MEDIA PROFILE: Fitness draws big numbers by helping readers find balance

Fitness magazine is true to its name, but it isn't designed to reach the hard core, so a pitch needs to be fine-tuned. And it helps to have an expert on hand who can round out your story.

Fitness magazine is true to its name, but it isn't designed to reach the hard core, so a pitch needs to be fine-tuned. And it helps to have an expert on hand who can round out your story.

Endurance and market strength have been the rewards for the hardworking staff at Fitness, which claims to be the only magazine in its category to increase newsstand sales and ad pages in the current advertising slump, with a 39% increase in pages over the course of 2001. The key to its stamina is an emphasis not simply on weights, crunches, and power yoga, but empowering and motivating active women. "The name of the magazine is Fitness, and people automatically think strictly athletic and exercise and hard core," says features editor Trisha Calvo. "We probably have some readers who are. But we're about fitness as it applies to a healthy outlook - finding balance in your life. We're about empowering our reader, giving her as much information as possible about all aspects of her mind, body, and spirit." Focusing on the total woman creates plenty of opportunities for PR practitioners hoping to get placement for their clients. With a rate base of 1.1 million, the magazine has a high pass-along rate and reaches 6.5 million people, a lucrative target. The magazine's editors receive pitches for everything from fitness gear and workout wear to books, celebrities, chefs, and medications. But figuring out how a Fitness reader thinks is a bit more complicated. According to Calvo, editors think of a woman between 20 and 40 when assembling editorial material. They write for women interested in healthy eating, fashion, beauty, vacations, spa treatments, and balancing a workout with a personal life. Though 50% of readers have children, the editors stay away from discussing family and child-care issues. "I think the best thing is to become familiar with the magazine," says Calvo. "Look at three months' worth of issues, and you'll get a real sense of what Fitness covers, our approach and tone." The sections break down into the categories of fitness, beauty, health, diet and nutrition, mind and spirit, and fashion. Recent pieces featured collapsible running shoes, girls-only vacations, recipes by chef Cynthia De Persio, and a profile of singer Mya called, "How she got that body." The editors are always looking to be in contact with well-informed authorities. "It's great to know people who do communications for universities and hospitals who you can call on to help put you in touch with an expert quickly. Once, I was having trouble finding an expert for a health piece I was writing, and received an e-mail from a woman who represented a hospital in New Orleans," recalls Calvo. It was a rare e-mail that came in the nick of time, but an example of a welcome pitch that provided a needed source. Since the editors work on a lead time of nearly four months, it's important to think ahead when pitching. They prefer e-mail pitches to phone calls because they are more conducive to time management, but sometimes the right call at the right time can be just what a piece needs. It is best to call the main editorial number to be sure that your pitch gets to the right person. In the case of books, beauty supplies, fashion, and gadgets, it is best to send samples and a follow-up e-mail. "If it seems right for us, we'll be in touch," Calvo says. Georgette Pascale, an account manager at RLM Public Relations, says that working with Fitness' editors was an enjoyable - though long - process. Though her pitch lasted for five-and-a-half months, she finally achieved success with a product that the editors would not have initially thought appropriate for their readers: an artificial tear. "I think the main thing was getting in touch with the health editor," she says. "But after that, I pitched my product with an angle. I sent clinical data, though I knew it wouldn't run, so that the editors knew its effects and uses." Laura Finlayson, an account executive with Maximum Exposure PR, also achieved success by targeting her client's product, an mp3 player, toward Fitness' active readers. "I was pitching a lot of people," she says, "but Fitness cares about different things. They didn't care about download time, but that it weighed less than three ounces and wouldn't skip if you kept it in your pocket." She sent a unit to the Fitness offices, then talked to an editor and loaded it up with her favorite upbeat music. Afterward, the mp3 player was returned with a handwritten thank-you note. Finlayson says, "It's just about going that extra step." ----- Contact list Fitness Address 15 East 26th Street, 5th floor, New York, NY 10010 Tel (646) 758-2600 Web Features editor Trisha Calvo Fitness editor Alyssa Shaffer Diet and nutrition editor Leah McLaughlin Fashion editor Melissa Halpern West Coast editor Nicole Dorsey

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