By Amanda Vogel MA
Ever wonder how some fitness professional get the opportunity to be featured and quoted as experts in magazine articles, on TV and on popular blogs? Developing relationships with journalists and producers to gain publicity is easier than you might think if you know how to go about it the right way. Follow these tips, based on my experience as an established fitness writer, for getting publicity as a health and fitness expert.
1. OFFER THE EDITOR OR PRODUCER A STORY IDEA VERSUS A GENERAL CONCEPT
Journalists and producers are good at spinning story ideas out of basic concepts, but they’re always looking for fresh ideas from sources like you! Avoid contacting a media outlet with something vague like, “I have a unique training approach that really pays off for my clients. It would make a good article or TV spot.” Instead, provide a concrete idea with an interesting hook, such as: “Four unexpected ways that your activity tracker helps improve your fitness.” Then briefly explain what those four ways are, why they work and why you’re the perfect expert to contribute to an article or segment on this topic.
2. MATCH THE JOURNALIST’S COMMUNICATION PREFERENCE
When a personal training client is soft-spoken and serious, you might match that style. If he or she is exuberant and playful, you probably act similarly.
Just like with your clients, match your communication style to the journalist’s. Every producer and journalist is different, but keep in mind that most prefer to receive story ideas and pitches by email first. It’s much quicker for them to scan through an email in a few seconds (yes, sometimes that’s all the time they give it) than to be “stuck” in a phone conversation for a lot longer. If they decide to pick up a story, then a phone call might be the next step.
If you’re tempted to pitch ideas via social media, keep in mind that some journalists might be cool with that while others won’t. As a best practice, use social media as an ice-breaker; for pitches, send an email. When in doubt, ask which communication mode is best.
3. DISTINGUISH WRITERS FROM PR PEOPLE
If you can’t get the attention of a magazine editor, it could work to contact a writer with a story pitch. However, be clear that writers are not generally in the business of public relations. Avoid offering to pay a writer to get you positive publicity. That’s a PR person’s job and a conflict of interest for the writer, who also gets paid by the magazine. Remember, the best way to get publicity is to approach journalists with irresistible story ideas, useful information and/or newsworthy items.
4. DON’T ASK FOR MONEY
Getting publicity isn’t a paid gig. The “payment” fitness pros receive for acting as an expert source in a magazine or on TV is the publicity itself. Media promotion often leads to other opportunities or indirect income, such as new clients or gym members, product sales and/or speaking invitations.
You can leverage the publicity you receive through your own marketing efforts as well. Highlight media hits on your website/blog, promote them on social media and include your most impressive ones in your bio.
5. UNDERSTAND THAT REJECTION IS COMMON
When a writer or editor says “no” to your idea, accept it and pitch something else or try another media outlet. Don’t scramble to explain your idea in different words or convince them why they’re wrong.
Pitches get rejected for a variety of reasons, including that the magazine or TV show just covered a similar topic, the pitch doesn’t suit the media outlet’s audience (research before you pitch to avoid this one) or the idea is either too familiar or not newsworthy (think outside the box to create a fresh angle).
Rejections are very common when it comes to media pitches—don’t let that discourage you from pursuing valuable publicity. Persistence does pay off for media-savvy fitness pros.
6. SHOW THAT YOU’RE RELIABLE
Editors, writers and producers rely on great sources more than you might think. And a good source can make a piece really shine, so if that’s you, journalists will value your input immensely.
That said, if you agree to contribute to an article or TV spot as an expert, commit to it! Unexpected things happen in life, so don’t be shy about asking to reschedule an interview or deadline if necessary. But never leave a journalist hanging or make them chase after you. In a sense, the journalists you work with are like clients, so treat them that way. The result could be repeat business in the form of publicity and referrals to other editors, writers and producers.