Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Using Twitter for Marketing & Publicity

A great webinar from HubSpot about how to use Twitter for marketing and PR.

Please follow me on Twitter! www.twitter.com/amandavogel

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Writing a Headline? Look at Fitness Magazines

January is a busy month for gaining leads and making sales in personal training and at gyms. Now is the time to be planning your marketing schemes for the new year's rush in the fitness industry.

Fitness entrepreneur Bedros Keuilian of The Art of Selling Fitness posted an interesting YouTube clip about using popular health and fitness magazines to help you generate attention-getting headlines for your web pages, advertising material and e-newsletters.

Take a look at Bedros's clip, it's just three minutes long:

Bedros's advice makes a lot of sense because editors at the most popular magazines - publications that are prominently displayed in bookstores and grocery stores - spend a lot of time deliberating on and fine-tuning cover lines (what Bedros is calling headlines).

In addition to the image that goes on the front of the magazine, cover lines are what sell the magazine. So editors carefully craft cover lines to be as mouth-watering as possible to potential magazine buyers.

Like Bedros says, the next time you need headline-writing inspiration or a clever way to package a fitness promotion, look to the cover lines on the magazines your clients are likely to read.

Just be sure to tweak the wording for your own purposes rather than copy it verbatim.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Fitness Articles on Article Submission Sites

Why Write Fitness Articles for Free?

Dax Moy, a U.K.-based fitness pro, recently wrote a good post at PersonalTrainerSuccess.ning.com about article submission sites. Successful fitness pros like Dax know that writing health and fitness articles advances your fitness career by leaps and bounds. It really does.

But something about Dax’s post got me thinking.

It seems a lot of personal trainers are caught up in contributing solely to article submission sites. These sites don’t pay for articles. In fact, sometimes you have to pay them to take your articles. In return, you get your writing (and your bio and links to your sites) distributed far and wide across the web. It's a good online-marketing tactic.

I recognize that a huge online presence is not only useful but necessary for many fitness pros these days. What I don't understand, though, is why so many fitness pros ONLY write for free. There's revenue in writing articles, too.

Do that many fitness pros feel their articles aren't worth money?

Some people may lack the confidence to take their articles from the free domain to the paid domain. Fair enough. But the skills you use to write articles for free should translate to writing articles for websites, newspapers and magazines that pay you for your work.

If fitness pros feel their articles are only good enough as free content and not high enough quality to be paid for them, well, that scares me.

You have to wonder why anyone would put those kinds of articles out there in the first place. Any article - paid or not - should be of a certain quality so it reflects well on the person who wrote it.

Bottom line (and this is my way of cheerleading for all fitness pros who write articles): If you've got the skills to get yourself into article submission sites, why not use those same skills to write at least some articles that put more money in your bank account?

Here’s one of my articles on a high-traffic site. I got paid, and they published my headshot, my bio and links to my website and blog. Now that’s a good deal.

How to get your health/fitness articles published in magazines and newspapers.

How to create compelling health/fitness articles that get the results you want.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fitness Marketing Language

The Antithesis of a Testimonial

Once, a fitness presenter told me he got an evaluation at a conference that simply read, “I don’t like your personality.” Ouch! And how mean!

When you put yourself “out there” – whether it’s as a bootcamp instructor, presenter, fitness director or studio owner – you’re going to eventually face negative feedback from someone. It’s inevitable, really.

I imagine you don’t like receiving negative comments any more than I do. But what stings the most is when less-than-positive feedback is not constructive because it doesn’t help you improve in some way.

I am writing this post because I need your help!

Below is a note I got from someone who attended one of my sessions at a recent fitness conference. This person doesn’t like the way I represent myself. And since this person took the time to send me a few thoughts (to THREE of my email addresses, no less – thanks for that!), the least I can do is get a blog post out of it. Here's the note:

>>I would like to provide some feedback on your BCRPA conference
presentation, and on your self-marketing strategy.

Without doubt, you are very knowledgeable and experienced. However,
it is unwise to constantly remind everyone that you write for
Chatelaine, Self, Fitness and other trash magazines. If you want
people to respect and view you as a true professional, you should
write for intelligent publications, including peer-reviewed academic
magazines. Associating your business with bottom of the barrel media
does not add to credibility.

In your biography write up, you are using low brow, outdated, and
meaningless marketing gimmicks such as "51 free tips", "free ebook"
etc. These are mostly used by telemarketers, snake oil sellers and in
infomercials. Please respect the intelligence of your potential
readers! It is a real turn off when an educated person resorts to
dumbed down amateur marketing tricks. Thank you. <<

Well, I can’t do anything about the person’s first directive that I should write for “peer-reviewed academic magazines” instead of the so-called “trash” magazines I contribute to. Gee, if I could find a way to feed my daughter, pay for her daycare and keep on top of bills by contributing to all those academic journals that pay ZILCH, I’d jump right on that advice. Oh, except for the fact that I like writing for the magazines I contribute to.

