How Lex Griffin revolutionized fitness and communication

When I quit rugby and basically any kind of competitive sports where I need to run, jump or have some kind of physical contact, I fell lost. Competitive sports were kind of all I had done for the previous 20 years. Every weekend, whether it was football, athletics or rugby, I have taken part in a competition. I would wake up every Sunday with a purpose and the necessary concetration to make the best out of my body and mind. All of a sudden this was gone due to a severe injury and consequent triple ankle and foot surgery. It was then that I started getting into fitness. For two main reasons: Firstly, I have always enjoyed lifting weights. I used to be a chunky 106kg guy doing heavy squats, bench presses and deadlifts and I have always loved the post workout feeling and the effect that good traditional weight training has on your sports performances. Secondly, in this “philosophy” (yes, it’s a philosophy and a lifestyle) you are in constant competition with yourself. That was what I needed after surgery and what I need now. But I’ll blog more about this story later on…

I have been getting very interested in the fitness industry lately. Especially, in the way social media helps fitness instructors, businesses and new brands getting into the scene and promoting healthy and aesthetics lifestyles.

This is nothing new. It is a common analysis to say that when Arnold passed from the bodybuilding stage to Hollywood, he basically brought fitness to the whole world (a world that saw a dramatic increase in fitness-related businesses in the 80s). In this article I want to focus on how now fitness figures approach social media and interact directly with their followers and how they have, by doing so, created a new image of what a fitness instructor, or simply somehow who’s into fitness and aesthetics should be and do.

Photo credit: http://on.fb.me/1YMw4TB
Photo credit: http://on.fb.me/1YMw4TB

This is why I choose Lex Griffin as an example.I have been following Lex for years now and I’m very happy things are turning out great for him. As a communication expert, here are the reasons why Lex has been somehow revolutionary in his business:

He shows he’s got a life (with its ups and downs): A way too common mistake that fitness instructors, dieticians and pro bodybuilders make is that they forget that most people have a life. MOST people have jobs, family, bills to pay, they come back home tired or frustrated, they don’t all have a supplement shop behind their office nor a kitchen at their disposal 24/7. Still, until maybe just a few years ago, the communication of fitness experts was kind of targeted to an ideal world where everybody simply has the time to workout and diet every day or have ten fish and chicken-based meals per day. Lex changed this. His motto is “shredded with a life.” I remember watching some of his early videos when he was working as a baker and he was showing how to organize you’re life in a feasible manner while doing your everyday job. After watching that video I remember thinking “Ok, this lad, has an actual life and he knows what that means.

He understands people. Not everybody needs to be a bodybuilder or a fitness model. People can choose their level of commitment to a passion. Contrary to most people in the business, Lex understands that not everybody is either cut out nor has the actual ambition of becoming a fitness pro. However, embracing a healthy and aestethic lifestyle is beneficial to your body, your mind and your confidence. Hence, regardless the level of commitment, a bit of healthy life is better than no healthy habits at all. For example, his holidays posts do not say “don’t eat cake on Christmas” or ” make sure you keep training 4-5 times a week while you’re on holiday.” Instead, he understands that our mind and body needs some reward while doing a little effort to keep a bit lean during the holiday period. “Have cake or ice cream but not both” is feasible. Restrict yourself to the joys of life is not… and Lex knows that

He doesn’t show off: So many bodybuilders and fitness figures focus on themselves. How great they are and how they think they are the best. I don’t see anything wrong with that. It is an acceptable marketing and communication strategy to gather support and fans. However, when you want to inspire people, you need to understand who you are talking to. Too much showing off will discourage people, simply because most people are average. Most people do not have Arnold’s genetics and were not brought up in a family that cherish bodybuilding like Rich Piana. Most people discover fitness at a late stage of their lives and many times it is to recover from a situation they are unhappy with, such as bad shape, lack of confidence or injuries. Focussing on inspiring people to do great things is better than challenging people to become who we are just because we think we are better people.

