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What the launch of Powered taught us about understanding your audience

We take you behind the scenes to reveal how to build a successful content marketing program.

Since its April launch, Powered, the new peer-reviewed eJournal for Fitness Australia, has received stellar feedback, with other organisations in the industry even asking to use the content as educational collateral. Still on a high, editor Alexandra Middleton looks back on the journey to launch, particularly what it takes to get inside the head of your audience.

Step one: get to know Fitness Australia’s #TeamCool

It was in October last year that Mahlab Media and Fitness Australia joined forces to revamp the national fitness industry association’s content strategy.

Fitness Australia is a not-for-profit association that represents the interests of over 30,000 exercise professionals, fitness service providers and industry-suppliers Australia wide.

The eJournal would be the first in a series of digital offerings from Fitness Australia, with weekly segmented eNewsletters and a new website also being launched in May and July this year.

Before devising the strategy, we worked with Fitness Australia to conduct a comprehensive survey of its member base to determine exactly what its members wanted from Fitness Australia communications and how they wanted to consume them.

The results came as no surprise. As an active and mobile workforce, Fitness Australia members were looking for practical and educational content that could be accessed on the go.

Step two: give the people what they want

Fitness Australia had previously produced a Registered Exercise Professionals (REPs) magazine, available in print and as a flipbook online.

Their new vision, however, demanded a strategy that set it apart from other consumer titles and positioned them as leaders of industry discussion in an increasingly digital space; a publication that would support its mission to build a fitter, healthier Australia.

In order to offer members a resource that was truly unique and highly valuable, we structured the publication as an eJournal, with the bulk of content being expert-reviewed articles that examine the findings of the latest health and fitness research and its impact on industry participants and their clients.

With so many ‘cowboys’ in the industry and a new quick fix appearing every other day, Powered is designed to cut through the noise and be a trusted, go-to source of information for exercise professionals.

Step three: craft a mission statement and outline our content elements

To achieve consistency and credibility in the publication it was important that we first established a set of criteria for the content in the magazine. A mission statement was drawn up that outlined the aim of the publication and nine elements an article had to have in order to be included. These included things like:

  • Provoke discussion
  • Comprehensively analyse issues faced by the industry
  • Offer practical advice
  • Assist members with their career objectives

This is an extremely valuable exercise when working on any new project as it establishes a clear vision amongst the team and a framework to justify decisions against. The exercise proved successful with the first content plan submitted to Fitness Australia almost identical to what you now see on the pages of the first issue.

Step four: get up, get out of the office and get amongst it

It was around this same time that we had our first chance to get out amongst the industry and let down our hair with the Fitness Australia team. At the end of October, myself, Mahlab’s Chief Content Officer Martin Wanless and our Sales Director Sara Lewis attended Fitness Australia’s annual Industry Day.

The highlight of the day was a forum discussion on healthy ageing, where the key message – one to which we can all relate – was to start planning for a healthy future today. The passion in the room was intoxicating and we came away from the day with an improved insight into Fitness Australia and its members as pioneers for the health of every Australian, not just lycra clad gym junkies.

That evening, our MD Bobbi Mahlab and myself attended the Health and Fitness Industry Quality Awards, where we celebrated best practice in the industry. While the relationship with Fitness Australia was still only new we felt we had lots to toast already, we were partnered with a forward thinking association and had a solid framework for issue one ready to go.

While we’re always up for having a good time, complete immersion in the industries for which we create content is a practice we don’t take lightly. You can’t produce content for an industry if you’re out of touch with their unique needs and wants, which is why all our editors work from the offices of our clients – who knows their members better than the association that represents them! Being immersed in #Teamcool was particularly important, because unlike consumer fitness magazines, Powered’s content represents all Australians regardless of their level of fitness or social demographic and so requires a specific image and tone of voice.

As we moved into the design period I was increasingly thankful for this inside knowledge on the way Fitness Australia operates and the values that underly everything they do. We worked closely as a team throughout this period and from the moment you look at the cover you can see this balance between a strong and active design and the professional purpose of the content literally leaping off the page. And the best part is we had a lot of fun doing it!

Step five: lights, camera, action! On set for the launch issue’s cover shoot

We enlisted the help of a specialised fitness photographer to shoot the cover and main feature on high-intensity interval training (HIIT). While HIIT is the latest trend in fitness, the fact that it achieves 20% more benefits than aerobic exercise in half the time, makes it a valuable solution to exercise disengagement.

Set up in a warehouse in Marrickville, it was a team effort for myself, Head of Design David MacPherson, Designer Gary Humphrys and of course our model Rodney Larsen. We all had a go swinging battle ropes but I have to admit I felt slightly guilty fanning myself while Rodney went hell for leather for what was essentially a half-day workout. You can check out the launch issue here.

The secret to effective audience engagement

As with all new relationships, it took time and a collaborative effort with Fitness Australia to wrap our heads around how to best communicate with their members. The secret:

  • Know where your expertise lies, which in our case is content strategy and creation, but don’t assume to know everything about your audience
  • Be willing to learn from those who know the audience best
  • Engage in independent research to gain fresh insights direct from the member base
  • Drink the kool-aid, taking every opportunity to engage with members, particularly when in a group setting with their peers
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