// Maximise FREE publicity for your club

By supplying positive news stories to local media within your community, you can ensure your club is top of mind when it comes to joining a gym, says Emmett Williams.

A good public relations plan of attack for your club is essential for procuring more members at no cost to you. It’s all about being ‘in’ the news for the great things that you do for your community, so that when a potential member is contemplating joining a gym, your club is top of mind. Here are a few ideas for making your club ‘newsworthy’ in your town.

1. Run an annual clothes donation in Winter

For one month per year (such as the cold month of June), instead of having a joining/ registration fee, allow new members to donate food or clothes to the value of your club’s joining fee to the charity of your choice. One angle that the clothes donation could take is that the new member won’t be needing their old outfits any longer as they will be losing weight and changing their body shape. This highlights your club’s generosity while subtly promoting its ability to get results.

2. Run a contest for charity

Members can get friends, family and colleagues to pledge money to charity for the amount of exercise they do, such as a dollar for every kilometre they run on a treadmill or every km they row in a given time period. You need to be creative so that you can put some good news into the public domain about what your club and its members do for your community.

3. Run a contest with a local radio station

Run a contest for listeners of your local radio station to see who can lose the most weight in an eight- to 12-week period. Give the DJs free memberships to your club in exchange for them promoting the contest, getting lots of people enrolling in the contest, and providing your contact information to all applicants and vice-versa. If there are two DJs, as there often are, especially for breakfast radio – it can be a lot of fun for them to form two separate teams and compete as well. It makes for an exciting contest for listeners of the radio station and great free marketing for your facility.

4. Promote one of your members as a local hero

Give the media what it wants… positive stories! Ask your members to submit applications to be in the ‘Local Hero’ contest. They can discuss how your health club has provided the support to help them reach their goals and be a local hero. Once a winner is selected, write a press release and send it to all local media groups, reading ‘Local man earns hero recognition’ or something similar. Give a prize to all applicants and put their success stories on a ‘Wall of Fame’ to show prospects the community feel you foster when they tour your club.

5. Offer to write articles for your local newspaper

If your town's newspaper doesn't have a weekly fitness column, volunteer to write one. Let the paper know what you are capable of by sending in a selection of articles, some bite-size health and fitness tips and some questions and answers relating to common fitness queries you receive in your club. By following a question and answer format, you’ll be able to engage with the readers, and because the questions you receive give you the jumping off point for your weekly column, you won’t have to wrack your brains thinking up topic ideas. Newspapers need good content and, provided you write clearly and well, will be only too accommodating.

The one thing to bear in mind with any PR is that it has to be ‘newsworthy’ – you have to believe that the community would want to read about it. If you simply want to promote a new treadmill or cross trainer you’ve installed, the newspaper editor will see right through it. Read your local paper and see what stories are currently ‘making’ it.

One final point to consider: money does talk. If you are seen supporting the press avenue with your own advertising and/or giving generously to charities, then your potential reporter will be far more generous in giving your story the free plug that it deserves.

Emmett Williams, BComm
Emmett is managing partner of CFM, an international group which executes membership drives on behalf of clubs, runs marketing surveys for the fitness industry and distributes MYZONE, a heart rate monitoring system to aggregate member exercise data. Now based in Chicago, Emmett is also an independent club operator with extensive experience working with the fitness industry in eight different countries.