Short courses - staff resources


Create marketing materials

You'll need a marketing plan, budget and time to create marketing materials to attract learners to your course. Make sure you start work on this several months before your course starts.

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What affects how you'll market your course

How you promote your course depends on:

  • who you're trying to attract
  • how much budget you have
  • how much marketing time and expertise you have

You should have thought about how to market your course at the planning stage.

After your course idea is approved, you'll need to think about and then create the marketing materials. 

Any marketing materials you create must meet the standards of UCL's brand.

Why marketing short courses is different to other UCL programmes

Marketing short courses and CPD (continuing professional development) can be different because:

  • the buyer's decision can be complex
  • you may need to make a commercial case for why a learner should do your course

In some sectors, UCL is a strong brand. But in many markets or countries, people will not know who UCL is.

In some markets, the UCL brand might even be seen as a barrier. People might think that academic-based training is not commercial or vocational enough.

So, you'll need to clearly explain the benefits of attending your course.

Write a marketing plan

Your marketing plan should include:

  • what you're going to do
  • who's going to do it (if you're sharing the work with colleagues)
  • when you're going to do it, and any relevant deadlines
  • how you'll know if it's worked (ideally, how you'll measure success)

Before writing your plan, think about:

  • who your audience is
  • what makes your course unique
  • what your marketing messages might be
  • what marketing channels would be best to use

Writing down a plan is a good idea because it:

  • becomes your 'to do' list
  • allows you to organise your time, so you're not doing everything at the last minute
  • helps you spread resources and divide up the work
  • allows you to spot opportunities you hadn't thought of before
  • means you can share your plan and get help and support 

What to include in your marketing plan

You'll probably want to include tasks such as:

  • creating a course description and links (for example, in your email signature) that can attract learners
  • using social media, forums, discussion groups and colleagues to promote your course
  • collecting feedback to improve and promote your course (for example, through learner case studies)
  • identifying partners to deliver or promote your course

Use solution-focused marketing: solve problems for your learners

Asking people to come on a course can be a difficult thing to sell. Instead, you can approach it as offering a solution to a problem you know your audience has. 

Tell learners how your course or CPD can:

  • give them a way to make their business more profitable or competitive
  • help them to develop their career, get promoted or make them more employable
  • give them skills that will benefit their customers
  • inspire or develop their hobby, interest or passion

If you can, quote some relevant research that highlights the problem or shows how your 'solution' can help.

Show learners how your course has helped people like them

If you've run your course before, one of the most powerful marketing tools is to write up a case study from a learner who's completed your course.

Surveys like the Edelman Trust Barometer consistently show that people trust 'someone like them' when making decisions about organisations.

Example: a solution-focused email campaign

Here's an example of how to plan a potential solution-focused email campaign for a deaf awareness course aimed at NHS staff.

Email 1: Sent three months before course starts

Problems your audience faces:

  • time and money
  • slow bed turnover in hospitals, which can cause congestion and high costs

How your course can help: If staff can communicate more effectively with those with hearing problems (including the elderly), it could help them discharge people more efficiently.

Details to include: Figures on bed turnover and numbers of people in hospitals with hearing problems.

Email 2: Sent two months before course starts

Problems your audience faces:

  • resources, time and money
  • poor quality, or lack of, interpreters and/or relevant equipment could lead to ineffective or cancelled appointments which waste resources

How your course can help: If you can make it easier for staff to communicate with deaf patients, it could mean fewer wasted appointments and better customer satisfaction.

Details to include: Figures on wasted appointments in the NHS due to hearing issues, money spent on interpreting and related equipment.

Use 'content marketing' to sell your course

Content marketing is about producing or sharing interesting, valuable and relevant information for your target audience. Doing this will engage and attract them to what you're doing.

In other words, you give away a 'taste' of the course to entice them to sign up to your course and learn more.

Examples of content marketing include:

  • case studies: stories to inspire your audience or let them know they're not alone
  • 'how to' guides, expert advice or top tips
  • excerpts from research
  • related or accompanying webinars or podcasts

Successful content marketing should:

  • be sharable (for example by email or on social media)
  • include a call to action, reminding learners that you're running a course and they can sign up to learn more
  • be a long-term strategy (for example, you usually can't do content marketing one month before a course begins and expect significant results)

Examples: content marketing

1. Write a relevant article

Dr Joe Devlin runs a neuromarketing short course at UCL. He published a relevant and topical article on LinkedIn about the topic. He then devoted the last paragraph to his course.

