The surprising importance of offline events in the digital age

Rachel Chatham is the Marketing Manager of Be:FIT London. As well as being the UK’s only health & fitness festival for women, Be:FIT also organise regular small events and supper clubs in partnership with many of London’s most popular gyms and studios. Their mission is to provide women with all the support, content and tools they need to lead healthier and happier lives, and this growing community, known as The FitPack, now exceeds 40,000.

With the rise in digital media, many companies now overlook the role of offline events and face to face contact. We spoke with Rachel to learn how gyms and clubs should be using these methods to develop stronger communities, gain feedback from their members and ultimately improve the experience for everyone.


Are events something that all clubs and operators should be doing, or just those that have a particular emphasis on community?

I would advise all fitness brands to use events and other forms of social activation to get to know their audience. This is what the industry has long been missing.

We have set up pop up event series to build a platform on which we can engage and socialise directly with our followers, and at the same time help gyms and boutique fitness brands get to know their audience too. We ‘take over’ various gyms for the evening, host a class, offer beauty treatments and refuel treats, and everyone has an amazing evening. The Be:FIT team are present and engaged in every one of these events, so we get to have one on one conversations with our audience, an invaluable experience for any business.

I would advise all fitness brands to use events and other forms of social activation to get to know their audience


What are the benefits?

Coverage is a big thing. The events create tonnes of great content and the social media activity is huge. Their twitter feed in particular goes absolutely crazy, then after the event they invariably get a number of great write ups in the press, the value of which fitness brands don’t always recognise.

The events are also a great opportunity to get feedback from your members and understand more about the things they really value. Most importantly, however, the events help to build a real sense of community which should be the goal of every operator as it boosts both acquisition and retention, particularly among those who might otherwise be intimidated by the gym environment.

The events create tonnes of great content and the social media activity is huge


What are the key principles to turning these communities into great content?

It’s really important to know that you’re putting out information that’s both in line with your brand and factually robust. So many brands create generic content that’s written by influencers with large online followings but no credible professional background.

You need to ensure that anyone representing your business has the necessary expertise whilst being truly aligned to your brand values. That’s why we don’t have a standard application process. We hand-select all our speakers, brands and influencers. Everything is organic and we never talk about things we don’t understand, as integrity is everything for the Be:FIT London brand.


How do you maximise the exposure of these events and content?

All our exposure via Instagram and Twitter is organic, whether it’s via influencers that we have great relationships with, or the natural traction that follows each event. A brand can grow hugely through paid advertising but we prefer to know that the followers we have are truly engaged and organic.

On Facebook it’s a little different as it can be hard to compete without investing in some paid promotion of content, but I’d still encourage brands to prioritise building real communities rather than just spending on advertising.


What else can clubs do to engage with women?

The industry has evolved enormously since Be:FIT London launched 4 years ago. Social media has helped the ‘strong not skinny’ message to become really apparent in the female fitness world, and the importance of what your body can do over how it looks is being communicated better than ever. I do feel that as an industry, all of us have a responsibility to keep this going, and ensure we are communicating a healthy message in every piece of marketing or content that we release.

The gym needs to be a far bigger experience than just having a workout. This goes for everyone – women want to feel a part of a community and so do men. So many people, for whatever reason, have previously lacked the confidence to attend a gym and embrace a fitness regime. It’s important that we ensure that people of all body types and backgrounds feel safe and comfortable to work on their health, in an encouraging and inspiring environment.

The gym needs to be a far bigger experience than just having a workout


Posted in Gyms & Clubs, Interviews, The Fitness Network.