We received the following commentary from PR pro Michael Hoffman (Heart Communications) in response to our anonymous editorial in the Feb. 3 News Digest. It takes the discussion further. We welcome commentary from others -- see link at the bottom of the page.
I read with great interest the anonymous editorial wish list from your Feb. 3 Digest and have the following comments:
1) Yes, the fitness industry is a bit insular, but so is any vertical industry. Hence, the criticism about the lack of wider public visibility is only partly justified.
2) Corporate social investing is nobody's business but the companies that choose to be involved or not. It would be wonderful if more companies had the money to participate in grandiose philanthropy, but the fitness industry is intensely competitive and, unfortunately, most dollars go to direct sales efforts.
3) Regarding the lack of creativity in marketing, I agree that if you took all the logos off trade ads, you'd be hard pressed to tell one brand from another.
4) The writer obviously has a lot of opinions, but few solutions, so here in response are my congratulatory comments to the industry:
>> The fitness industry should be proud of its growth. When I attended my first IHRSA show in 1984 after working in advertising and PR for international corporations, I was impressed by the sincerity and fervor of the attendees.
>> There are fine values and ethics leaders in the industry. People like John McCarthy, Joe Cirulli, Bill Pearl, Derek Barton and Steve Tharrett, to name a few. And there are constantly new thinkers in the equipment segment, like those behind FreeMotion and Matrix Fitness Systems, both with their unique and appealing designs.
>> Who cares if Wall Street loves or doesn't love the fitness industry? You have smart advisors like Rick Caro who help club organizations make sound financial decisions every day. Who knows? Maybe five to 10 years from now a handful of fitness companies will be included in Vanguard's Total Stock Market Index.
>> As for the issue of kids working out unsupervised, that's a problem. My first club job was with European Health Spas in Spokane, Wash., in the '70s, and at that time, ACE and ACSM were not exactly household names. Kudos to certification leaders, like Ken Germano (ACE CEO), who help upgrade the quality of education, whether or not a club chooses to upgrade its service.
>> As far as the quality of PR for the fitness industry, I basically question whether the industry really prioritizes it. I was very fortunate to work with progressive thinkers like Augie Nieto at Life Fitness and Doug Howe at ClubCorp who championed PR and put their money behind it. The anonymous writer's reference to the Great American Workout was correct; that was top-notch PR.
>> Regarding editorial objectivity, I have to agree with the previous writer. I was once told, flat out, by a fitness industry magazine editor, that he would not print specific news/commentary because it would offend certain advertisers. So, ad revenue was more important to him than journalistic integrity. Plain and simple, his magazine was an advertising-based newsletter, not a journalistic endeavor. That is not true anymore in my opinion. Ronale Tucker, for instance, at Fitness Management, continually stays true to her journalistic mission of educating readers, as do the folks at SNEWSÂ® (otherwise they wouldn't print these editorials and commentary!).
In conclusion, I owe a real debt of gratitude to the fitness industry and to some of the fine people I've met there. Your previous writer clearly wanted a voice for his angst, which is fine, but solutions always work better than criticism.
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