This article could then:

  • be shared on social media
  • be emailed to his target list
  • include a link to his course description page

2. Create a guide or tool

This blog post from the Content Marketing Institute explains how The Cleveland Clinic created a tool about analysing urine colour to drive users to their website.

3. Use someone else's content

Dr John Sterman at MIT wrote a great article about systems thinking.

UCL was running a course on this, so we shared a link to his article on Twitter. We included a call to action for users to sign up to our course to learn more.

Use relevant content to create a free pop-up ad for your course

You can try and use Sniply to link to interesting, relevant content online that:

  • is not yours
  • you can't edit (to add or link to your course description)

Sniply is a free tool for sharing links to web pages. When the user lands on the page, they also see a pop-up ad you've created.

Sniply doesn't work for all websites, but it's a very handy tool.

Use a mix of marketing channels

Here are some channels (both UCL and external) you can use to promote your short course or CPD.

1. The Week @UCL

What: UCL's weekly e-newsletter to staff
Audience: UCL staff
Cost to use: Free

Pros: Great for targeting UCL staff and for getting staff to support what you're doing

Cons: Articles need to have a very broad appeal to most staff to get included

Useful info:

  • runs weekly during term time
  • deadline for submissions is 12 noon Wednesday
  • you'll need to complete a form to get included
  • there are editorial guidelines you need to meet

2. my UCL

What: UCL's weekly e-newsletter to all students
Audience: UCL current students
Cost to use: Free

Pros: Great for targeting current students

Cons: None

Useful info:

  • runs weekly during term time
  • deadline for submissions is 12 noon Wednesday
  • to get included, email studentcommunications@ucl.ac.uk with a brief outline of the feature
  • there are editorial guidelines you need to meet

3. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

What: Social media paid-for campaigns
Audience: Whoever you target based on locations, interests, pages that people like and keywords
Cost to use: You'll need to spend at least £200 to £300 per platform to see any results


  • ideal if you're trying to tap into an audience you don't know much about
  • Facebook is great for hobbies and interests, for example languages and culture
  • Twitter allows you to target people with particular interests, for example people that follow specific handles
  • LinkedIn is a platform for professionals, so it's good for promoting CPD

Cons: You need access to a credit card to run any paid-for campaigns

Useful info:

  • you can set up a campaign which can give you some really interesting audience information, without committing – this might help your market research
  • you can set a daily or campaign budget
  • each platform's built-in analytics can help you monitor your campaign, so you can change it if it's not working.
  • you should plan the content of your campaign in advance before you do anything: content is king

4. Google Ads

What: Google's online advertising service
Audience: Whoever you target based on locations, interests, users behaviour, and keywords
Cost to use: Depends how much you want to spend

Pros: Puts your message directly in front of your target audience; easy to measure ads' effectiveness

Cons: You need access to a credit card to run any paid-for campaigns

5. Website banner adverts

What: Adverts that run on other websites
Audience: The users of the websites you target
Cost to use: Depends on the website – can vary from a few hundred pounds to a few thousand

Pros: You can target specific groups/audiences in your sector

Cons: Varied results: people have become somewhat immune to banner ads and often have software that blocks them

6. Print adverts

What: Adverts placed in academic journals and magazines
Audience: Sector-specific readership groups
Cost to use: Typically £500 to £1,000 per ad


  • you get access to a specific group of engaged, interested people
  • you are seen in the right places for your industry


  • can be very expensive
  • hard to measure success

Useful info:

  • consider offering a unique discount code in your advert so you can see how many people use it

Other channels

You could also use:

  • podcasts
  • webinars
  • the UCL Student Union
  • trade shows

Use UCL templates and images

Marketing templates

UCL Communications and Marketing has templates you can use to create letterheads, posters, emails or presentations.

Any marketing materials you create must meet UCL's brand standards.

Using images

Avoid using stock photos. Research shows that learners easily spot these and don't trust them. They will make your course seem less credible.

Instead, you can use professional images of UCL short courses taken on campus. You can access these in the Short courses section of the UCL Image Store.

These images are free to use, as long as you:

  • use them to promote UCL courses
  • publish them on UCL channels, such as UCL social media accounts, brochures or websites

If you want to let someone else use them (such as an external website or a newspaper) then:

  • you must credit the photographer (listed in the image details on the UCL Imagestore)
  • you may need to pay a small fee

Email UCL Imagestore (imagestore@ucl.ac.uk) if you need advice.

Find out more about working with copyright.

Use Canva to create your own marketing templates

You can use a tool called Canva to create your own templates for things like:

  • website advert banners
  • images for social media

Make sure:

  • you use the appropriate template for the channel you're using
  • you have permission to use the images

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