Anyway, what I'd like your help with is this:

Please add your constructive comments here to help other fitness pros determine the most effective language for marketing their own fitness businesses.

And while you're at it, please save me from changing the name of my free e-book (51 Need-to-Know Writing & Marketing Tips for Fitness Pros) to something more intellectual, such as A Series of Grammar Lessons Fitness Professionals Must Study, Posthaste! … a digital document (aka: e-book) available to anyone who wants it (sorry, I don’t know how to make “FREE” sound boring).

Hey, if uttering the word “free” is tantamount to being a “snake oil seller” then the majority of successful businesses I can think of are in real trouble.

Call me defensive, but this has been cathartic!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a yoga book to ghostwrite about cultivating inner peace and an article to complete that will help personal trainers connect in a more meaningful way with their clients. Low-brow stuff, indeed.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Book Publishing Options for Fitness Pros

Numerous fitness pros have contacted me in the last month alone about how to get a health/fitness book published.

If you're wondering the same thing, check out the excerpt below (modified for this blog) from an article I wrote for the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

There's a joke among book authors: At least one person at any party will tell you they, too, want to be a published author ... if only they had the time to do it.

Writers laugh at this notion because creating a book and successfully bringing it to market requires far more than finding time to sit in front of a computer.

For one thing, publishers will want to know if you have a platform. Read on to find out why platform is such a buzzword in today's publishing industry.

Platform: What It Is, and Why You Need It

According to experts, health and fitness book authors need platform. Platform means you are already recognizable and people are familiar with what you do.

You don’t have to be famous. But you do need your own circle of influence and a proven track record for being able to promote yourself.

For example: Can you boast a strong client following? Have you created a fitness program or brand that’s receiving rave reviews? Do you get large-scale publicity? Have your articles been published, or do you appear regularly on TV? Are you a presenter? A notable fitness expert? All these attributions amount to platform.

“A common misconception is that anyone can get a book published if they have a great idea,” says Laura Nolan, an agent at The Creative Culture, a literary agency in New York City that represents a number of top fitness experts. In reality, she says, “publishers are looking for fitness experts who have established platforms, have been in the media, or have an established following.”

Plus, publishers are busy pursuing book ideas on their own, says Mike Bates, M.B.A, owner of Refine Fitness Studio in Windsor, Ontario, and the former managing director at Human Kinetics Canada, a publishing company that specializes in titles related to physical activity.

If your idea is viable as a non-fiction book, a publisher has probably already thought of it. “This is not to say that unique ideas never come from outside of the publisher, but they are more rare than you might think,” Bates says.

Therefore, prospective authors with a good idea and a built-in audience have the most leverage. (Incidentally, you could also coauthor a book or have someone ghostwrite it for you if you have the necessary platform but not the time, interest or skill to write a book.)

What if you’re not interested in traditional publishing companies or bookstores. Let’s say you plan to self-publish a hardcopy book or ebook then sell it yourself. Is platform still an issue?

Think of it this way: You must be established as an expert in a particular niche to sell books. Your platform might stem from a large and dedicated client base or people who avidly read your blog (yes, blogs do contribute to platform!).

Beyond that, being self-published may eventually boost your platform enough to impress traditional publishers. “Self-published fitness authors will attract the attention of a publisher if they sell enough copies of their [self-published] book,” says Nolan.

Weighing Your Options for Publishing a Fitness Book

Once you’ve got the platform to succeed at writing and marketing a non-fiction health/fitness book, it’s time to weigh your options for how you’ll get your message to the public. Here are three common avenues:

1) pursue a deal with a traditional publishing house,
2) become an independent or self-published author, or
3) create an ebook.

For the full article, please refer to "So, You Want to Be a Book Author: Book Publishing Options for Fitness Pros" by Amanda Vogel, August/September 2008 issue of ACE Certified News, pages 9-11.

Resources for building your platform as a health and fitness expert.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Body Image and Fitness

Check this out - it really puts "fitness" and body image in perspective.

At first glance, you might not think this item has much to do with fitness writing and publicity. But it does.

Why not use the concept behind this New York Times piece as a jumping off point to garner media attention in your community? Start a discussion about what a fit body looks like.

Are you a trainer who believes that the average person can't be "fit" and "fat"?

