Saturday, December 8, 2007

Instantly Improve Your Writing

Here's a quick writing tip for the next time you’re working on an article, memo, flyer, web page, etc. …

To streamline your writing and create stronger sentences, avoid turning verbs into nouns when you could simply use the verb. Here’s what I mean:

Instead of: Fitness pros make modifications to programs for a variety of clients.
Why not just write: Fitness pros modify programs for a variety of clients.

Instead of: This trainer provides instruction for clients about proper core training.
Why not just write: This trainer instructs clients about proper core training.

Instead of: Our first step is to conduct assessments on each client’s fitness needs.
Why not just write: Our first step is to assess each client’s fitness needs.

As long as it doesn’t change your intended meaning, zeroing in on the right verb makes your writing tighter and more conversational.


Receive hundreds more tips and in-depth guidance in my new 50-page Special Report, ANATOMY OF AN ARTICLE. The product is for health and fitness pros who write articles (or want to write them) for magazines, websites, article directories, blogs, newspapers, newsletters and more.

Please check it out:

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fitness Article Fixes

Do Your Fitness Articles Need These Fixes?

Here are three simple problem-solution scenarios to make your health and fitness articles grab more attention, and help you excel at educating and inspiring your readers.


Problem: Burying the article’s lead in the second, third or fourth paragraph.

The most compelling, tell-me-more information, or a scenario that readers can relate to, should appear in the very first, attention-grabbing paragraph.

Solution: Avoid warming up with superfluous info or chit-chat at the beginning of your articles. Comb your piece’s first draft for the most relevant lead sentences (they’re usually buried a few paragraphs from the top), then rework them to fit front and center.


Problem: Introducing fitness terms or concepts without defining what you mean (even if they seem straightforward and commonplace to you).

Many fitness pros offer the following generalized tips, but readers might not understand specifically what to do:

  • Work out more intensely

  • Drink enough water

  • Eat sensibly

  • Be active every day

Solution: Offer one or two concrete examples so that your tips make sense to readers. For example, explain that working out more intensely means aiming for certain feelings and physical responses based on the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale.


Problem: Writing an article that ends up being one huge block of text.

It’s no use writing articles that no one reads because they look so unappealing. Your job is to make the article’s language and format as inviting as possible.

Solution: As you pen the piece, consider how to logically organize your information, then add relevant subheads to break up the text. Doing so makes your writing more enticing and informative for readers.

For 50 pages of in-depth guidance on how to write health and fitness articles that get the results you want, check out ANATOMY OF AN ARTICLE from Active Voice.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Publicity on TV

A TV Producer’s Perspective

I’ve known my friend Phairis since high school. We both studied acting, which is how we met. Now we both work in the media – she’s a TV producer, and I’m a magazine writer.

Phairis’s daughter is the same age as mine (almost 2), and one time, while we ambled along with our strollers, we chatted about what so many fitness pros want to know: How to get the media’s attention.

She and I have seen our share of good, bad and ugly pitches. And since I’m here to offer info from media insiders like Phairis and me, I asked my friend to let you in on her perspective.

Phairis has the qualifications to tell it like it is, too: She’s the former producer for the EARLY News with Deborra Hope on Global TV and the current associate producer for Global National, a nightly national newscast from a major Canadian broadcaster.

Here’s what she graciously agreed to share with you …

DON'T give me a sell job.

You're not pitching an ad or a commercial. Give me FACTS about what it is you do, or what it is you sell. People love facts. They want to learn more.

If you can tell me something I don't already know or can't get from another source - and you can do it in an entertaining way - your chances of getting publicity are far greater.

DO personalize your pitch.

For example, pick a show on a local TV station and find out who the producer is. Send that person an email. Then follow up with a phone call. Nobody likes getting mass emails – that’s an easy way to get your press release tossed in the recycling bin.

DO watch what's in the news and make your pitch when it's appropriate.

If a celebrity is suffering from a health problem or a new study comes out that’s related to your product or service (even in a small way), that's a great time to send out your pitch.

DON'T take it personally if you're turned down.

Next time, do some research about the media organization you're pitching to and really tailor your media package. Also, be sure to include the basics: who you are; what you do; where you do it; when you'll do it next; why I should care and how I, as the producer, can get in touch with you.

Marketing Beyond the Benefits

Writing Promotional Signs That Get Results

Posting signs around your gym or training studio to market your programs, events or specials can increase registration numbers and interest in your services or workouts.

