be able to link to a historic anniversary or to something else that is going on in the area to make it newsworthy, but you can almost always play the local angle: local courses in the heart of the area for local people. Many newspapers and magazines may also have a community/what s on page where you could advertise courses. Finally, make contacts! If a newspaper/magazine publishes something about your branch, try to find out the name and contact details of the journalist who produced the article. Establishing a contact at a publication means you have someone to personally address future press releases to. Social Media We are trying to encourage all branch volunteers to start using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to advertise their branch courses. The WEA is working hard to raise their online presence and profile, but the key to doing this is for more people to start using social media. With Twitter and Facebook especially, there is very much a snowball effect where if more people post and tweet, more people will see information about the WEA and then hopefully go on to post and tweet about it themselves and maybe even enrol on a course. You may find the idea of using social media a daunting one, but there are many how-to guides online to help you get started. You can also find a section on the WEA Southern Region website about why using Facebook/Twitter could be a good thing for your branch. Many newspaper or community page websites also have what s on guides where you can post details about your branch and upcoming courses for free. 3 By Roya Shabani, Southern Region Cultural Studies & Volunteer Support Administrator, January 2013

4 A Launch Event Some branches find it useful to hold a launch event prior to their programme starting usually around the time of publication or receipt of the next year s regional brochure. Many branches make it a social event and include wine and nibbles and, when possible, a guest speaker. Better yet, why not ask some new tutors to introduce themselves and talk a bit about their courses. Even if a tutor is not prepared to publicly speak as a guest speaker at a launch event, it is still worth inviting them along to mingle with prospective students. Once classes have started Opening and closing the first and last class Some branches with larger committees always ensure that a branch committee member opens the first meeting and closes the final meeting of each course. Having a branch committee member present for the first meeting is useful as it gives them an opportunity to ask how students found out about the course and therefore which methods of publicity have proved to be most effective. A committee member present at the final meeting is also useful, as it allows the branch to establish whether the students in the class have enjoyed the course and would like to continue with a future course the following academic year (providing the tutor is willing, of course). Mid/end of term questionnaire Quite a few branches have found it useful to give out a questionnaire a few weeks after the start of each term to ask new students how they found out about the course. Keeping note of where students have found out about the course will indicate to you what methods of publicity are working and where you are best reaching prospective students. Some branches have also found it useful to give out a simple questionnaire to all previous students to get an idea as to what type of courses people would like to see on the programme the following year. You could also include questions to establish what days/times are best for people to do a course and what the ideal duration of a course would be. Having this sort of data is very useful when programme planning for the following academic year and for ensuring that your branch is indeed catering to local interests. Roya Shabani has already designed a simple questionnaire for branches to use. Please contact her if you would like a copy. Encourage tutors to talk to students If you already know that you would like to use a tutor again the following term/year, it may be worth asking the tutor to give a short talk to current students at the end of the course about the subject they plan to teach next. This can be especially effective when a tutor is planning to teach a subject which is slightly new or unusual to what they usually do and giving current students a taste of the subject matter to come may just tempt them to enrol! Share the load Finally, many branches have said that they find that sharing the work load evenly between the committee members is more effective than leaving it all to one person to do. Branch committees 4 By Roya Shabani, Southern Region Cultural Studies & Volunteer Support Administrator, January 2013

5 vary a lot in size and it is quite common to find one person doing almost all of the publicity work from producing posters/leaflets to distributing them just because they are officially the Publicity Officer, but this can be a lot of work for just one person. Even asking if each person on the committee can place one or two posters would certainly share the load. If your branch committee is especially small or you just feel you could do with some help then please contact Roya Shabani, who may be able to help by producing some of the publicity material such as posters and leaflets for you to distribute. Remember that the WEA Cultural Studies Team in Rochester is here to support you and help where they can. You can contact a member of the Cultural Studies team by telephone: or Contact Details for Roya Shabani: Telephone: Office Hours: Tuesday: 9:00am 3:00pm Wednesday-Friday: 9:00am 2:00pm 5 By Roya Shabani, Southern Region Cultural Studies & Volunteer Support Administrator, January 2013

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