You have the expertise, drive and ability to make it big.
You Are a Brand
When you strive for celebrity status, you need to realize that you are a brand. Identify your values and philosophies, and live by them. Any product you choose to endorse, any company you choose to work with, can have a significant impact on how you are recognized as a brand. Just because you get an offer doesn’t mean you should take it. You need to believe in the product and company, and you must feel that their values and goals are in alignment with yours. I knew an up-and-coming fitness professional who chose to be a spokesperson for an infomercial ab contraption. When that company went under amid accusations of fraud, the trainer’s career prospects and reputation went down right along with the firm. Following are 10 tips to help you on your drive to success.
1. Earn Proper Credentials. You need to have a foundation, and the education, to back up your persona. That doesn’t mean you must have degrees or multiple certifications. But it does mean you need to know your stuff. Master your niche. For many, experience beyond the fitness industry can help. Jay Blahnik of Laguna Beach, California, president of his eponymous fitness consulting business and a former IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year, got his bachelor’s degree in business and marketing. He feels that as a consultant he has benefited from his business training on many occasions when working with major players like Nike.
2. Get Out and About. One of the best ways to turn yourself into a “star” is to present at conferences. Tamilee Webb, MA, who lives in Rancho Santa Fe, California, has worldwide recognition as a fitness specialist. She and Blahnik both got their starts teaching at IDEA conferences. It was at IDEA events that Nike “discovered” Blahnik and that Webb received invitations to present around the world. Another way is to start writing. Come up with innovative fitness topics, strategies, workouts or analyses and then send query letters with your proposed topics to magazines, newspapers and websites, letting them know that you’d like to write for them. Start small with community papers or newsletters.
3. Be Persistent. I’ve known Jorge Cruise for a long time. I’ve never known a harder worker or anyone so focused on getting his big break. He was always confident that it would happen. Based in San Diego, Cruise positioned himself as a fitness expert in his hometown by approaching local media. He also showcased his services by doing a lot of work without compensation. In fact, his volunteer work is what gave him his big break. Oprah featured Cruise on her show as part of her Angel Network because he was offering online training at no cost to people all over the country. He was “discovered” on the show, got an agent and is now a New York Times best-selling health and fitness author, in demand as both a spokesperson and a consultant.
4. Network. It’s all in who you know, so get out and meet people. Set the stage at the beginning of your career and build great relationships. It may be a client in your class today who years from now will introduce you to an amazing contact. Your biggest cheerleader may one day give you your big break. Webb worked for several years at the Golden Door® spa. A client whom she met there introduced her to an agent. That agent championed her cause and got her onboard with Workman Publishing. Her publisher took her to New York, and her best-selling book, The Rubberband Workout, was born. That book, which has since been printed in five languages, launched her carreer as a fitness celebrity. Then another contact got her hooked up to do the Buns of Steel workout videos. And the rest is history.
5. Be an Attention-Seeker. Advocate for yourself. Promote yourself. Make yourself sound like the person you know you really are. You don’t need an agent to get some exposure. Become familiar with press releases, and build relationships with editors and local TV news producers. Any time you come up with a creative workout or support a charity, ask for coverage. Let the media know that you are newsworthy. You won’t always get coverage, but the times that you do will build your brand and increase awareness about you and your talents. And media exposure is free!
6. Speak Up. Once you’ve jumped into the spotlight, you must be prepared to communicate your message eloquently. Public speaking is more fearful than death for some people, but not for you. It’s essential that you become great at speaking to a group. You need to be able to communicate on camera, onstage and to the public. Start by teaching seminars at your club. Then expand to your community. Consider joining a group such as Toastmasters to refine your public speaking skills. Once you are ready, present to your colleagues at an IDEA convention—they are a receptive audience and will respond well to a fresh message and style.
7. Get a Website. You might not need this right away, but as you build your brand, it is important to have your own website. It should publicize your workshops and include articles you’ve written, a biography and online press information. Some examples of celebrity websites are listed under “Resources,” below.
8. Be a Role Model. Let’s face it: we work in an industry where physical appearance matters. It’s hard to become a famous fitness professional if you are a flabby fitness professional. Make sure your body is a model for your target clientele. If you are trying to become the fitness trainer to real women, then being an overgrown bodybuilder will not convey the appropriate “look.” Fit, healthy and realistic is almost always a good match. You need to live it by being the fittest you can be. People will want to know that you can walk your talk.
9. Inspire Others! According to Blahnik, too many people focus on the actual exercise when what they most need is motivation. To be great in our industry, you need to be inspirational. The success of workouts depends largely on clients showing up and believing in their ability to change. They probably already know what to do. Now you need them to want to do it!
10. Be Patient. Rarely will someone receive a big break without first paying some dues. That can happen through hands-on experience in the gym, volunteering in the community, teaching at conferences or being willing to travel. Whichever it is, making it big usually takes being in the right place at the right time—and knowing the right people. Your chances are greatly increased with a little time in the industry. Be patient and work hard—time passes faster than you would expect!
If you become famous, your level of responsibility increases. Your voice is heard by thousands of people, and your reach becomes much greater than when you train one-on-one in the gym. You have a responsibility to stay current and safe. But beyond that, you have the potential to be a role model. Use your fame to benefit charities, to create awareness on issues you care about and to help those who would not normally be able to benefit from your expertise.
The reality is that you need to love what you do. You need to be fired up, whether you are with a client in the gym or presenting at a major conference. That fire will fuel you at any level of your career. Dedication and hard work will be instrumental to your success. Becoming a “name” in your field is rewarding. You make more money, you get recognition from your peers, and you can work with the clients you most love. Best of all, you have a great opportunity to make a difference.
This information can smooth the way a little and help you gain more exposure:
Apply to Present at an IDEA Convention or Conference. Go to www.ideafit.com, select Events and click on the Presenter Application link.
Write a Query Letter for an Article You’d Like to Submit. A query letter is a brief written presentation to an agent or an editor, designed to pitch both the writer and the article or book idea. Every publication has different requirements for word length and topic style, so do some research before submitting your query. If you are interested in writing for one of IDEA’s publications, go to www.ideafit.com, click on IDEA Publications and then click through to Writers’ Guidelines.
Craft a Press Release. A press release is a public relations announcement issued to the news media and other targeted organizations for the purpose of letting the public know about events or information that will be of interest to them. Press releases follow a specific style, which you should follow in order to appear professional.
Plan and Design Your Website. First, get your domain name and Web host. Some hosts have packages included to help you design your own site. For a professional look, outsourcing is a good way to go if you’re not that familiar with website design. Keep it simple and show your design consultant other sites that you like.
Lisa Druxman, MA, is the founder of Stroller Strides®, the country’s largest fitness franchise for new moms and a nationally recognized presenter and writer. Her weight management program, L.E.A.N. Mommy, is the focus of her recently released book, Lean Mommy (Center Street 2007). Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For some ideas to get you started on designing your own website, here are a few examples of celebrity sites: