We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, and it’s really true. One good photo captures our imagination, our emotions, and our hearts.
Savvy health club owners know that inserting pictures into advertising makes good sense. That’s why we see so many before-and-after photos in gym advertising. Gold’s Gym, 24 Hour Fitness Center and other big names in the industry all use photographs in their health club marketing materials. Typically, their advertising features a pretty gym girl posing next to a piece of gym equipment with happy, smiling people in the background. The message is clear: if you want to look this good, you need to buy a gym membership here today!
Using photographs in gym marketing is expensive. The average women’s circuit training fitness center simply cannot afford the large full-color ads needed to run pictures. Small, business card sized ads are affordable but don’t have enough space to include much of anything (text or pictures). Larger ads have the room to communicate your message, but the exorbitant price is prohibitive.
If the smaller ads don’t give you enough room to run a persuasive advertisement, and the larger (full-color) ads are too costly, what’s a health club owner to do?
The answer is to get free publicity. This is a strategy that even a little gym can use to get their message out for zero cost. Running a free publicity campaign takes effort and time, but the rewards can be absolutely incredible!
Newspapers, radio stations, and to some extent even television stations are constantly seeking content for their readers, listeners and viewers. These media organizations sell information, and without quality content, they will lose market share. That’s where you come in. They need a never-ending stream of facts, news and advice and you are an expert in the field of health, fitness and weight loss. It’s a perfect match, but only if you take the initiative to offer your expertise.
How To Implement This Free Publicity Idea For Small Business Owners:
Every athletic club has multiple media outlets around them. The first step is to make a list of all these media sources (newspapers, radio stations and television stations). Be sure to list their name, address, phone number(s) and the name of the news editor.
Next you need to decide which of these media companies you’re going to approach. Here’s what you have to offer them:
1) Newspaper: Volunteer to write a weekly or monthly column about health and fitness. Alternatively, you could do a section called “Exercise of the Week” where you demonstrate (with pictures) a new type of exercise and explain how to perform it.
2) Radio: Volunteer to host a “Health and Fitness Minute” segment where listeners can email you their questions. Once each week you will choose a question, read it on the air, and then answer it on the air. This is not a live call-in show, so there’s no pressure! You literally have an entire week to choose the question and research the answer.
3) Television: Volunteer to make yourself available for local interviews. When the media covers a national story on health and fitness, they always like to interview someone local to accompany the national news feed. That someone should be you! Let them know you’re willing to be interviewed.
Most health and fitness centers will generate the best results by writing for the local newspaper, simply because that media outlet will offer the highest frequency and reach.
Most newspapers in the United States run weekly columns written by local experts. Rarely, if ever, are the writers compensated for their work. These authors don’t write for pay, they write for exposure. A good publicity hound understands that the effort required to write a weekly column is a small price to pay for the benefits they will gain from that free publicity.
How a Gym (or any small business) Can Get Free Publicity From the Newspaper:
1) Examine the local newspaper for at least two weeks to get a feel for column requirements.
2) Prepare between three and five sample articles to present to the editor.
3) Call the editor for an appointment.
4) Make your pitch!
The first step is to do your homework. Scour the publication in which you want to be published for locally-written articles. Typically you’ll find columns written by a gardener, a clergy member, a veterinarian, and perhaps a computer technician. Keep in mind that all of these folks are writing their columns for free. Their payoff is the last small paragraph of the article, which will typically say something like “Mary Smith is a gardener at XYZ Nursery. She has 25 years experience in the field, and can be reached at 555-5555.” Mary will not only get referrals from this listing, but just the fact that she’s writing articles makes her an expert in the eyes of the community.
When you have a good-sized collection of these articles, analyze them extensively. This will give you a good idea of what the newspaper is looking for in a column. How many words are used? Newspapers generally maintain strict guidelines on length. What topics are covered? Are they written in speech-format or in question-and-answer format? In short, try to figure out what the newspaper wants. Doing this will greatly enhance your chances of success when you present your own sample articles!
Next you will need to write several sample columns. Write about topics that interest the general public. Avoid blatant self-promotion. Avoid technical jargon. If you’re going to write about a national trend, attempt to localize it by using examples/quotes from the community. And, at all costs, be original. If you simply copy someone else’s work and try to pass it off as your own, you may rest assured that your fraud will be discovered. Certainly you are allowed to glean information from other sources, and it’s also permissible to quote outside specialists, but don’t ever misrepresent others’ work as your own.
The best idea is to write six to 10 articles, and then pass them around to friends and family members for editing. This is not the time to be thin-skinned. If you’re asking for feedback, take it seriously. Make changes and alterations as needed, always keeping in mind that it’s better to be critiqued by a friend than by the editor.
Once you have selected three to five excellent articles, call the editor for an appointment. Get your presentation in order, including several business cards, sample columns, a personal profile, photocopies of credentials, and perhaps a resume. It may also be a good idea to attach a brief cover letter explaining that you want to write a free weekly article, and why you think that your article(s) will help the public. Include information about national and local obesity rates, as well as any other data showing that a large percentage of the population cares about fitness.
When you finally get the opportunity to make your pitch, remember that the media appreciates brevity and accuracy. Simply state who you are, what you’re proposing, and how you think it will benefit the newspaper. Keep in mind that the editor probably doesn’t care about your gym. He or she cares about their publication! It’s not personal; it’s their job. So tailor your pitch to demonstrate how they will benefit from your column. If you get a negative response, then politely thank them for their time and leave your sample articles with them anyway. You never know, they just might change their mind next week.
Now, Back To The Pictures:
A picture is worth a thousand words, so it’s important that you submit pictures with every article you write. If you’re writing an “Exercise of the Week” column, obviously you will want to submit a photo of someone performing the exercise. Make sure they’re wearing a shirt with your logo, and if possible have them doing the exercise on your fitness equipment in your gym.
Another great fitness center marketing strategy is to present photos of your members with every article you submit. Again, make sure the members are wearing logo t-shirts and are posing either in front of or inside your gym. The publicity is excellent, and the members will love it!
One caveat: Because fitness center franchise operations frequently maintain strict controls on their publicity efforts, health club franchise owners need to check with their franchisor before starting this or any other publicity program