Fitness pros often create a sign that focuses on the features of their offer instead of communicating the benefits in a way that makes sense to fitness consumers. This is a mistake.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you offer 35-minute training sessions for your clients. That, in itself, is a feature. It doesn’t necessarily communicate any value to the fitness consumer.

The benefit to your clients is that a shorter-than-normal session saves them time and perhaps allows them to work out on days when their schedule is too tight for a longer gym visit.

Now, how could you communicate the benefits of your time-saving sessions in a way that’s even more meaningful to your target audience?

Well, perhaps part of your target market is new moms. When my daughter was under a year old, I would have been sold on the chance to squeeze in a decent workout AND maybe a post-exercise shower before my baby started fussing in the gym’s daycare. That would have been the benefit of 35-minute sessions to me.

With the scenario above, moms like me are happy. Babies are happy. And as the trainer, you’re happy, too, because your ability to communicate real-world benefits to your target clientele pays off.

When you promote benefits that resonate with your clients and prospects, you capture their attention, which is the purpose of your sign (or other marketing piece) in the first place.


More guidance on how to write marketing material for special events and programs in the fitness industry: Profitable Fitness Events for Managers and Trainers.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Write Like You ...

Why It Doesn’t Work to Write Like You Talk

Ever heard people say you should write like you talk to create web copy, newsletters and articles that persuade and interest readers?

As a writer, I consider that advice half-baked.

I appreciate the intent behind the write-like-you-talk recommendation. Trust me, I’m not advocating formal writing in the fitness industry. (I mean, I just used the term “half-baked.”) And this isn’t about proper grammar, either!

What “write like you talk” really means is, use a conversational voice that readers can relate to. But a conversational, casual style isn’t the same as writing as if you’re speaking.

The difference is important because the write-like-you-talk approach leads to meanderings, messiness and wordiness. You don’t edit yourself when you speak. Tapping a keyboard in that same mindset convinces writers they don’t need to edit … like it might rob the writing of its casualness.

So the writer spews out an article or web page that’s three times longer than it needs to be – how unpleasant for readers.

Good conversational writing treats readers to deliberate structure and word choices. It flows. It’s enjoyable. And every word is there for a reason. (Skilled ad copy writers do more than just write like they talk. That’s why they charge so much.)

If you write like you talk, deem it your first draft. Then self-edit for the sake of your readers. Cut the words we typically use in conversation but don’t need to write. Check it out:

Instead of “write like you talk”:

As qualified fitness pros, we always do our best to ensure you reach your various fitness goals faster and easier than anything you might have tried in the past.

Try “conversational but edited”:

As qualified fitness pros, we ensure you reach your fitness goals faster and easier than in the past.

Photo credit: Jane M Sawyer

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Self-Employment in the Fitness Industry

Musings from a Self-Employed Fitness Pro

A university student named Brandon Moran emailed me about a fitness business course he’s taking.

“My professor gave me an assignment to interview a fitness professional with interests that parallel my own,” he wrote. “You and your company fit the bill. Would you answer a few quick questions?”

Of course, I replied. Here’s an abridged version of what I told him. I hope my musings help you with your own fitness career – self-employed or otherwise.

What does your typical work day look like?

First thing in the morning, I work for about an hour while my husband hangs out with our toddler. Then I take over with kid duties for the next hour.

After that, I work the rest of the morning, either with developing marketing and writing resources for fitness pros or doing article research in my home office.

If I’m on deadline, I might take my laptop to a local cafĂ© or park (in the summer) to work uninterrupted for about 2-3 hours.

Most afternoons, I walk the dog and take my daughter to the playground or other kid-friendly location [there we are at a petting farm in the photo above!].

If I'm not teaching a fitness class, I usually catch up on emails and surf the Net in the late afternoon and evening.

Is there anything about your current business structure you do not like?

The same thing that makes working from home great, can be one of its challenges: You work and live in the same place.

I have to be diligent about separating work and leisure time as much as possible - but it’s a constant challenge.

I might check and respond to business emails well into the evening. Or I’ll unload the dishwasher and sort laundry when I should be glued to my laptop to meet an article deadline. It’s easy to get sidetracked.

How do you envision the fitness business in the future?

Hopefully, its professional standards will be more obvious to the general public and also to fitness professionals. Self-employed fitness pros who survive in this industry will be the ones taking the job seriously.

