Over the last few months, COVID-19 has forced countries all over the world into lockdown. With these restrictions, all non-essential businesses, including gyms and fitness studios, had to close their doors for an undefined period.
This new way of life was very sudden; a lot of gyms were business as usual one day and forced to completely shut the next. The vast majority of fitness businesses were quick to adapt, taking their services online to maintain their community, retain members, and ultimately – ensure their business would survive.
Now, as governments across the world are implementing lockdown exit plans, there’s an end in sight. But ‘normal’ life is still a long way off, and once you get the green light to reopen, everything about your fitness business will be different. From day-to-day tasks like ensuring there’s ample time for proper cleaning and managing the number of people in the studio, to running both an onsite and online service.
With so many new procedures in place and guidelines that you, your staff, and your members will need to follow to ensure safety, regular communication will be crucial.
We’ve recently outlined everything you need to know about reopening your gym, and in this article, we’ll walk you through how to keep your members engaged and updated as you get up and running again. Skip ahead to:
Communications Best Practice
Keep the following best practice points in mind across all of your communication with members.
Use a Positive Tone of Voice
Lockdown and social distancing rules have changed how people live their lives. Before this became normal, your studio was likely a happy and positive place for your members to spend their time – and it still has been that same place, albeit virtually in recent months.
A lot of the messages people are consuming right now are negative in some way. Your studio can be a positive voice in uncertain times. Once your doors reopen, it’s crucial that you keep your tone as it always has been; upbeat, motivating, and positive and that you use this in any communication with your members.
In a recent episode of our podcast, we spoke with Jack Thomas, owner of BASE gyms in Bangkok. When COVID-19 became serious in Thailand, one of the first things Jack did was to communicate transparently with his members. At that time, there was panic and negativity, with many people worried about the future. Jack wanted to continue delivering a message of positivity to the BASE community. He also ensured that communication was open, so members felt comfortable coming to him with their questions and concerns.
Choose the Right Channels
While you’ll already have certain channels that you use to communicate with your members, the best ones to use will differ depending on your communication purpose. It’s good practice to have a public channel where you and your members can communicate openly and a private option where members can reach you personally. For your public channels, consider setting up a WhatsApp or Facebook group where you can share information, and members can talk with each other. For your private channels, email SMS and phone calls are the best for purpose.
As you reopen, your studio may have a few different types of communication to share at any given time: Updates on your business changes, both onsite and online, any changes to current protocols as outlined by your government. In the next section, we’ll cover these in more detail.
4 Ways to Engage and Update Your Community as Your Reopen
Now that we’ve covered a couple of points you should keep in mind across your communications, let’s take a look at four key ways to engage and update your community during this time.
Update Members on Changes to Your Business
Even though lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease, we’re still living in uncertain times: Implementing each stage of a lockdown exit plan will depend on the success of its previous stages. Essentially, if any of the steps cause a significant spike in COVID-19, the government will postpone moving forward with lifting restrictions and in some cases, revert back to full lockdown to flatten the curve once again.
With this, there could be some back and forth with what you’re able to do at your studio, and you’ll need to make sure members are up to date with the latest changes to your business. If you usually have a class cancellation fee set up, it may be best to pause it for the time being so you can be as flexible for your members changing needs as they are to you.
Much like your business, a person’s home situation may also change at a moment’s notice, and you’ll need to understand their circumstances. Ensure information like this is widely known to your community to encourage people to still book in while classes are running.
If you have to make changes to your classes or schedule, share them as quickly as possible with members. Sharing updates like this across multiple channels will give everyone the best chance to see the changes; encourage those that have seen the message to share it with others.
Update Members With the Latest Health and Safety Protocols
As you get back up and running with your onsite classes, it’s good practice to share updates on health and safety from the WHO and your local government. We have covered this in more detail in our health and safety checklist post. You should consult official information regularly so that the information you’re providing is up to date.
