By: Kara Werner
Television coverage is a form of advertising that few gyms consider seriously. After all, it is expensive and difficult to produce a television-quality commercial, and most gyms are small businesses with very small advertising budgets. That’s why impromptu media coverage by a local TV station or national network should be part of a broad marketing strategy that all gyms seek out.
Dean Pflaumer is the Climbing Director at Aiguille Rock Climbing Center in Longwood, Florida. His gym was recently featured on a local news station and has appeared in the local media almost a dozen times since opening in 1997. He explains that while the benefit of an impromptu appearance on local television is difficult to quantify, there certainly is an advantage. Audiences may not rush to the gym right away, but it always benefits a gym to introduce the sport of climbing to a new audience.
If you have decided that getting some air time would be a good marketing move for your climbing gym, how do you go about attracting the media? Who should you call, email, or visit? Soliciting a visit from your local station begins with research. Learn how big or small your target station is. For smaller stations, there may be someone—like an assignment editor—in charge of fielding story ideas. Larger stations will often provide a web form for you to submit your information.
No matter the size of the station, however, it is important to first evaluate the newsworthiness of your gym or event. When Rob Faris, Senior Vice President of Programming and Production at Outside Television, was asked about creating television coverage of climbing events, he stated that his station looks for “story-telling opportunities.” He went on to add, “If we feel that there is a really good story coming out of an event, we will send a team to produce that story.”
In their never-ending quest for a great story, news teams will sometimes contact you. Ensure that you don’t miss an opportunity by training your staff on how to respond to inquiries from the media and designating a main point of contact to approve and organize media efforts. Facilitate requests by including a contact form on your website or creating a specific email address for media inquiries, and although it may seem obvious, be sure to respond to requests quickly or an approaching deadline may eliminate your story altogether.
Reporter and Anchor Melanie Falcon at WFMZ-TV in Allentown, Pennsylvania recently featured North Summit Climbing Gym as a part of her series, “Fun Fitness Friday.” She commented on the ease of organizing the production at the gym, stating that “the owner was more than happy to accommodate us at 6:00 in the morning!” When a station reaches out to you, the hardest part is over; you have their attention. The next step is to guarantee an enjoyable experience they cannot wait to share, and to showcase a story that will draw viewers right to your doors.
Using Media to Your Advantage
Whether your gym appears on a local news station promoting physical fitness, or your ground-breaking female climbing competition is featured on Outside Television, it is important to leverage this coverage to gain new business and build a strong reputation.
In addition to the mechanics of how indoor climbing works, reporters will want you to cover the basics like the classes and amenities your gym offers, the hours of operation and rates. “Most reporters just want to know, like a lot of our first time customers want to know, what’s the deal?” says Pflaumer of Aiguille Rock Climbing Center. “We want to present to people what they can expect when they walk through the door and how their first experience is going to progress.” Keep in mind, however, that by taking this fact-based approach to your gym’s moment in the spotlight, you may be missing the bigger opportunity to capture your audience.
Envision your audience while they are watching your segment. No doubt their attentions are divided between the television and the many other distractions of modern life. In this instant it is not enough for them to see that your business exists and that you stay open late every Friday night. To truly leverage your moment on the screen, focus on why they need to climb rather than simply how.
When asked why she decided to feature a climbing gym on WFMZ-TV, Falcon responded “A co-worker suggested rock climbing because it’s a great way to work out without feeling like you’re ‘working out’.” Fun Fitness Friday series aside, the fitness and fun angle is a true selling point for any climbing gym, and it is definitely worth mentioning in between the usual torrent of basic business information.
The best way to convey this message is to share the real experiences of people that climb at your facility. If you can, invite one of your members to tell their climbing story on camera. How about a new mom that is using climbing to get back into shape, a retiree that relishes the physical and social benefits of your gym, or one of your youth climbers that loves competing? By putting a face to your message, it will make it easier for the audience to picture themselves climbing at your facility.
When adding media coverage to your gym’s repertoire of marketing tools, create a story that begs to be told—one that fascinates viewers and leaves you with no doubts as to its effectiveness in creating new customers. Your business is guaranteed to benefit from it.
Kara Werner is a climbing enthusiast and entrepreneur living in Orlando, FL. She is CBJ’s first contributing writer.