Or do you support the viewpoint that fit bodies come in all shapes and sizes?

The Olympics are big news right now. Take advantage of this news hook to promote your own services and/or to inspire more people to get active.

And feel free to post your comments on fitness and body image here, too. I wrote my Master's thesis in human kinetics on body image and the role of the fitness instructor. So I'm curious about your take on body image in the fitness industry.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Marketing Fitness with Social Media

I have to admit something … I don’t “get” Twitter.

Twitter (if you’re wondering) is a social networking and micro-blogging site. You write mini-updates about your life, week, day, whatever.

You can update every hour or sooner if you want. Each update has to be 140 characters or less, so Twitter forces you to write concisely. In that way, it helps you improve your writing skills.

Apart from that, though, what's the point?

Do people really care that I visited Multnomah Falls near Portland, OR, or that I chatted with Jim Labadie on the phone (these were two of my recent mini-updates, or “tweets” as they’re called in Twitter-speak).

My friend Biray Alsac first told me about Twitter, and so I joined the site as research for my workshop “Beyond a Website: Virtual Tools for Attracting Real-World Clients” (I’ll be presenting it next at the BCRPA conference in October 08).

Biray is on top of how to use Internet technologies in the fitness industry. And since I trust her opinion and expertise, I’m sticking with Twitter for now. I still have a lot to learn.

In the meantime, I wanted to find out how other fitness pros fare with Twitter, so I turned to personal trainer Scott Tousignant of UnstoppableFatLoss.com.

Scott’s got his finger on the pulse of how to market fitness using social media (like Twitter, blogging, Facebook). Here’s what he told me:

Amanda Vogel (AV): Has Twitter helped you market your business?

Scott Tousignant (ST): Twitter has been one of my favorite and most effective ways to market my business. The connections that I have made through Twitter have been absolutely priceless.

The biggest advantage of Twitter is being able to connect with some big players in the internet marketing industry immediately. There have been colleagues who I've been trying to connect with through email for a very long time and I have not received a response from. The second I send them a message on Twitter, they respond. I have their attention, and we build a relationship pretty quickly.

Another benefit of Twitter is the search function. I can type in a key word like “workout” and see everyone that has made a “tweet” about working out. If the person looks like someone who I would like to connect with, I offer them a quick tip or congratulations on embarking on the fitness journey.

AV: Who follows your updates on Twitter (is it clients or colleagues)?

ST: It's about a 50/50 split. Ideally, you should create two Twitter accounts. One where you give fitness tips and try to connect with clients, and another Twitter account where you try to connect with colleagues.

AV: What about your Twitter-cise social network at Ning.com, which shows people how to do brief exercises. Does your Twitter-cise network require a lot of upkeep? Has it been a good marketing venture?

ST: Twitter-cise has been a fun little project for me. It's really not much upkeep. It all depends on how much effort you want to put into it and what your other priorities are.

When my wife Angie and I started the community we would shoot four one-minute videos in one day and upload one at a time over the next four days. Total video shooting, editing, and uploading took about 30 minutes for four videos.

Other than that it really isn't much work and has definitely been worth the effort.

AV: Of all the social media marketing tools you use, which is the most useful to you? Why?

ST: My blog is the most useful social media tool and is the hub of my business. When I engage in communication on Twitter, I send people to my blog. When I post a video on YouTube, I send viewers to my blog. When I post something on Facebook, I link to my blog.

The reason my blog has been the most useful is because it provides the best platform to engage with my audience through a variety of media streams like video, audio, and articles.

Also, blog posts can be submitted to all the other social marketing sites and get bookmarked and indexed. You can place your blog rss feeds in your Facebook profile and other social marketing profiles, as well.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Writing Articles for Publication Can Be Scary

In April, I invited you to share your tips for teaching fitness on TV because I was preparing to lead a workout for a local TV show and needed your expert advice. Thanks to everyone who emailed me personally or wrote their tips here on my blog.

We taped my TV appearance a few weeks ago. I won’t lie - I was nervous! Was my performance perfect? Uh, no! The point is, I did it - even though being on TV scared me.

Here’s something else that has rattled my nerves: writing articles.

Maybe it’s the same for you?

I still remember the day I got my first article assignment for a small, community magazine. I was terrified. I wanted to do a good job. I didn’t want to disappoint my editor or look like an idiot.

I had lots to learn back then. With practice, my confidence and skills steadily improved. But when I scored my first big break with a major fitness magazine – Shape - I got nervous all over again! (Secret about me: I still feel nervous over a big assignment with a new magazine.)