He listens and responds, and he finds pleasure in it. Lex’s success couldn’t be the same without his continuous and public engagement on social media. Open, accessible, transparent. The three keys to great digital personal branding.

CaptureHe “loves haters”: In the fitness industry, haters are an everyday business. As soon as you get success, you get haters. People jealous of your achievements will focus on any small possible tiny detail they could use to undermine you or discourage you from going your own way and do what you love. The best strategy to deal with haters? Love them. Let them come to you and respond appropriately by showing results, dedication, and most importantly, composure. Lex is constantly under attack and still manages to keep it cool but always respond. This takes guts and a much bigger mental effort that bodybuilding already requires.

Who are your favourite fitness figures? Share it with me in the comments below

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Keep calm and get a communication student to therapize you

Somehow unexpectedly, at least three students (that I know of) are now in the process of writing their Master Thesis about the digital communication of the European Union pavilion at Expo Milano 2015.

Why do I say unexpectedly? Because, it is a very specific project which requires a lot of research behind the scenes. But hey, it was a very successful project both in terms of numbers and innovation and a totally disruptive communication idea for a European Union institution.

As flattering as this was, being interviewed by students on the work I do has been incredibly enlightening. I got literally “therapized” by one of these students who I recently met. Apart from being absolutely sure that this girl will go places, I was utterly impressed with her level of attention to details, analysis and the ability of choosing the very right questions.

Finding out that someone has read each and every post you wrote (and I mean this literally) puts you under pressure.

“So I noticed your strategy changed between 2013 and 2014 and I could definitely notice a different hand writing new content around October of that year…” Gulp…

“Also why in a number of Facebook comments I saw no reactions while I saw firms responses on other issues…” Double gulp…

“Yes, I have been following you on social media, trust me I do my homework…” Triple gulp

It was something in between an interview and a parliamentary hearing, especially when you are asked to justify things you haven’t actually paid much attention to.

Whenever you get an external view on your work you capture some things you normally wouldn’t in your own mindset.  Or perhaps you wouldn’t have the courage to admit to yourself. I have recently experienced some big changes and I see every day how this affects my work, my thoughts and my life. We all need, every now and then, to change our mindset and do something out of the ordinary or we end up getting stuck in a rut and kill our creativity. Flexibility and the desire to create beautiful things is the bread and butter of what we do and it is very hard to keep this desire alive when things get “too comfy.” Stability can be your worst enemy if it doesn’t bring new challenges.

We have got to be open to criticism and think that not all we do is perfect and accept good advice from those who demonstrate, with their actions, that they deserve our attention and professional respect.

To cut a long story short, do get a student to write about your work. It’ll step up your game. Guaranteed

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The European Union at Expo wins the Euromediterraneo2015 Communication Award

The scientific program of the European Union at Expo Milano 2015 is one of the “best practice” selected at the international level. This is the reason why the European Union has received the “Euromediterraneo2015” prize from Confindustria Assafrica & Mediterraneo and Associazione Italiana della Comunicazione Pubblica e Istituzionale (Italian association of public and institutional communication).

The “Euromediterraneo” is one of the most prestigious prizes in Italy in the realm of public communication at the national level. The European Union has been awarded in the 2015 edition titled “Next Europe, Next Med, Next Communication Tools” because the scientific debate has been recognised as one of the most important content of Expo Milano 2015.

“Since the beginning of this Expo – said David Wilkinson, Commissioner General for the EU Participation at Expo –  the promotion of the European Union policies has been a real challenge. We have counted mostly on our scientific contents, trying to encourage a concrete discussion around the scientific community. It is an honour for us to receive such award. Our commitment has been recognized. The scientific committee is now working to collect all the information and considerations gathered throughout the duration of Expo. Next 15 October our  Steering Committee  will present some recommendations to the European Union institutions”.

Social media treasure hunts that work

The Social Media Team of Expo Milano provided their Communication Network with another beautiful gathering, this time hosted at the lovely atmosphere of the Bio-Mediterrenean Cluster.