I’m talking about seeking out proper education and also recognizing that being successfully self-employed requires business and marketing skills, not just training/teaching skills.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Recycle Your Media Promotion

A Different Perspective

What’s your Unique Selling Position (USP)? This is what sets you apart from other fitness pros who offer stuff that’s similar to what you offer.

I bring up USP because my new CD has a strong one that’ll help you stand out as a high-caliber fitness pro, one who can confidently charge top fees while choosing only the clients you want to work with most.

The CD’s USP?

An insider’s perspective on how to make the most of your media promotion (i.e., articles you write and/or publicity you get). It’s called 30 Ways to Keep Profiting from Your Free Media Promotion.

As a fitness pro, I’ve received publicity that I’ve promptly recycled in the gym and online. But lots of other fitness pros have done that, too.

What they haven’t done is sat on this side of the media fence. As a fitness writer/editor, I’ve got a unique insider’s take on the best way for you to maximize and seek out valuable media promotion. The more you see what really works, the better you can succeed with your fitness career.

Yes, other fitness pros offer advice about media relations. Unfortunately, I’ve been on the receiving end of some well-meaning but misguided suggestions about how to work with the media.

Contrary to the tips you might have heard:

  • Members of the media do not enjoy being added to trainers’ client newsletter lists. Please ask for our permission! If you do send your newsletter unsolicited, we probably won’t read it (and we might even block your emails).

  • We don’t want you to send your website url unsolicited, inviting us to “have a look around.” Just tell us which web page to look at, and why.

  • You must give us a decent reason to mention your website in an article that quotes you. If we don’t include your web address, it’s nothing personal. Just make yourself easy to track down on the Internet. I’ve had readers of Cooking Light search for me through Google just to ask who made the shoes that appeared in a photo next to my article. If readers really want to find you, they will.

  • We know that an advertorial by or about you is not editorial content or true publicity. It’s an ad.

You see, it helps to have inside guidance about which direction to take. So consider my new CD your guide to presenting yourself as an outstanding professional, happily growing a fitness business with smart marketing.

As a media insider, I fill you in on such things as:

  • The “hidden” publicity opportunity at many major magazines.

  • How to stretch one article or media interview into ongoing promotion (and paychecks).

  • What reporters look for online that most fitness pros overlook.

There are 30 tips in all (plus 2 bonuses). Find out what they are here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Respecting Your Readers' Time

Keep It Clean Please

Every second Thursday, someone cleans my home while I go for a walk. You should see me pushing a stroller with one hand and gripping a leash attached to my energetic Labradoodle with the other.

I always return refreshed (really!) to a home that’s sparkling clean. It’s been a perfect arrangement until this week.

The cleaning service called to say the client before me had cancelled at the last minute, so they had to come 90 minutes early to avoid paying their employees to “sit around” between appointments. I won’t bore you with why this was totally inconvenient for me and my family.

Imagine telling a training client she must drop everything to meet with you earlier than agreed upon so you can avoid wasting your own time? Absurd. (Of course, it’s nice to inform clients you can fit them in at a new time, but as a courtesy, not a requirement.)

What does getting my home cleaned have to do with fitness writing and marketing?

Whether you offer a service-based business (like personal training or cleaning homes), or you write anything at all that you expect people to read, one of your main concerns should be to respect clients’ time.

If you write articles, e-books, giveaway reports, programs, web pages, blogs or marketing pieces, make it part of your time to ensure people’s reading experiences are easy and enjoyable. This makes it worth their time.

You don’t have to be a world-class wordsmith. Just put a bit of effort into fixing careless mistakes and sloppy wording. It’s called keeping your writing clean.

That doesn’t mean a typo or two won’t ever get past you. These are minor mistakes that everyone makes.

But fitness pros who couldn’t care less about devoting a few extra minutes to improving their writing don’t respect their clients’ time. And that’s a major mistake.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Publishing Rights

Know Your Rights

A lot of fitness pros email me about the article rights that magazines and websites ask for (i.e., all rights, reprint rights, etc.).

Understanding what rights you sell to magazines and newspapers means:
  • you can make more money re-selling articles
  • you avoid a breach of contract, which could burn bridges with publishers or get you into legal trouble.

Here’s a quick breakdown of common article rights you can expect to see. (Disclaimer: I’m not a contracts lawyer, so please consider this a general guide – when in doubt, ask your editor for clarification).

All Rights

The publisher is buying the right to use your article in any way it sees fit without further compensation to you. In this scenario, you are NOT free to sell the article elsewhere.

Most professional writers will advise you to avoid this one whenever possible, especially if the magazine pays peanuts.

