Diva Richards answered five questions to help clubs stay true to their brand and keep their members loyal when times are tough.

How Can Gyms Develop & Protect Their Brands During a Crisis? [VIDEO]

If you want to protect your brand and keep your members engaged during a crisis—be it a pandemic or social—then Diva Richards, owner of Hard Work No Excuses, has some advice for you.

During a crisis—be it a pandemic or social—it can be hard to know the best way to protect your fitness brand. Health clubs, first and foremost, want to keep their members and staff safe, but they also need to find a way to keep their business operational.

This balancing act can tempt many club owners to do nothing and hope for the best. However, like Diva Richards, founder of the Hard Work No Excuses brand and the motivational "Do Work Method" program, says, "Silence is a bad move."

Richards is one of the Northeast region's most sought after health and fitness experts, with over 15 years of experience in the industry, owner of Hard Work No Excuses fitness facility in Marlton, NJ, CEO of Hard Work No Excuses fitness apparel and the founder of the "Do Work Method" Life Coaching program. She recently spent some time with IHRSA's Education Manager, Christine Ulatoski, and Advocacy Content Manager, Kaitlynn Anderson Fernandez, to share tips and lessons she's learned while building her brand.

Funnily enough, Richards actually says she hates the word brand and wants to go a step further urging health clubs to make sure their mission statement is clear.

Check out the video above, or keep reading for Richards' answers to five crucial branding questions:

  • 0:30 - How can gyms develop their brands?
  • 2:34 - How do you protect your brand and keep members loyal?
  • 3:45 - How can gyms protect their brand and take a stand on an issue?
  • 4:57 - How do you communicate to your members that your gym is safe?
  • 7:04 - How do relationships with your lawmakers protect your brand?

You can hear more from Richards on branding and member loyalty at the IHRSA Innovation Summit on Thursday, September 17.

Full Video Transcript

Richards: I'mma be honest; I hate the word brand. Make sure your mission statement is clear.

So my name is Diva Richards. I'm the owner of Hard Work, No Excuses gym in Marlton, New Jersey. When people talk about Diva Richards, they was like, that's the hard work, no excuses girl—like that's who she is.

I enjoy motivating my members not only in their fitness but just in their daily lives. And that's what I do, 100% all the time.

How can gyms develop their brands?

Richards: When it comes to developing a brand, I will say this, if you're just getting to that point and your club has been in operation, you're doing yourself a disservice, you're doing your members a disservice.

Brand identity is huge. Brand identity is the reason you drink Coke instead of Pepsi. It's that simple. Whether you're a smaller gym or billion-dollar industry, your brand needs to be clear.

I'mma be honest, I hate the word brand. I feel like everybody's like, "I need to work on my brand." I want to go a step further and say make sure your mission statement is clear.

A lot of owners really need to kind of step back if they haven't already, and set up a mission statement. Because if you got that, everything else will come together.

I don't care how pretty your logo is, your design is, your catchphrase. If people come in and the energy sucks, and there's no connection, they're not staying anyway.

So get your mission statement, right? Get your energy, right. And people will stay in your club. That goes from smaller clubs to these billion-dollar corporations.

The first step is setting up that mission statement. What is your purpose with your facility? What—What is your movement? And if you don't have that, it's going to make it hard, because right now people are looking—and searching—for something to hold on to. And if you're just another space, why should they support you?

I had a mission statement like this is the purpose of this facility. It's not just to have a gym and have people come in and make money. What is my goal by doing this?

My goal is: I want to create a space where people constantly work on their mental wellness and their physical. They work on being better daily. That's the hard work, no excuses, brand identity.

You have to start reaching out to these new consumers that are looking for something to hold on to. If you have a strong brand identity, they're going to be looking at you. If you don't, they're going to go somewhere else.

How do you protect your brand and keep members loyal?

Richards: Communication. Y'all gotta talk to people!

I think the biggest way clubs can protect their brand during be it a pandemic, be it a social crisis is that they need to communicate. I think it's important to be clear on where you just stand in issues.

You need to let your members and your community know that you are inclusive. You are supportive and that no matter what is happening in the world—when you walk through the doors of the facility, you all are welcome.

What we're seeing is companies that are taking that stand are getting more of a reception. I know a lot of gyms are closing right now. And part of it is yes, there's a crisis. But at some point, there was a disconnect between you and your members.

