As you may know, quite a few of my classes are organised by the WEA. ‘Who are they?’ people tend to ask, when I tell them who I work for.
‘Workers’ Educational Association,’ I say.
‘Oh,’ they say. ‘Where’s your college?’
‘There’s no campus,’ I say. ‘Classes are organised within the community, by volunteers who run the local branch. There could be some taking place just around the corner from where you live.’
I’ve taught in community centres, out-of-hours schools, village halls, church and chapel halls, library meeting rooms and pub-lounges. These are all places where people pass through and might see the posters, even if they don’t sign up.
Why am I telling you this? Well, Saturday I went to the WEA Area Meeting, where delegates from four of the local branches gathered to exchange news and share ideas. Publicity was one of the items on the agenda, and despite the fact that this year there have been some popular courses put on, there was still a general feeling that the WEA needs a higher public profile.
This is an organisation with a one hundred and thirteen year pedigree: that’s created a healthy alumni and alumnae. Yet apart from the wonderful, Pitman Painters play by Lee Hall, there’s not much mention of WEA in the national or local press.
Some branches post on social media, and most put up posters and leaflets. Finding spaces for paper publicity is tricky. Many of the places with ‘What’s On’ displays are managed by commercial organisations, and often that limits the room left for others.
Our local newspaper used to produce a supplement that contained all of the adult education courses on offer in the county. That’s how I came to sign up for my first creative writing class. I remember that I browsed the list, and then took out the page I was tempted by, folded it to the relevant section and kept it on the side for a couple of days as I psyched myself up to phone and enrol.
What I’m wondering is, how can we do that with social media? The posts on twitter and face-book move rapidly down the page, it’s no wonder that people using it for publicity put out so much duplication.
Is this chatter the best way to attract the attention of a tentative first-timer?