Web Rights

The right to post your article on one or more specified websites, preferably for a particular timeframe.

First Serial Rights

The magazine or newspaper buys the right to publish your article first (meaning the piece hasn’t yet appeared elsewhere).

Sometimes serial rights are specific to a region, such as First North American Serial Rights (FNASR). If you grant FNASR, you’re still free to sell the article at any time in, say, the United Kingdom (as long as the UK publisher doesn’t buy all rights).

Reprint Rights

You grant a website or publication the right to reprint your article one or more times, depending on the agreement and provided you haven’t previously signed that right away.

The term “reprint rights” does not mean the right to put your byline on an article written by someone else (as some internet marketers advertise). This practice that could get you into serious trouble with online article directories and magazines/newspapers.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Keep Readers Interested

Writing an Article? Think Packaging.

Here's a tip for anyone who has written or wants to write a fitness article.

Have you ever racked your brain trying to impress an editor with a revolutionary new idea? Or maybe you just want to write a web article that stands out from what you’ve read a million times.

With fitness, it seems as if almost everything has already been covered. Luckily, there’s no need to stress about reinventing the wheel. If you want to write about core training, boot camps or exercise motivation (all recurring themes), go for it.

But set yourself apart by focusing on how you “package” your article. Packaging is magazine lingo for how the article will be presented or organized, including possible sidebars, quizzes and lists.

Take fitness walking. With a little creative packaging, you could write about that topic in numerous ways, even if much of the material and suggestions are similar. For example:
  • Walking plans for beginner, intermediate and advanced exercisers.
  • 10 ways to burn an extra 100 calories per walking workout.
  • 3 women share how they walked off 10, 20 or 30 pounds.
So you see, you can constantly reorganize one general theme to keep editors happy and your prospects/clients interested. More on how to get your articles published.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Be a Fitness Presenter

Insider Secrets to Making a Name for Yourself as a Fitness Presenter

If you’ve ever been to a fitness convention (and I hope you have), you know the exhilaration of participating in sessions that’ll help grow your fitness career by leaps and bounds. Well, I can tell you from experience that presenting at such an event magnifies that feeling of exhilaration 10 times over!

It’s exciting to stand up there, educating your colleagues about how to train better, teach better and/or ensure a more successful fitness business.

If your target market includes other fitness pros, you attract plenty of new customers. (I always do.) And imagine how impressed your training clients or class participants will be when they hear you’re heading to New York, Toronto or Sydney to train other industry leaders!

Being a presenter instantly elevates your status as a fitness pro. The question is, do you have what it takes to be a successful presenter?

There’s no better person to learn from on this subject than my friend Sharon Donaldson of Fitness Resume
. She’s been the Convention & Special Events Director for Can-Fit-Pro and a member of IDEA’s presenter selection committee.

This woman is on the INSIDE of what it takes to be a sought-after fitness presenter.

I credit Sharon with helping me break into presenting at Can-Fit-Pro Toronto, a world-class conference that attracts thousands of delegates and plenty of competition for presenting spots.

Now you can get the same inside advice I received from Sharon in her new product, Presenter Insider Package: The tips and tools you need to become a fitness presenter this year.

Read this recent exchange between Sharon and me about the application process and financial payoff of being a presenter.
Amanda Vogel (AV): So, I’m curious, what's the single most important thing to include in a conference application that most aspiring presenters either don't think of or don't put proper care into?

Sharon Donaldson (SD): I’d say it’s the quality of the application itself. If you can't get them to like you on paper, you'll never get them to love you in person. It doesn't matter how great an educator you are and how talented you are on stage.

AV: It’s similar to the image you portray when marketing to fitness clients, right?

SD: Exactly. If your application is sloppy, contains typos or poor grammar, or is just poorly written, you'll never get your chance. You are competing with hundreds of other applicants. If you come across as ill-educated or unprofessional, your application will go right into the "no" pile.

So take time to write a proper cover letter. Put care into crafting
clever session titles and engaging descriptions. Ensure you've got your contact info in multiple places in your package and make it easy to do business with you!

AV: You must get a lot of people asking about the financial payoff of being a fitness presenter. Like anything, you have to work up to the big bucks, but what do you tell fitness pros who want to make money at this?

SD: Presenting at the big conferences adds instant credibility to your resume. There are endless income streams, including being a master trainer for an educational program, writing articles, endorsing fitness products, or becoming a sponsored athlete.

Presenting on the national stage really opens doors for you with the media, and you can gain more exposure for your facility or fitness program back home.

