Love it or not, if you want your business to thrive, you need a social media presence. According to a report from We Are Social, a global marketing agency, 3 billion people around the world use social media each month (Kemp 2018). Instagram reports that 60% of its users say they’ve discovered new products on the platform and that social media helps make better connections between businesses and consumers (business.instagram.com). However, grabbing the attention you deserve is a challenge when you’re competing with thousands of other fitness pros and “fitfluencers”—especially if you’re not willing to show off your, ahem, assets.

But there is a way to build a loyal interactive following without emphasizing aesthetics or making unrealistic promises. Many respected pros have discovered that leveraging traditional media on social platforms can help you stand out from the crowd.

The Power of Traditional Media

Chris Powell is a successful personal trainer turned media personality who, despite his visibility in the industry, has struggled with social media.

“Discovery is so difficult now,” he says. “And the audience is confused about who to follow. Because there are so many bikini pros and micro-influencers offering meal plans and training advice, it’s very difficult for qualified and educated trainers to get found.”

Powell admits that he’s never going to be able to compete with a bikini model, and so he relies on the power of traditional media to get noticed. “What I can do is go on television, do a credible segment, and then leverage that on social,” he says. “Living under FCC guidelines, news outlets have to vet their guests to make sure they’re certified and insured—or run the risk of getting sued.”

When Powell does this, his social accounts go wild. He believes his television appearances elevate his credibility as an experienced and qualified expert, which is really what social media users are looking for. Sure, they’re attracted to skin, he says, but they also know that it takes a certain level of skill and expertise to be featured on a local television show or in the newspaper.

Lori Corbin, a Los Angeles–based nutrition and fitness television reporter and media consultant, agrees with Powell. “If there is an opportunity to be on a credible program or newscast, a pro should grab it,” she says. “The viewer sees what is being presented as fact, not as an ad.”

“Traditional media has been—and will always be—a platform to distribute solid, credible content to the fitness industry,” says award-winning fitness professional and national program developer Alex Isaly. “I believe the majority of the traditional media publications and companies do their due diligence of checking [fitness professional] credentials to ensure the content is coming from a reputable source.”

Breaking Into Traditional Media

Powell says that when he tells other pros to reach out to local media outlets, he often meets with resistance.

“When I tell people to knock on the door of the news station and ask the producer for a segment, they respond, ‘They would never say yes.’ My response is, ‘Well, guess what? That’s exactly what I did!’”

Years before his Extreme Weight Loss fame, Powell approached a local news outlet about doing a fitness segment, and the producer agreed. He went on to be the “fitness guy” on the station for years, which got him significant attention and business in his hometown. “Producers and editors are dying for more content,” he says. “They can’t get it fast enough.”

But there is an art to getting a radio spot, advises Amanda Vogel, MA, a fitness writer and social media consultant for the fitness industry. “Media outlets need story ideas more than they need any random fitness expert,” she says. “The best way to get noticed is by pitching a story idea that is relevant and in some way unique or very timely. It’s a tall order, but that’s really the best way to get your foot in the door. Truth is, credible fitness experts are a dime a dozen. Producers and editors are always looking for compelling story ideas with a unique angle that will interest their audiences.”

Corbin is used to having stories pitched to her, and she encourages pros to give their ideas serious thought before approaching the media. “I work with these people all the time,” she says. “Some know how to pitch; some don’t. And that same situation goes for PR people. However, there are simple strategies for grabbing a reporter’s or producer’s attention.”

Isaly adds that breaking into traditional media takes a bit of moxie, but that once you’re in, you’re in. “Traditional media outlets are always seeking good-quality content, but you can’t sit around waiting for them to reach out to you,” he says. “You have to be proactive and persistent in order to break the barrier. Once you establish the relationship and the opportunity is given, you need to run with it and keep in good standing with them.”

The Art of the Pitch

There are right ways and wrong ways to offer an idea to a producer or an editor. While these people are eager for content, they are also very aware that the content they produce must be of interest to the audience.

“Pitch something that has merit,” Corbin says. “Bikini season or New Year’s resolutions are pretty much old news. IDEA members have a perfect platform to glean: The monthly newsletter is filled with topics that have been researched—topics that can be promotable if they can be made visual.”

Isaly is no stranger to pitching to the media, and he has built a significant career largely out of the promotion he’s received from them. “Here are some things to consider when approaching traditional media: Think creative, innovative, disruptive, trending and seasonal,” he says. “You need to think about the demographics (audience) of that specific media outlet and target your proposed content. Also, don’t give up on reaching out. You never know when one of your topics will be selected. Timing and persistence increase your chances [of landing a story].”

Vogel adds this: “Explain why you are especially suited to be an expert on the topic you’re proposing—try to be specific, keeping in mind that qualified fitness experts are everywhere! What makes you stand out? Keep your pitch email short and to the point. Producers and editors usually take only a few seconds to decide ‘yes,’ ‘no’ or ‘maybe’ on a story pitch, so be sure to start strong with the story idea right at the top of the email.”

“Today’s pitch often comes via just one email or text,” says Corbin. “That’s a shame. And if written poorly [it] will be deleted. Why no follow-up, no phone call? While that may seem old-school, it is important to note that these media people are bombarded with up to 200 emails daily. If you are mildly persistent, they may respond to you.”

Turn Your Story Into Social Media Firepower

Once you’ve locked down a story and you’ve been published or presented on television, it’s time to send the story onward to social media and, according to Vogel, get as much mileage out of it as you can.

“Post it on any social channel you use, and don’t be shy about posting it more than once,” she says. “Perhaps post it twice shortly after the piece or television spot goes live; I usually post the second time as an ICYMI [In Case You Missed It] post. Then plan to post the media hit again in a few weeks or months as a #tbt [Throwback Thursday] or to tie into a new season or calendar event/holiday if it makes sense to do so. It also helps to use different imagery or graphics when reposting content to give the post a new look. Repurpose as much of your social content as makes sense, including traditional media hits.”

“Be authentic with the content you post,” advises Isaly. “Make sure it supports your brand, and don’t get stressed out if you’re not posting all the time. You should look at social media as an extension of your business. .”