Anyone who has gone solo and started a business in his/her community knows it requires a significant amount of work beyond creating a title, a logo, and finding a physical space. To be successful and carve a niche in a community requires the power of presence. What does this mean? It means if you are asking your community and the individuals within that community to invest in you and your services, you must also invest in them.
The picture of investing in your community and the residents of it can look different for every fitness professional…and it should! Just as our methods and philosophies of training and coaching differ, so too should our engagement with our respective communities.
Where to begin
As with any new endeavor, begin with the end in mind and initiate your efforts with research. This step is important to anyone wanting to boost a professional reputation, but particularly if you are new to a community. As we do with clients, we must evaluate the needs of the community and identify any gaps in professional services. Investigate what is and is not available and construct a strategic plan and timeline. Next, consider trying one or more of the methods below to enhance and elevate your professional reputation.
Get Social. There’s no denying it – our world is high on social media. If you already have a social media presence, great – but contemplate how you can boost or infuse creativity into those already established profiles. Research a social media manager (there is a financial cost) such as HootSuite. If you don’t have a presence, get started. Begin conservatively and explore the most popular platforms. The best part – it’s free marketing! You may even consider starting a social media calendar if you wish to manage your posts from home base versus using a third party.
Talk Radio. Does your community have a locally managed radio station? If so, approach the owner or media manager about appearing as a guest to discuss various health topics important to the community in which you reside.
Non-Profits. Research local non-profit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, YMCA’s/YWCA’s, Volunteers of America, wellness councils, hospitals, senior centers, daycares, foundations, etc. and examine any potential opportunity for board member involvement. The non-profit sector is a different world from the for-profit and presents you with the ability to cultivate relationships with diverse groups of people and professionals while serving the mission of a worthy cause.
Positive Press. Newspapers are often looking for writers to contribute creative and meaningful columns to their publications. Contact editors and inquire about writing monthly articles. You may not be paid to do so, but it’s an opportunity to share your passion, engage the community, and boost your reputation as a local health and fitness expert.
Be a Blogger. If you don’t have a blog, consider starting one. Blogging is a liberating style of writing and not subject to the rigid requirements and expectations of national publications. That said, there’s nothing wrong with those expectations, but a blog is a place to allow your personality and professional style to shine through while you nurture the interests of your followers.
Teach. Educational opportunities are everywhere! Does your community have a community college or university with a department in your area of expertise? If so, approach the program director about adjunct instruction. This type of position doesn’t pay extremely well (in most places), but what a great way to connect with students and inspire those who are seeking a career in fitness.
Udemy/Coursesites. Both of these are free learning management systems which allow instructors and professionals to create and deliver courses to diverse audiences. Pick a topic, design a curriculum, and build the course. Bonus – you can charge for these classes.
Worksite Wellness. Employee wellness is a hot topic and with the shifting landscape of healthcare, its popularity is continuing to grow. Depending on the local economy, employers may be tempted to offer a wellness package for their employees. Lunch and Learns, seminars, desk-side learning, discounted group-fitness classes or training sessions, etc. Get creative, but start with a conversation with each employer to evaluate the needs and craft a proposal from there.
Community lectures/presentations. These types of activities are promotional for you as well as beneficial to the community. Keep it to an hour and leave room for Q&A. Consider topics that are relevant to the audience and that allow you an opportunity to engage with them in an educational and interactive way. Some ideas might include a conversation about SMART goal setting, cooking demonstrations, back to school snacks for kids, meal planning, or healthy shopping strategies.
While this list is not exhaustive, it does include easy and affordable ways to engage with the community on both a large and small scale. The biggest take away – know your community and the needs of the audience. We evaluate our clients individually; employ the same method when determining appropriate community engagement strategies.