It’s essential that your members have as much information as possible on how they need to behave while at your studio to protect themselves and others around them. This will include rules on social distancing, wiping down equipment with antibacterial wipes, and using hand gel before, during, and after class. This is something that you should get into the habit of reminding members regularly. At the studio, you can do this by using clear signs throughout your facility reminding people to follow the precautions in place.
As people get used to coming back into the studio and going about their lives more normally, they may become complacent. Check out our example of points to reiterate below for inspiration.
- Please be aware that guidelines require all members and staff to wear [protective clothing if required] at all times when inside the studio.
- Please come ready to workout without unnecessary items – no gym bag or toiletries.
- To ensure your safety, our showering facilities are no longer accessible. Please only use the changing rooms to wash your hands or use the toilet.
- Do not enter the studio, or a class, without using hand sanitizer.
- Do not touch your face during class, and please only use your sweat towel for wiping sweat – not cleaning any equipment.
- Please wipe down all equipment with the disposable disinfectant wipes provided and dispose of them immediately.
- Please respect the social distancing policy – allow a 2-meter distance between yourself, other guests, and all employees at all times.
Maintain Consistency With Your Live Stream Classes
There will be mixed reactions from your members as you reopen: some will be queuing outside the studio doors on the first day you’re back in business, and some will want to continue working out at home for a while before getting back into the studio. If you focus all your efforts on the members that are physically coming in, the ones that are sticking with you from home will feel like they’re missing out.
The future of fitness is a hybrid one, so the solution here is to maintain the consistency of your online class schedule as you reopen. Make sure you’re using social media and email to keep everyone up to date on what’s happening at your studio along with content to keep them on track from home:
- Share videos of the classes you’re holding so members can see for themselves that you’re running a safe setup that adheres to government guidelines.
- Continue promoting your online classes and services as well as your onsite ones; you may even be able to start live streaming your studio classes and kill two birds with one stone.
Remember that to engage your members, you’ll need to implement some two-way communication as well:
- Check-in with members to gauge how they’re feeling about getting back to the studio. You can do this using features in Instagram stories such as questions and polls, or include a quick survey in an email newsletter.
- Champion onsite and online members by asking them to share their progress with you. You can use this for a ‘member of the week’ post on social media, or a newsletter.
For a detailed breakdown of everything you need to know about running a hybrid fitness business, check out this blog post.
Communicate With Members to Keep Them Accountable
Now more than ever, it’s crucial that you over-communicate with your members to keep them accountable. This applies to both your onsite and online members, so whether it’s emails, texts, social media, calls, or a combination of everything, it keeps them engaged, motivated, and loyal to your studio.
During a recent episode of our podcast with Gym Launch owner Alex Hormozi, he points out that online workouts are mostly the same for every offering. The same goes for many studio classes; they use similar formats and exercises and promise the same results.
But both online and in-person, the key thing that separates your business from all of the others is accountability. At the end of an onsite class, you’ll tell everyone they did a great job, and you’ll physically be there to answer any questions they have. For online members, you can utilize your various private channels to keep them personally accountable, and the public channels to encourage group accountability. Get into the habit of posting in your groups after class to tell them they did a great job and let them know you’re there to answer any questions they might have.
You can also encourage members to use fitness trackers or apps, MyFitnessPal, Jefit, and Strong are just a few examples of apps that offer free plans. You’ll then be able to track members’ progress during live workouts and use them to set fun, simple, fitness challenges like asking members to complete a certain amount of steps, for example. It’s up to you to keep your members motivated and encourage them to hold themselves accountable for their efforts.
Regularly communicating with your members as you reopen is essential for keeping everyone up to date on how your business is operating and how this will affect them. It’s also your opportunity to reassure members that it’s safe for them to come into the studio, and their safety is your number one priority.
Building an engaged, happy, and motivated community has always been a crucial part of the member experience. Being transparent with your members is now an investment in your community for the future.