Promoting a Class or Workshop

I've talked about my Making Comics class a fair bit in the past couple weeks.  I know those of you not in the greater Nashville area are probably a bit tired of the promo posts, so I thought I would talk about it in another way- today I'm going to chat about the promotional aspects of recruiting students for a class.

I'm not new to workshops or panels.  I've taught workshops and panels, in various formats, since my SCAD days back in 2010.  And for every workshop or panel I host, I have to promote the event- usually through this blog, my Tumblr, Twitter, occasionally through Facebook, and increasingly through Instagram.  When I'm promoting a panel that's tied to a convention, often I just need to tag the convention in those promotional posts for a quick reblog.  Attendees often check the con's hashtag to find out about events- so much of the promotion is done organically.  Conventions don't have a minimum number of attendees as a prerequisite for hosting a panel, so I don't have to worry about registration or filling the room.

Panels and workshops for libraries can be a bit different.  These do require a bit more promotion- after all, a full class shows the library that comic content is worth hosting, and some libraries are more reticent than others.  Depending on the area I'm teaching in, I'll start posting about it to my Facebook, particularly if I'm hosting a workshop or panel in an area where I've tabled before.  Historically, my promotion has been entirely online, and without use of paid advertising.

Building an audience, and audience retention, are two areas I've always struggled with.  For some reason, repeat business has never been robust enough for me to relax a little- every event- be it a workshop, a panel, or a sales event- requires my A game.  Promoting my second iteration of Making Comics required me to up my A game another level- my AA game if you will.  This came as a bit of as shock to me, as my first iteration- Making Comics and Zines, hit the minimum number of registered students quickly, and continued to fill from there, whereas I'm ten days away from class starting, and I only hit my minimum number this morning.

However, hit my minimum I did, and with ten days to spare, so today, I want to share my process for filling a class when the stars are not in your favor.

Last Semester:

  • Wrote a blog post for Nashville Community Education's Blog
  • Recorded an interview for their Youtube channel, based on provided questions
  • Participated in an Instagram 'takeover' of the NCE Instagram account
  • Created a graphic and shared it to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook
  • Created a Facebook group for the class
  • Tabled at NCE's Open House event- an outdoor event that coincided with a farmer's market, on a beautiful late summer day, handed out copies of the class syllabus
  • Tabled at Handmade and Bound and handed out fliers to interested parties

This Semester:

  • No tabling events where I could promote my class in person- I think this is why I struggled to get students enrolled
  • Have not had the opportunity to participate in an NCE Instagram takeover, but have been mentioned in their Stories a few times
  • Wrote a blog post for NCE's blog

Promoting the Class:

Generally tried to think outside my usual social media audience, most of whom don't seem to be in Nashville or New Orleans, and tried to better connect with my local scene.

Blog Content:

Learn How to Tell Stories Visually with Becca Hillburn
Exciting News for Making Comics and Zines

Other Promotion: 

Posting regularly to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook
Created a Facebook Event
Posted to Next Door Neighbor, and created an Event for the class
Posted about class on LinkedIn

Creating Videos:

Making Comics Class Preview:

Exciting News about my Nashville Comic Class:

Comic Cuties- Sketch and Inks:

Distributing Fliers and Handsouts:

Jerry's Artarama
Starbucks at 2525
Starbucks on West End
PlaZa Art Supplies
Rick's Comic City
Wake Up to Comics (at The Groove)
Nashville Public Library- Downtown branch and branch near the Cohn School
Three Brothers/Cumberland Transit

*Nashville Public Library (downtown) branch originally resisted putting up fliers, as the class has a cost, but I pursued the matter until it was resolved.  Since my class is through Nashville Community Ed, another Metro department, and since it's held through a not for profit organization, we eventually worked something out.  If you're promoting a class through community ed, don't be afraid to pursue it.
** Library near Cohn School was eager to put out the fliers, and excited about the class.  Don't let one library's reticence get you down

*** Cost goes to reimbursing NCE for materials, and reimbursing me for materials.  Nobody's really making a profit on this class.

Requesting a Signal Boost:

Emailed one of the professors at Watkins School of Art regarding the class.  She organizes Handmade and Bound, and said she'd tell her students/make sure the ad got in the upcoming newsletter

Asked Nashville Scene, NashvilleFun, NashvilleTN and various other Nashville Twitter accounts to retweet the information.  Only MTAC responded- and they were generous enough to retweet it to their audience.  Don't be afraid to nag- many outlets make their bread and butter talking about local events (that's their news), but may balk at comics.  Ain't nothin wrong with comics, and don't let them tell you otherwise.

Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube Ads:

Facebook and Instagram- $1 day limit, shown to people ages 13 and up, men and women, within 20 miles of Nashville
Youtube Ad- Making Comics Class Preview

Note:  Neither Facebook or Youtube ads really resulted in any clicks (just one, with Facebook), but repetition and visibility are important.  They say someone has to see something seven times online before they'll click it once, so it's about building recognition.

So what worked?

Honestly, who knows.  If I had to put my money on it, I'd say getting out there and putting out fliers is probably what made the biggest impact.  I tried to select places carefully- places where comic people like to hang out, places where aspiring artists absorb the atmosphere.  Many of these fliers were takeaways- small, hand cut fliers they can take with them to remember to sign up, but quite a few were larger fliers.  Once the class starts, I'll ask them how they found out about the class, and use that to prepare my promotion for next semester.


  • Don't get discouraged!  Businesses have a right to reject your request, but many are happy to share information about local classes.
  • Get out there and paper the streets!  Hit up your local favorites- art supply stores, coffee shops, and ask if they'll put up fliers
  • It helps to buy- even something small, like a coffee
  • If a library says no- ask why!  Maybe the rational is solid, but sometimes the librarian you're talking to doesn't feel like putting in the effort.  If they wont help you, ask to speak to someone who might.
  • Many librarians are excited about comics- if the person you're talking to isn't into it, ask to speak to someone on staff in charge of teen reading, or in charge of the graphic novel section.  Find allies through common interests!
  • If you're promoting a class taught through a school, don't be afraid or ashamed to ask them for help and ideas as well
  • Don't rely on your online audience- who may be all across the globe- think local!
  • Be friendly when asking, explain the class, explain the organization hosting it, and be grateful when people say yes!  If they say no, you can either pursue it (like with the libraries) or shrug it off and thank them for their time (businesses).  Nobody owes you anything, but you owe it to yourself to do your best! 
Still interested in taking Making Comics?  There's still time, register today!


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