A common misconception when launching a new business or trying to grow an existing one is that in order to be successful you need an intense level of marketing knowledge paired with years of experience. When in fact, all it requires is that you learn some helpful PR techniques and methods that you can easily implement into your workflow. These PR techniques and methods have become particularly useful this year in the fitness industry.
As many fitness professionals and gym & studio owners have transitioned their businesses online, PR and marketing have become an integral part of maintaining their success and keeping their customers happy from afar. If you’re trying to leverage the rise of “fitness PR” yourself, you might be wondering how other brands do it, and what aspects of public relations are worthing taking advantage of in the fitness industry—especially in difficult times like these.
At TeamUp, we work closely with fitness professionals, and we were fascinated by the response from our customers once we started ramping up our own PR and marketing efforts. One of the results was getting featured in an article on small businesses pivoting during COVID-19, which attracted the attention of our customer who runs a Pilates studio in the UK. She immediately wondered if she could be featured in something similar.
We decided to run a case study: work with this customer to see how much online publicity and exposure we could help her gain. We also wanted to establish her online presence, help her become an authority in the community, and see how many fitness PR tactics we can leverage in a couple of months’ time.
Here’s how it went.
Fitness PR: The post-lockdown case study
We first started with a case study of her own. Karen Grinter, the owner of Northants Pilates had already expressed her interest in teaming up with us to run a case study about her hundreds of customers who attend both her in-person and online classes at her studio. During the pandemic, she was quick to offer online classes with TeamUp’s Zoom integration which allowed her to stay connected to her many students from home.
But as restrictions loosened in the UK over the summer, we wanted to know how many of her students would be likely to return to in-person classes. The results were fascinating with almost a 50/50 split between students eager to return and students comfortable with sticking to online classes. Once we received the result of the study, we were ready to get started.
Blog & social media
The first step was to get her case study live on our blog and shared on our social media. The case study gave us a perfect opportunity to not only share Karen’s results but also give helpful insight to our audience on how to find out how their own customers felt about returning to class in-person. And if they were feeling reluctant to come back, how to best handle that and adapt.
Since then, many of our customers have chosen to continue giving both in-person and online classes to ensure that they are reaching as many of their customers as possible.
Knowing this type of information wasn’t just valuable for Karen, but for all of our customers—we wanted to make sure they saw the blog and thus, we sent out a newsletter to our customers and community.
Once we saw the response from our other customers & the community, we decided to create a press release and contact publications on her behalf to see if any were interested in sharing the study. Surprise, there was!
We took it a step further and distributed the press release with PR Newswire. After reviewing the 30-day report, the release was picked up by over 110 publications, including Market Watch, and viewed over 2,000 times.
HARO and top-tier article feature
The press release was a big step in growing Karen’s brand awareness as well as giving the fitness community hard evidence that supported the success of online classes during the pandemic.
Within the month more opportunities arose for Karen to participate in interviews and articles regarding Pilates and online classes.
After we saw a HARO inquiry from MindBodyGreen, one of the most popular health and wellness publications (asking for expert advice and insight on the differences between yoga and Pilates), we knew Karen would be the perfect fit. Not only was she interviewed and able to participate, but she was the first expert to be mentioned in the published article with a do-follow link to her studio’s website.
Case study takeaways and fitness PR tips
As we are approaching the two-month mark since the start of the case study, Karen has been offered more opportunities to be featured in blogs and articles. She is also currently hosting her own webinars with health and wellness professionals on her website which can be booked within her TeamUp account. This experiment provided us with some very positive discoveries and takeaways.
Karen is just like you. She is a mother, a business owner, a fitness enthusiast, and she is proactive. Without her interest in learning how to drive her marketing efforts and further her brand’s reputation, this project may have never even been discussed. All it takes to get started is motivation, a clear idea, and a willingness to learn.
If you want to start your very own marketing and PR efforts for your fitness brand, here are a few tips to help you get started:
Strengthen your brand identity
Having a clear message and identity to support your brand is one of the first steps to take when starting your PR efforts in the fitness industry. What makes you special? What sets your studio or gym apart from the rest? Why would a customer want to join your facility?
Being able to easily identify these traits and create a clear message will help you pitch your brand to publications and businesses. If you believe in your brand and are confident in what you offer, others will be able to “buy into it” too.
Know your audience
All press is good press, is not untrue. However, if you are looking to grow your business and attract customers in London, does it make sense to be pitching to publications in New York?
Define your audience and your ideal customers to be able to market your brand to them specifically. That way any other press or opportunities that arise outside of your audience segment, you can identify and decide if it is right to move forward with or not.
You can always save those opportunities for a rainy day. Know your audience and what they are looking for, so you can tailor your message to fit their needs.
Do your homework
Get familiar with who the popular fitness websites and publications are and do your homework before you start your PR outreach activities. Many of those publications and their reporters are always looking for new tips and story ideas. Check out what they are currently working on, and see if you have something that could fit their articles or stories. Starting any type of conversation will help you expand your network and have contacts for the future.
Have a plan and set goals
Once you have strengthened your message, are confident in your brand, and know who you want to target for press and exposure, outline your goals. Do you want to attract new customers? Grow your brand’s reputation and establish yourself as an authority in the fitness community? Gain exposure and sponsors to further your business plan?
Basically, when you establish your main goals for your marketing and PR efforts, you will be able to identify which opportunities are appropriate for you and will help you on your journey to success.
Invest your time
While a quick conclusion that is often made when it comes to PR and marketing is that it can get pricey, that is not always the case. Between all the tools that were used to create Karen’s full case study, the only paid promotion was the press release and social media (which when combined was less than $250).
The rest of the efforts, blog, social media stories and other posts, newsletter, publications features, are what we in the industry refer to as earned media and owned media. Meaning that it was generated organically by the press or by TeamUp platforms.
Investing your time before your wallet, especially when starting out, will allow you to concentrate on finding opportunities that are worthwhile and will not set your budget back. Using PR tools can help you organically find opportunities where you can share your expertise and practice your pitches. It will also help you identify platforms and publications that are actively seeking the type of information you are able to provide.
Apart from PR tools that can help you find the right contacts and pitch them, having gym management software like TeamUp in place can help you streamline your day to day activities and free up your time to explore more fitness PR avenues and opportunities.
Ask your network
The fitness industry has cultivated one of the most welcoming and helpful communities. Between social media groups, networking events, competitions, and sporting events, there are many opportunities for you as a fitness professional to grow your network and meet other fitness business owners. This is the opportunity to ask for advice when it comes to growing your business and brand awareness. Their experience and insight may inspire new ideas for you to try out.
Don’t overestimate the power of public relations in the fitness industry
With any business, there’s no 100% guarantee that your brand will become a household name or go viral overnight. However, by setting goals, having a plan, knowing your audience, and being proactive you can consistently build your fitness brand while gaining more experience and exposure in the industry.
If you’re looking for a PR tool once you’re at it, why not give Prowly a try?
Cover photo by Jonathan Borba