This week FeaturesExec catches up with Laurence Gunn, owner, editor and producer of www.BitFit.org. He tells us about his alternative fitness blog, plans for the future and why his personal experiences led him to creating the blog.
What subjects do you cover?
Novice consumer health, fitness, wellbeing and lifestyle for men, with a helping of technology and geekiness thrown in.
What stories are you most interested in covering?
In terms of human angle, BitFit.org is interested in stories and blogs about people who have overcome difficulty to make small, genuine and long-lasting changes; not so much “I weighed 24 stones last year and now I’m climbing Everest” so much as “I quit smoking for four months, gained two pounds but got a girlfriend”. BitFit.org is all about realistic and achievable lifestyle goals rather than aspirational, revolutionary stories of alpha-male living, though appreciably one might lead to the other.
Otherwise, BitFit.org covers product reviews, news, interviews, features and Q&A across its subject brief (above). We like to speak to brand representatives and celebrities and love to hear from and refer to independent scientists, doctors, surgeons, physiotherapists, mental health and lifestyle coaching practitioners, product providers and event organisers. We’re keen on seeking campaigns to tie in with seasonal, commercial and charity events: involvement in the latter on BitFit.org is really encouraged.
What makes you different from the other outlets in your sector?
Men’s glossy fitness magazines always feature a guy with a six pack and deliver messages about how to improve your sex life, increase your salary and develop said washboard while drinking beer in only 17 minutes each day. For 99% of people, this uncompromising and resolutely alpha-male approach is unrealistic, so BitFit.org exists for that majority, focusing on encouraging achievable targets for beginners.
Good mental health and wellbeing is an essential part of the BitFit.org approach, too; we cover stories of personal hardship in order to make clear that people are not alone in suffering difficulty. This is important in explaining the processes of trying, failing and making slow progress that all feature in BitFit.org as a means of encouraging a dialogue about self-acceptance and being willing to try.
The tone of BitFit.org’s editorial is also different. Whereas a men’s glossy will give you do’s and don’ts and define subjects in terms of winning and losing, BitFit.org knows that losing isn’t the end of the world, rather a part of the learning experience.
If this sector were the movie Dodgeball then we’re Average Joe’s rather than Globo Gym.
How do you decide the content?
Content is decided by a combination of product-to-audience relevance and timing. The best content matches the story, product or person directly to the audience at the right point in the week, month or year. For instance, a piece on improving a relationship with a girlfriend would work well in the month leading to Valentine’s day alongside a product review of a weekend spa getaway, which might be able to then be bought by clicking on a link within the story, for instance.
In terms of which articles make it to the top of the site, because BitFit.org is currently a blog, content loading is decided by whatever is most recent, though the site navigation controls will take readers to specifically tagged content separated into regularly used categories. This will change in 2011 when BitFit.org becomes a full-fledged website, making way for a complete, magazine-style approach to categorising and prioritising display content.
Headlines are created based on the type of article: if it is news, a feature, review or interview, the headline will be conceived with search engine optimisation to the forefront, whereas a personal blog entry will have a literary, print-style title. Regardless of story type, each article will be optimised for search engines through its metadata, backlinks and so on.
Do you produce a features list? Why? Why not?
BitFit.org will have a features list available on request in January 2011.
Do you use freelance contributions, and if so, are they for any particular section/type of work?
BitFit.org is happy to consider freelance pitches and contributions from journalists, though the work is currently unpaid. We also consider freelance ideas and contributions from industry experts and PR personnel for any section of the blog except reviews.
About you and freelance journalists:
Do you like freelance journalists to get in touch with you directly to pitch ideas? And if so, how?
Send initial pitches by email, marked clearly with ARTICLE PITCH in the subject line. Tell us in one paragraph who you are, where we can find your work online and why you would write good copy for BitFit.org. Then spell out your ideas as two-line pitches, covering the subject, audience relevance and timing. If we like what we read then we’ll get in touch to find out more and finalise the idea. Don’t forget to include all your contact details, including your social media names and locations.
Name the three most important attributes that make a freelance journalist stand out for you and would make you use them again?
Creativity, punctuality and enthusiasm in equally high measure.
If you can, tell us about the best approach you’ve seen from a freelance…and the worst…
The best pitch I have seen combined a good product, a campaign idea, multiple media, charitable involvement and great timing. The worst one blathered on about a personal trainer who worked with a D-list ex-pop star with no regard to how BitFit.org might use the information.
Do you work closely with PRs? or do you keep them at arm’s length?
PRs are integral to how BitFit.org works because we are both about raising awareness and knowledge among our audience members; where BitFit.org draws the line is at remaining independent with our message and opinions.
If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
I’ve had no cause for complaint with any PR’s approach as yet. As long as the communication is relevant and the person is creative, easy to work with, amenable and friendly then all is good.
How should a PR approach you about their client?
An email is the best way to initiate contact, after which further emails, phone calls and meetings are the order of the day. An approach should always spell out who or what the client is, why it is relevant to BitFit.org readers right now, where the client can be found and what other outlets and media are being used. The more honest the PR is about their intentions for their product or client, the better; this is the best way to foster creative thinking and retain the integrity of both parties.
What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
Anything that emphasises the timeliness of an event, product, launch or season to BitFit.org readers, as well as information about opportunities and potential for multiple media cross-promotion.
When is the best time for PRs to contact you & what is your deadline for contributions?
Anytime by email, phone calls and meetings by arrangement only in the first instance. Deadlines are rolling but, concerning specific events, launches or seasons, six weeks’ notice is preferred. For article contribution, ten working days before publication in order to allow for proofreading, changes and further drafting.
Describe a typical day at work: What are you editorial duties/responsibilities at the outlet?
As the owner, editor and producer of BitFit.org, I operate a very busy schedule in this first year of operation. Typically, I work from 7am until midnight, though all-nighters are not unknown. I create, write, film, present, edit, plan, research, interview, commission, sub-edit and upload to the website, as well as take care of social media and search engine optimisation.
What interests you most about your job?
The degree to which I am surprised by industry innovation; separating science from marketing; the great people that work in the sector; the continual learning curve; and the creativity involved.
Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
The Essex Chronicle, Essex and Herts. Music-Zine, NME, Mortgage Solutions, Professional Broking and Reinsurance, Computer Active and Personal Computer World. I was driven to set up BitFit.org by personal experience, having overcome an abusive upbringing, long-term, chronic clinical depression, several devastating addictions and a particularly unhealthy lifestyle, all one step at a time and over many years: I realised that there are many other people who have either gone through or are going through what I have.
Do you Twitter?
I use Twitter because it’s a great way to track trends and moods, as well as find stories many hours or days before the newspapers publish them. I’m yet to master tweeting myself, though. (http://twitter.com/TheBitFit)
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
1) Never be afraid to ask what might seem like a stupid question 2) What’s the worst that can happen?
What media do you seek out 1st thing in the morning?
The Guardian, Telegraph, BBC News, Facebook and Twitter iPhone apps when I open my eyes, my emails over breakfast, The Metro on the tube then trade press at my desk.
If you could time travel, to what time would you go?
The only thing less certain than the future is the past, which leaves it all pretty wide open! I’d love to see the Thames pre-London, West Africa and the Middle East in the middle ages, China in the reign of Qin Shi Huang and Brazil and South Africa 150 years in the future.