CCAD: Fashion Show Goes Virtual

Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD) is a top private art and design college in Columbus, Ohio, the nation’s third largest metro for fashion designers. CCAD’s Senior Fashion Show – the annual event that showcases the collective talent of top senior design students – is a highlight of the school year, plus a must-see event within certain segments of the Columbus fashion community. However, in 2015, CCAD wanted to extend awareness and attendance at the Senior Fashion Show beyond its existing circle of supporters – current students/staff, CCAD alumni, and local designers, retailers and fashion boutiques.

They engaged Geben Communication to develop and implement an aggressive social media/PR strategy designed to increase visibility and ticket sales, especially among this new, larger audience.

We knew that engaging targeted influencers – those who weren’t already connected to CCAD, but had a strong voice in the local fashion community – could help CCAD connect with a new audience of potential ticket buyers. But, we didn’t want to simply ask these people to attend or talk about the show. Instead, we wanted to create a deeper, more authentic connection by inspiring influencers to promote the show, while also simultaneously underscoring its theme. (In a press release issued prior to the Senior Fashion Show, CCAD’s Fashion Design Department Chair mentioned that student designers participating in the show “have their own distinct personalities and unique styles that shine through their designs.” That’s the messaging we wanted to emphasize online, too.) It quickly became clear that Instagram needed to be a core component of our outreach.


  1. Use Instagram to extend and reinforce the theme of CCAD’s 2015 Senior Fashion Show (as noted above, “unique styles that shine through design”).
  2. Inspire a community of advocates to promote CCAD’s 2015 Senior Fashion Show.
  3. Increase awareness and tickets sales for CCAD’s 2015 Senior Fashion Show.


Our comprehensive PR strategy leveraged media relations, social media, influencer engagement and community relations/partnerships to boost visibility and increase ticket sales. On Instagram, we developed a campaign concept that would get influencers excited about the event and mobilize their communities to buy tickets, without overusing CCAD’s already-limited resources during critical prep time for the show. How? We created a Virtual Fashion Show, featuring Instagramm-ers’ personal fashion statements.

This meant taking a fresh approach to the popular “loop giveaway” concept on Instagram: On Friday, April 24th at noon, each influencer agreed to post an “outfit of the day” photo on her personal Instagram account, along with a caption detailing her look and promoting the show. And, by asking each influencer to tag another participant in their photo caption, we were able to create a entire virtual “runway” of looks (more specifics detailed below).


First, we built a targeted list of 15 women to potentially participate in the Virtual Fashion Show, including a combination of local fashion icons, influencers and bloggers. To choose participants, we evaluated each person’s reach, level of engagement with their online community, and voice/tone to make sure their values aligned with CCAD. Also worth noting: No cash was offered in exchange for participation. We gave select influencers VIP tickets, but that’s all. The initial outreach email offered details about how the Virtual Fashion Show would work:

“You’ll post an ‘outfit of the day’ photo on Instagram expressing your unique fashion style and statement, just like designers do when creating their collections. In the caption, describe your personal style and what makes you, you. You’ll also need to tag the next “look” in the virtual runway show by tagging the next influencer’s Instagram handle in your caption. That way, viewers will be able to see the whole ‘runway’ of looks by clicking through all of the participating influencers’ photos. Of course, we’d also love if you could share info about the upcoming CCAD Fashion Show too.”

Once we finalized the list of participants, we determined an “order” and let everyone know which other influencer they were responsible for tagging. We also provided the event link and hashtag, plus suggested verbiage to include in the caption.

The participants posted their photos precisely at noon, officially launching the Virtual Fashion Show. Here’s a sampling of photos posted:

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 1.01.11 PM

After the influencers posted their photos, CCAD created and shared a Flipagram slideshow of all nine looks from its own Instagram account. That way, anyone who missed the “live” event could still see the whole show in one place.


The Virtual Fashion Show on Instagram far exceeded expectations, which is especially impressive considering very small amount of resources/budget allocated for the project.

  • Photos from nine influencers garnered 1,500+ likes and 144 comments.
  • The influencers’ combined Instagram followings helped CCAD reach 45,000 new people (and potential ticket buyers).
  • The campaign generated a boost in network growth: CCAD added 115 Instagram followers in the two weeks between the Virtual Fashion Show and Senior Fashion Show – nearly double their average network growth.

Most importantly, in conjunction with other PR/social media initiatives, the Virtual Fashion Show helped CCAD sell out the 2015 Senior Fashion Show.