Despite my fears, I’ve become successful. Not because I’m the world’s greatest fitness writer. It’s because I was (and am) eager to learn. And I’ve learned from a lot of very skilled editors and writers. Plus, I’ve always been persistent. I take action.

There’s another reason for my success though: I figured out the right “formula” for writing health/fitness articles.

Yes, there’s actually a system – a series of tricks and strategies – you can use to make writing any article a whole lot quicker, easier and less nerve-wracking. I use this system with every article I write. And I explain it all in my newest product, Anatomy of an Article.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Why Facebook?

I first joined Facebook to joke around with a few friends from high school. Then I started receiving numerous “friend” requests from customers and clients.

I decided to take my own advice from an article I co-authored with Biray Alsac about using online tools to add value to your fitness business. (See IDEA Fitness Journal, February 2008, pages 54-61.)

And so, if you’re on Facebook, I invite you to join the Active Voice Group (find it by searching “Active Voice Writing Service” under Groups).

Currently on Active Voice’s Facebook discussion board:

- What a former editor at Shape says about which media pitches won her over, and which ones she ignored.

- What Joe Stankowski, a regular contributor and training advisor to Men’s Fitness magazine, says will put you in the right ballpark for getting your name in Men’s Fitness.

- An example of how I used my Facebook group to recycle recent publicity in a Vancouver city magazine.

- The difference between a byline and a bio in an article.

- What it means when a publisher wants “all rights” to your articles – and why you should care (it makes a difference to your bottom line).

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Recycle Your Publicity, Please!

In addition to being a fitness writer, I've created products to help fitness pros:

1) Get publicity

2) Recycle media promotion

So ... this post goes to show I follow my own advice - with good success!

The image here is one of three publicity hits I received in the last month (this doesn't include my published articles).

In addition to this blog post, I've already recycled this particular publicity hit on Facebook (in my group called "Active Voice Writing Service") and also in a flyer for a cycling workshop I presented on motivating students with music.

Read the "Sweat to Your iPod" story by Jon Azpiri in The Georgia Straight.

Find out 30 more ways to recycle your media promotion.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Media Relations & Your Digital Camera

Picture This ...

I've just been asked to lead a 30-minute workout for a fitness show on a local TV channel. (I've never been on TV before ... if you've done fitness DVDs or been on TV, I'd love to hear your best on-camera tips! Feel free to post them in the comments section here.)

Anyway, as I said, I don't have on-camera experience, so I asked the host of the show if I could come to the studio to watch her tape a workout. I wanted to get an idea of how the show was formatted and what the set looked like (I like to be super-prepared).

Turns out, my friend and fitness colleague Geoff Bagshaw was taping his guest appearance on the show when I arrived.

When the show ended, Geoff did something really smart.

He pulled out his digital camera and got a few shots of himself on set with the cast of the show. What a perfect way to recycle publicity!

Geoff's approach reminded me of something I spoke about in my recent presentation at FitComXpo (the FitComXpo event is over, but you can still gain access to recordings and slides of all the sessions - scroll a few posts down to see what I thought of the event).

My tip: Your digital camera is a powerful tool for helping you build relationships with the media and score more media promotion for yourself. Here are 3 ways:

1. Ensures Accuracy If you write a workout article or you're the featured expert in one, offer to snap digital photos of the exercises you recommend for readers. Editors will get a clearer idea of what you have in mind, which helps them edit the piece and ensure accuracy. There, you've just made the editor's job easier.

2. Helps Create Visuals See the illustration at the top of this post? That's me! I supplied my editor with digital photos of the exercises described in one of my workout articles, and she forwarded the photos to an illustrator (sometimes magazines use drawings instead of professionally shot photos because it's simpler and less expensive.)

3. Doubles Your Media Promotion If your photos are good enough, small magazines or newspapers without a budget for elaborate photo shoots might publish them, which instantly doubles the media promotion you receive.

Illustration reprinted with permission from illustrator Kagan McLeod.

CBS Story: "Personal Trainers Ungoverned"

Do You Think This Is Fair?

I often talk about how publicity helps fitness pros gain credibility. But this TV story may do the opposite!

Is this the type of press coverage you want our industry to be receiving? How can you offer a different perspective to media outlets near you?

Check out this CBS story that questions the fitness industry's credibility. What do you think? Is the reporting in this piece fair?

