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Keeping Up Excitement for Your Program All Year Long

Nic Lyons

June 27, 2019

Does Your Marketing Calendar Only Revolve Around Your Catalog?

Faiyaz knows that registration season is here. It’s like clockwork —he class catalog arrives in his mailbox and the weekly announcements in his email inbox. He’s seen an ad or two in the local weekly paper announcing that classes are open for registration. Scattered posters show up around town. A few mentions appear in social media. He registers for ballroom dancing as usual, and after his class begins, it’s just dancing and the occasional handout or announcement.

And then —crickets. At least until January when the next registration opens, and the Faiyaz gets his spring catalog, and the dance begins again. But what about the rest of the year?

Keeping Your Audience On Even When Registration is Off

If you’re only promoting your program when you’re marketing your classes, you’re missing out on opportunities all through the year to raise awareness and enrollments. Keeping your program in mind —even when you are not in a registration period— is important. Fortunately, there are many ways to be in front of people, and most of them are inexpensive, relatively easy, and memorable!

In this post, we’ll talk about the things that are expected, some which are unexpected, and some which are flat out surprising – but which all will keep your program in mind.

The Expected

Each of these channels provides an excellent opportunity to share what’s happening with your program, your students, and your instructors. You want to celebrate their successes and tell their stories during the entire year, not just when classes are in session. These also represent the bare minimum for year-round outreach. (That’s why we call them “expected.”)

Your Website

There are some places which require constant, year-round attention, period. Your website is one of these, and it should always have up-to-date information about your current and next programs, including when your next catalog is expected, how to register, and where to call with questions. Regularly updated class images and testimonials are key features. You can keep your site updated with new content by posting every couple of weeks with a teaser about an upcoming class, a report of how the last session went, or a student success story.

Social Media Channels

You likely have a curated selection of social media channels that you regularly tend during your registration periods. These spaces should also get attention during the rest of the year, even if it’s merely sharing what new content you’ve added to your website. Encourage your students to show off what they’re working on as well or report about how your program has affected them. Be sure to engage whenever someone comments and always respond to messages promptly (even if it’s only to say “please send me an email about this, thanks!”)

Email Marketing

During the year, it’s good to send out relevant content to help your community know what’s ahead. It may be a simple announcement “save the date” to let people know when registration will open, a share of your latest website post, or a request for feedback. You should be able to fill the “quiet times” with occasional, legitimate reasons to reach out.

Local Media

If regular updates to appropriate regional media (tv, radio, newspaper, etc.) are not on your list already, they should be. Community calendars can be filled out far in advance of your program season, and many news agencies now have an online section for community press releases. Be sure you’re present and visible in that space.

The Unexpected

Sometimes you just want to crop up in someplace a little unexpected! It can be easy to silo your program, but partnerships can get you in front of new people and networks of support. Often partnerships create a win-win situation for the partners and the community.

Local Libraries

Be present in your local library all year long. Evergreen bookmarks and flyers should be available to patrons who likely share your program’s values. (Libraries are centers of learning, after all!) You might have recommended reading for your classes. Ask the librarians what people are looking for to get class ideas.

Sponsor a Related Event

Even if you’re running on the most modest of budgets, it’s wise to investigate a smart sponsorship for an event or events in your community. It may be simple, like recruiting volunteers from your organization to help out or perhaps it’s a significant investment such as a named sponsorship. (If you are a sponsor, make sure you’re talking about it in all of the “expected” places noted above.)

Creative Partnerships

If your program has a season (or even if it doesn’t!), it’s always nice to have friends. If you can partner with another program serving a similar audience differently, you may find creative opportunities to partner through cross promotion or hosting promotional events together, particularly if you have different programming seasons.

Teasers and Workshops

Offering teaser classes or single-event workshops can expose people to your program without a commitment on their part. Shorter classes like this get your program and staff in front of more people during your quiet season. They also give people who haven’t taken your classes a chance to meet you and have a taste of the great experience they’ll have.

The Surprising

The Surprising promotional opportunities are a little bit “extra” in many ways. Their goal is to connect in ways that are —well— surprising! They should delight and create memorable experiences for everyone involved.

Everyone Loves a Parade

Most communities have a parade at some time during the year. A float or group walking from your program can be a delightful addition to your schedule and a way to showcase your community. A truckload of instructors, a float that highlights popular offerings, or reflecting your program’s mission–whatever you choose, be sure to display your name and website clearly and if you can, hand out flyers or stickers promoting your program (in addition to candy, of course!)

PechaKucha and Presentations

PechaKucha nights (or similar events) are held in many cities in the US. The presentations are brief – just 20 slides and six minutes – but they can provide an excellent occasion to show off your program! The slides might feature student work, classes in action, or photos that evoke the experience students may have. Frequently these presentations are also recorded, so it’s a solid piece of promotional content you can share later! (Think this sounds cool but don’t have one near you – consider founding one!) In a more traditional vein, many civic organizations actively seek presenters to speak to their members, and there’s no better chance to educate leaders in your area!

Civic and Program Pride

Encouraging a close relationship with your community bolsters not only your class sign-ups but also your respect! From a trash pickup program like “adopt a highway” to sponsoring a community garden, such programs show not only that your program is valuable but that it’s also invaluable to your community. Other ways to show your program pride are to hold big game tailgating parties or occasional summer BBQs for participants in your program. (These are always great to share using all “the expected” channels both before and after!)

A Healthy Mix

If you only focus on advertising and promoting your program when it’s happening (or just about to), you’re missing many opportunities – and possibly a lot of fun!

A healthy mix of the expected, unexpected, and surprising throughout the year will keep your classes and program in mind. Choose the kinds of experiences that you feel will best resonate with your community! When it’s time to register for classes, that recognition, trust, and familiarity will pay in registrations and recommendations.

Nic Lyons

Nic is skilled in scaling start-up edtech and education organizations to growth-stage success through innovative marketing. A former journalist and copywriter, Nic holds a postgraduate certificate in digital and print publishing from Columbia University School of Journalism's publishing course.

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