And [members] felt like well, maybe it won't be a big deal if I cancel, you know, they won't miss my money. They don't feel valued in the process.

So it's really important that you say, "Hey, no, you're a part of this community, you're valuable. Your support means the world to us. Stay with us, and this is why."

How can gyms protect their brand and take a stand on an issue?

Richards: Again, just communicate.

You don't have to say you're a Democrat or Republican, but you can't act like the world is not crumbling outside. Silence is an answer. So you can't be silent.

I really think it goes back to inclusion. Because one of the things I did in my club was, I said, this is happening. This is how we're feeling. I know tensions are high. I know we can't even get to our club yet. But I want you to know we're thinking about you. We're here for you. Continue to take place in these virtual workouts continue to stay connected. And I promise you, when we get through this, we're all going to feel amazing. We're going to be able to fellowship together, and it's going to be great.

I mean, and even me as a black woman, I had to say something. Though I deal in a different space, I had to speak on and say, "Hey, this is how I feel about injustice. But if you're here, you support me, I appreciate you and just understand this is going on, but when we're in this space, this is all love."

So you can't, silence is a bad move. Silence is a bad move.

How do you communicate to your members that your gym is safe?

Richards: I think never in a million years did any gym owner, did any fitness club think we would be in a predicament we're in. And because of the current crisis—with the pandemic—we were also kind of seen as a threat. Like, [gyms are] a bad place to be.

Everybody's like gyms are a breeding ground for germs. It's just because there's a lot of people in the space, so are bars and so are nightclubs, but in this space, we can control how many people are in here. We can control the quality of cleaning.

And I think for the first time, a lot of club owners realize, "Wow, we have not been advocating properly." Bigger corporations are used to constantly advocating for themselves. Club owners never did because we just kind of existed and did our thing, because not too much really affected us. But this time we got slammed, and they're realizing, "man, I probably should have gotten involved—I should have said something."

So I think if clubs were more vocal—which I started to see, once we got into month two—where clubs were like, "Look, people need fitness because..."

We need [physical activity] for our physical health, our mental health. This is going to help people boost their immune system. Isolation is going to make this worse.

It's not selfish for a club owner to say, "Hey, I want to protect the business." But you need to, again—back to communication—communicate to your members that, hey, I'm fighting for this because this space provides all these emotional and physical benefits for you.

And the way you let them know it's safe to come back is one, you have to be honest about what you can do in terms of keeping the space clean. You know, there are so many steps that club owners can take to say, "Hey, guys, we want you to know it's safe."

I mean, it's tedious, but I think showing them that we want you here. We want to support you, and these are the things we're going to do to keep you safe is what's going to keep them loyal to you.

How do relationships with your lawmakers protect your brand?

Richards: I think this pandemic and this crisis kind of made us all go, "Woah, we should be more invested." We need to pay and pay attention to these taxes. We need to pay attention to the laws that are being made.

I love what IHRSA does 'cause I read those newsletters. And it was funny, even before this happened, I was reading I was like, what's going on? Who's getting taxed? Like, you need to know!

If not all of a sudden we're like, "why am I paying more?" "Why am I paying more?"

Because we never took action. We never let our voices be heard. You should know who your local police officers are. You should know who your local health community is.

I just got more invested in that because if things happen, I need to know, "Hey, this is the crisis that we're having. What else can I do to make my facility better?"

And then these are also relationships where you can say, "You know what, guys, tomorrow 5pm I'm having somebody come in from Kennedy hospital, and they're gonna have a discussion with you guys about what other things we can be doing and why this is important."

Like these are all things that show you care, and that people are not just dollar signs. And this is not to say that money is not important. We do this to make money, but you do it to change lives, and the money is just an after effect.

Learn more about Richards and how she built a fitness and motivational empire from the bottom up, by checking out her website.

IHRSA has also put together a comprehensive list of all the resources we’ve created to help fitness centers navigate the coronavirus outbreak.

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Kaitlynn Anderson Fernandez @IHRSA_Advocate

Kaitlynn Anderson Fernandez is IHRSA's Advocacy Content Manager. She uses her experience as a multimedia journalist to tell the story of IHRSA's advocacy and public policy efforts. Kaitlynn spends her free time watching sci-fi movies, boxing, or working towards her goal of being able to do five pull-ups (a skill that would come in handy in the event of a sci-fi-like apocalypse).