Please feel free to post your comments here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Vancouver B.C. Indoor Cycling Instructors: Fill Your Classes & Motivate Your Students to Come Back Every Week

Tune up your cycling classes this Spring with a new indoor cycling workshop, hosted by FitCity for Women (worth 2 BCRPA CECs)


Group Cycling: Motivating Musical Adventures
Selecting a cycling playlist is your first step to a successful class. What counts most, though, is how you mix music and motivation to get participants in tune with the pace and intensity of the ride. Discover how song selection and simple teaching tactics play a key role in complementing and enhancing mental focus, cycling intensities and imagery. Leave this session with new strategies for composing and orchestrating cycling classes that motivate and inspire your participants every time.

WHEN: Saturday, May 3 - 11:00 am to 1:00 pm

WHERE: FitCity for Women, Westside, located at 1401 West 8th Ave. (at Hemlock) in Vancouver

COST: $20 + gst (FitCity instructors); $35 (non-FitCity instructors).
Includes 2 BCRPA CECs!

TO REGISTER: Contact Amanda at
avogel@activevoice.ca for complete registration details. Pay by cheque or credit card (with PayPal).

Amanda Vogel, MA human kinetics, BCRPA TFL, has almost 16 years of experience teaching group exercise. In addition to teaching at FitCity for Women, Amanda has presented at fitness conferences in the U.S. and Canada, including for Can-Fit-Pro, BCRPA and IDEA. Her expertise as an indoor-cycling instructor will be featured in an upcoming issue of The Georgia Straight.

Special thanks to the host facility: FitCity for Women, Westside

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

New Virtual Fitness Conference

I recently presented a session at FitComXpo about scoring publicity for your fitness business and writing fitness articles for profit and promotion.

Since then, I've been busy loading tons of sessions into my iPod. I like to listen while I walk my dog, Rufus.

Here are my impressions of just some of the presentations I've listened to so far:

  • Todd Durkin and Tom Terwilliger are very compelling speakers
  • Helene Byrne offered an amazing amount of expertise about pre/postnatal fitness
  • Celebrity trainer Valerie Waters provided some great workout ideas and insight for training women
  • Scott Tousignant and Noel Lyons gave me some great ideas and leads for improving my online presence
  • Nicki Anderson is a true professional - I always enjoy her sessions
  • Mike Boyle delivered a very informative session on the advantages of interval training

My session was called The Inside Scoop! Achieving Success with Publicity & Fitness Articles. (Check the Networking Forum at FitComXpo for the correct link to download my session recording and Power Point slides.)

True, the live event has come and gone. But you can still gain access to all the sessions I mentioned above and dozens more. Oh, and I hear more live events are still being scheduled.

Visit the official event site to check out the exciting line-up of sessions.

Monday, February 25, 2008

How to Pitch a Major Women's Magazine

The featured editor in this video, Courtenay Smith, first contacted me when she worked as the fitness editor at All You. Now Courtenay is the Executive Editor at Prevention. See what she says about how to break into that major magazine.

Even if you don't have your sights set on Prevention magazine, consider also watching this second clip to learn more about the process of pitching health-related ideas to editors in general.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What Mice Have to Do With Fitness

What New Studies Are You Using to Promote Your Fitness Services?

And Why?

I recently stumbled upon an online forum discussion about using research to score media attention for a fitness business.

A new study had just come out saying exercise curbs depression. The forum discussion focused on how the study would make a good publicity hook for fitness providers. Yes … except the study’s subjects were mice, which no one mentioned.

I’m glad I found that thread because it led to two things:

1. I got the idea to co-author a couple of articles on how fitness pros can benefit from sizing up new research. One of my favorite editors just accepted both queries earlier this week.

2. I got to weigh in on how to incorporate new studies into fitness articles and media pitches.

Here’s a modified version of what I wrote on the forum:

Editors and producers like to ask "Why now?" about any potential story. A brand-new study can satisfy that question, as long as the study is truly relevant and credible. You can find plenty of new research through online newswire services. However, before you write about it, analyze it.

You don’t necessarily need to know everything about research design – just look for important points, such as if the study was sponsored by any companies (and how that might influence results) and if the subjects are similar to your target audience.

Essentially, consider whether the study is truly worth mentioning, apart from its catchy headline.

I just finished an article for Best Health where I had to dig up multiple studies published in 2007 that would be relevant to female exercisers. It would have been sloppy reporting to just see what the newswires had to say and leave it at that.

I used Reuters Health and similar sites as a starting point. Then I found the abstracts. Then I contacted the lead researchers to ask them questions and/or get a PDF of the full-text study.

Any big magazine expects this of you. Local newspapers should, too (although I don't know if all of them do). And if you write about current research for your own client newsletter or blog, you owe it to your clients to get the facts straight.

Bottom line: Use newswire services like ReutersHealth.com to get a heads up on what's out there. Then follow up by checking the actual study through journal websites and/or resources such as PubMed.