Pumping PR muscle into a global marketing strategy

The last decade has seen a rise in demand for health and fitness products and services among consumers - and with it, an increase in noise coming from health clubs clamoring for their attention and membership.

The last decade has seen a rise in demand for health and fitness products and services among consumers – and with it, an increase in noise coming from health clubs clamoring for their attention and membership.

Like many industries, the competition is absolutely fierce and the brands that are rising to the top have tossed out the traditional marketing playbook. Gold's Gym is a company that was built on public relations. In today's transformative media environment, we're identifying new and exciting opportunities to effectively infuse PR, and even change the perception of its very definition, throughout our entire marketing framework.

Today, it's about sparking conversations about your brand, leveraging customer recommendations, and creating unique, sharable experiences. These three tenets have been at the core of PR programs for decades, along with reputation management and crisis communications. It's only natural that PR is taking a prominent seat at the table as a critical strategic discipline.

That doesn't mean that other disciplines should take a backseat – in fact, if this transformative media environment has taught us anything, it's that collaboration and integration are required among all outward-facing disciplines that support a brand — from customer service, to marketing, to digital.

And at Gold's Gym, we're going all in, placing our bets on a global communications strategy with PR at the helm. Here are a few best practices we're learning along the way:

Set up the structure, protocol, and systems. Before you can bring everyone to one table, you sometimes have to build that table from scratch. Establish a structure so that everyone understands where they sit in relation to everyone else, and more importantly who owns what part of the process. Put in place protocols so that everyone is working off the same playbook, and create systems to foster seamless collaboration across roles.

PR as Chief Consensus Builder. No matter how well-established the process and procedures are, there will undoubtedly be friction and disagreements that arise. PR is uniquely suited to be a Chief Consensus Builder, taking stock of all stakeholders, fine-tuning messaging, and building global strategies that reach and mobilize all shareholders, identify champions, and focus all internal parties on one cohesive vision.

Engage others to help lend credibility and tell your story. For Gold's Gym, our task in recent years was to reinvent a 47-year-old brand, once associated primarily with bodybuilding, into a global brand that is fitness-friendly for all body types and ages. In essence, we had to expand our base without losing our street cred. The effort started inside our own walls by enacting a culture change among our own associates — our greatest brand ambassadors – to help change external perceptions. For external audiences, we recruited in-house experts to provide insights on issues, such as pre-natal and post-natal fitness, which brought more women into our gyms. But you can't forget your heritage – we're proud of our roots and affectionately call our Venice Beach location “the Mecca.”

Keep it simple – but think long-term. Sometimes it might feel like you're turning around a battleship, and it's true – this is a long, arduous process. But while you should be thinking long-term, don't get so caught up in the big picture that you are afraid to execute. Keep it simple and use turn-key approaches wherever possible.

As any fitness buff will tell you, keep it fresh and avoid falling into a routine or, in the case of a marketing strategy, it will be your bottom line that will plateau.

David Reiseman is VP of communications at Gold's Gym.

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