Savvy PR by BGI retailer turns lemons into lemonade after treadmill tragedy

With consumer TV and print media telling some spectacular stories on the heels of the May 26 death of Mike Tyson's toddler girl in a freak treadmill strangulation, SNEWS® advised the industry to be proactive. BGI Fitness did just that, having a staff person write a short and professional press release and quickly distributing it to regional media, stressing basic safety tips and giving its contact information as an area expert.
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With consumer TV and print media telling some spectacular stories on the heels of the May 26 death of Mike Tyson's toddler girl in a freak treadmill strangulation, SNEWS® advised the industry to be proactive.

BGI Fitness did just that, having a staff person write a short and professional press release and quickly distributing it to regional media, stressing basic safety tips and giving its contact information as an area expert.

Within days, two Indianapolis-area TV channels had contacted the retailer, and operations director Paul Crimmins was conducting televised interviews with reporters and doing multiple TV spots demonstrating treadmill and equipment safety.

"Our whole point was to come off like the experts in the area who could talk about this," Crimmins told SNEWS. "Any time you get your name out there, it's exposure."

SNEWS told the facts about the death of Tyson's 4-year-old in a story May 27, 2009, that cut to the chase in its presentation, citing the police reports and stepped away from speculation. Click here to see that story. Then, when we heard that some in the industry were busily pointing fingers at competing brands and each other rather than using the accident as a chance for introspection and public education, we wrote an editorial May 29, 2009, titled, "SNEWS View: Industry needs to avoid finger-pointing, witch-hunting in treadmill tragedy."

Crimmins wasted no time, sending out a tightly written, easy-to-read, savvy press release from his company May 29. Click here to see that release, "BGI Fitness Offers Treadmill Safety Tips." It read in part:

"Treadmills increase in popularity every year and with the desire to lower your carbon footprint and costs of gas, it makes sense to work out in your own home instead of driving to a health club or gym several times a month. Because treadmills have a moving belt, and usually hydraulics for adjusting the incline, they present some unique safety concerns. With the most recent tragedy in the news related to treadmill injuries (Mike Tyson's 4-year daughter's fatal strangulation from a treadmill cord), it is a good time to learn how to avoid treadmill-related accidents in the home."

On June 4, Channel 6 News in Indianapolis did a short one-minute, 41-second report, citing Crimmins noting, "This is not a toy." The reporter used the incident to inform area users about safety needs and tips, as well as alerting to the possible dangers by interviewing an area doctor. Click here to see that story.

Then, not to be outdone, Channel 13 News in Indianapolis sent its fitness and health reporter to conduct a series of educational reports about using large equipment. The first, about two minutes, aired early June 8, with follow-up segments scheduled to air this week and weekend. Click here to see the first segment.

"It's free press," Crimmins told SNEWS, "whether its two seconds or two minutes."

--Therese Iknoian

SNEWS® View: We are so impressed that Crimmins took action. Perhaps luckily the company has somebody on-site who is comfortable with writing releases. She did a great job with the release, avoiding making it a sell for the company but rather presented information -- just what reporters are looking for in cases like this. Remember, every local reporter will be looking for area experts and a local angle for national and international stories. Your job is to help them and to be that expert, guiding them simply but without being over-bearing. If you aren't comfortable being on-camera or being interviewed, take some time to get a little training. As a start, you can turn to the SNEWS training center where we do have resources and stories about doing PR. (Click here to see that.) If you are worried a reporter is only looking for the spectacular story that will not do you any good, know how to respond to questions to steer the questions and the story in your direction. Crimmins and BGI did a great job and should be applauded. You just know these area reporters now will turn to the company again and again.

--SNEWS® Editors

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