AV: True. I often go to conferences on a Press Pass looking for story ideas and presenters to interview for my articles.

SD: And if you produce your own training materials or workout videos, presenting at conferences is a must for marketing yourself as an expert.

In fact, many presenters tell me they make more from selling their wares at conferences than they do in presenting fees!

AV: Yep – the last batch of products I brought to a large conference sold out in the trade show on the first day!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Previewing Articles

Tip for Fitness Writers and Publicity Seekers

Whether you write magazine and newspaper articles or get quoted as an expert source in them (or aspire to do either one, or both), the info below will save you from making a common mistake that could sour your relationship with some writers or editors.

The must-know info: It is NOT common practice for sources (people who are quoted in articles) to preview the piece before it goes to print. In fact, it's highly discouraged. This is because sources and PR people should not be able to control editorial content.

What does this mean for you?

If you write a magazine or newspaper article:

Remember that showing the pre-published article to sources could annoy your editor. Find out the magazine's policy before doing this to stay on good terms with editors.

If you are quoted in an article:

Don't tell a writer or editor that you want to preview the article before you see it in print. Keep in mind that a fact-checker from the publication may contact you to review your quotes or other information before the article is published. This is your chance to ensure accuracy.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Customer Service Through Writing

Better Writing = Better Customer Service

I like to think of decent writing as more than the ability to persuade prospects to hire you with compelling sales copy or a necessity for projecting an overall professional image.

The way you communicate in writing to your clients is a matter of customer service.

An inability to communicate important concepts - in everything from assessment forms to exercise descriptions to web articles - means you fall short of providing outstanding customer service.

Here are three no-cost ways to impress your clients with better writing.

  1. Ask for feedback. Consider trading services with a word-savvy client who can edit and proofread your writing for you. Or offer constructive feedback on a colleague's writing in exchange for him or her doing the same for you.

  2. Become aware of the common writing roadblocks fitness pros face. It's easier to detect and correct errors when you know what to look for. Receive your free copy of 51 Need-to-Know Writing & Marketing Tips for Fitness Pros.

  3. When writing educational or instructional tips for your clients, use a simple two- or three-sentence formula. This helps you get your message across with clarity and precision. Begin the first sentence with a positive verb; use the next one or two sentences to explain the "why" or "how." This foolproof formula comes from Paulette Ensign of Tips Products International.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Expert Sources

Promising to Quote Experts in Your Queries: Is It Necessary?

Below is a great question from one of my clients about approaching editors with a story idea (i.e., a query).

Q: Do you have to have an "expert" for every article you query?

A: Nope. You don't even have to use an expert in the article if your own fitness expertise can back up your points. But if you are writing on a topic you don't know much about, then letting the editor know in your query that you plan to use one or more experts helps give the proposed piece more credibility.

For example, I just finished a piece on fitness bootcamps for a women's magazine. Although I teach many of the moves mentioned in the article in my traditional group exercise classes, I also interviewed and quoted a personal trainer who has actual experience organizing and leading bootcamp workouts.

In general, editors at bigger magazines usually want me to cite an expert even if the fitness info I am writing about is stuff I know because of my fitness background. An exception to this would be if an editor assigns a piece to you specifically to highlight your own fitness expertise and exercise suggestions.

If you feel that your piece doesn't need an expert, there's no reason to promise one when you query. If the editor likes your idea but feels you need to quote one or more experts, he or
she will ask you to do so when assigning the piece.

Learn more about the art and science of selling your article ideas to editors:
How to Write Winning Queries online workshop.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Get Published

Your 30-Second Shot at Getting Published This Year

Thirty seconds. That’s the average time editors spend reading a query (i.e., article pitch).

How can an editor tell in half a minute or less if your big idea is worth publishing? Sometimes they can’t. It’s how you present your idea that makes the difference.

The more expertly “packaged” your idea is, the better your chance of stretching those first 30 seconds into 60 seconds, then 90 seconds, then several minutes or more. The longer an editor spends with your query, the greater your chance of turning that article idea into a published piece – and a paycheck.

So think about a query you’ve written recently (or want to write). What would reading it for 30 seconds project about you and your idea?

Would an editor be impressed because you nailed the voice and style of the magazine? Bored by your writing? Excited that your idea is so unique? Confused because your proposal is sparse on details?

Learn more about how to make the most of your 30-second shot at getting published this year (for the first time or more frequently) with my How to Write Winning Queries online workshop.