When you think about ways to promote classes for free, you probably think of social media or blog posts. Both can be valuable channels for class promotion, but they’re not the only options available. Publicity in the form of local media coverage helps spread the word about your adult ed or enrichment courses. Members of the media can share information about your course with a much wider audience than you could reach on your own.
Journalists, editors, and media presenters have to keep up with everything happening in their communities and then make quick decisions about what might interest their audiences. Getting their attention isn’t always easy. Fortunately, there are some tried and tested ways to cut through the noise. Better yet, these strategies don’t have to cost you a thing. Let’s take a look at some proven ways to promote a class for free.
1. Write a press release
When it comes to getting publicity, a press release is the best place to start. You might not send it immediately, but it’s good to have one ready in case someone asks. Writing a press release can also help you organize your thoughts and collect all of the relevant information for media outlets.
After you’ve prepared your press release, put together a contact list of editors, journalists, and media presenters who cover your area. Do some research to make sure you’re contacting the right person within an organization. Most students, even those attending online classes, tend to take classes from programs that are within 50 miles of where they live. So focusing on your local press is likely to deliver the best results.
And don’t limit yourself to just the TV news and local paper. Local talk shows and radio shows, bloggers who regularly write about your region, podcasts, and magazines may all help you promote classes for free.
2. Pitch story ideas
Press releases aren’t the only way to draw attention to your class offerings. You can also pitch a broader story idea. A pitch is a little less formal than a press release, and often more personalized. You might reference other stories the outlet has covered or point out connections between their audience and your students.
Usually, you’ll deliver a pitch via email. It doesn’t include as much information as a full press release but should let the editor know why your class is newsworthy.
Dear Editor Name,
Middle school kids in the CityName area will soon have a safe place to go after school. Next week, Organization Name will open up enrollment in their new after-school program focused on building lifelong skills through art and performance.
If you’re interested in learning more, please let us know. We would be happy to provide a press release or connect you to the children’s program director, Her Name Here.
Notice how this pitch offers to send them a press release or connect them with someone who can talk about the class.
3. Follow up on your pitch or press release
Follow the press outlet’s directions for sending press releases. Some want them pasted into an email, others ask for attachments. Some may even have a form to fill out. Giving them what they ask for in the correct format will increase the odds that someone will see and report on your press release.
If you don’t hear back within a few days, you can send an email to follow up. Keep your email short and polite. Something like this:
Dear Editor’s Name,
I know you get a lot of press releases and there’s a chance mine got lost in the shuffle. We’re offering a new class that can help adults prepare for in-demand tech jobs. It’s a timely topic since the tech job market is growing rapidly. I’ve pasted the release below so you don’t have to go digging for it.
4. Piggyback on trends (Newsjacking)
You might think that a class is only newsworthy if it’s new. But that may not be the case. Sometimes a class you’ve offered for a long time can become newsworthy based on outside factors. Pay attention to national and regional new stories that have some tie-in to your course offering.
For example, if a big national news story just reported the latest statistics on motorcycle accidents, that might be a good time to point out that you have a motorcycle safety course that can help riders stay safe.
Jumping on a rising trend is known as newsjacking. If done well, it can help you promote classes by showing that what you’re doing is newsworthy. Done poorly, it can make you seem insensitive. Avoid newsjacking tragedies. The motorcycle safety example above works because we’re dealing with statistics. It would be in poor taste if you did the same thing after someone in your town was injured in an accident. Make sure you thoroughly research a concept before you try to newsjack it.
5. Start a column or short series
Many communities have small community newspapers that share hyperlocal news and events. Supported by advertising and often operating with very small teams, these newspapers often need content to fill their pages. A monthly or weekly column from a local expert can help them do that, while also helping you to promote your course.
Instructors and program directors may have valuable insight to share with the community. If you’re offering a wilderness survival course, for example, you might ask someone in your organization to write a monthly column about the outdoors. In most cases, the newspaper will allow you to include a short bio. This is where you can mention your class.
In addition to promoting a class, writing a column can help you build your social standing. Potential students will recognize your instructor or program director as an expert in the subject and may feel more confident taking classes from that person.
Bonus idea: put it on the calendar
Most local and even regional news outlets have community calendars where you can share your class information. They might be called briefs, going’s on, or just community news. Members of the community can submit short listings for events, workshops, or classes.
Check your local paper or publication to see if they have something like this. If they do, make sure you follow their directions for how to post. Some will ask you to send an email to a specific address. Others offer the option to automatically add your listing using a simple submission form. It’s a quick and easy way to get more press for your classes.
Build Relationships with the Media
Writing quality press releases, making staff and instructors available as sources, and generally being helpful to the press is a long-term investment. When editors and journalists see that you’re a reliable source who provides newsworthy information, they’re more likely to work with you. Keep building these relationships to get your classes the publicity they deserve.