As usual, this was a sensational opportunity to interact with all the professionals involved in the field of communication in the biggest event of 2015, in an attempt to create a space to interact, exchange ideas and bring about inspiration for content.

Apart from the usual customary eating and drinking, the Expo team organized a pretty entertaining treasure hunt. Ten captains were named (I was sooooo honoured to be one of them :)) and respective teams. Every team had its own hashtag (in our case #teamlampedusa). A riddle was published on Twitter with a clue. If the team got the right answer, a second riddle was published and so on…until the final riddle.

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You know, community managers are quite competitive people. Always trying to get more followers than others, more likes, more engagement and obviously this treasure hunt could not have been more awesome.

Ah I almost forgot…we actually ended up last in the treasure hunt…but had massive fun at the Greek pavilion. The photos below speak for themselves! 🙂

#MyExpo2015 awards – Best Communication

My personal award for Best Communication at Expo 2015 Milano goes to the Russian Pavilion

Why? Three words:

  • Innovation
  • Creativity
  • Engagement

The communication team of the Russian pavilion is doing an outstanding job in promoting their activities, their brand and encourage people to visit them. Considering their followership and their visitors’ count, I guess their communication is totally working. Apart from the simple investment in communication outreach, their efforts in branding their presence at Expo displays some pretty unique features that definetely make them stand out from the crowd. This happens in an enviroment where already thousands of very capable communication professionals have gathered. Ergo, I take my hat off in front of this team’s terrific effort and results.

Innovation

Being innovative means being either unique or the first to do something. The Russian pavilion have done that with Russia Expo 2015 TV. which is a pretty awesome and effective idea. Often conducted by Masha, their TV is very interactive. It is not just broadcasting the activities of the pavilion but it engages with visitors, guests, VIPs and, most importantly with many other Expo stakeholders (Expo organizers, other pavilions and partners). This product does requires a bit of effort, a dedicated audiovisual expert… and a lot of personal touch but overall it is an absolutely great channel and the return on investment is pretty interesting. Keep it up!

Creativity

The quality of their images is always great and artistic. I think they have the best Instagram account at Expo… (after the one of the European Union pavilion :)))))))) Their photographer is absolutely outstanding both at getting natural reactions and poses from the visitors but also in creating more arty and appealing images of their pavilion…and especially their cute and beautiful mascotte Mishka

Mishka_Expo_Russia

 

Engagement

Always “sul pezzo” no matter what. You tag them – they react. You mention them – they react. You think of them – they think you back 🙂 This way of working on community management takes great dedication, but this seems not to have discouraged their super engaging, fun and informal attitude. For me, they are the best comms team and it’s beautiful to see it’s a team of only women. ExpoRussia2015_InstagramA true example of women in management. Keep up the good work! Apart from their digital work, their communication staff organizes lots of networking event in their beautiful terrace, which certainly help bridging digital with traditional networking activities.

 

There are three more months to go and three more months to do amazing things!

ExpoRussia2015_Instagram_engagement

A strong message by the European Union and the World Food Programme at Expo Milano

On 19 July, it was a true pleasure for me to be part of the inauguration of the Family Meal exhibition here at the European Union pavilion at Expo Milano.

The exhibition aims to raise public awareness about hunger – the world’s most solvable problem. The compelling images and stories demonstrate how people’s lives can be changed through food assistance that is provided in various innovative ways including vouchers and cash, offering both choice and opportunity to entire communities. It consists of a series of powerful photos taken by renowned photographer Chris Terry, as he travelled across three continents to explore EU-financed projects run by WFP. He visited families receiving food assistance in Ecuador, Chad, Niger, Jordan and Myanmar/Burma.

WFP Family Meal

These families’ circumstances are considerably more difficult than those faced by the average European – they represent tens of millions of refugees forced from their homes because of conflict and millions more living in extreme poverty and on the frontline of climate change around the world. While they have temporarily lost the ability to provide enough food to remain healthy and enable their children to grow to their full potential, WFP can step in to help – thanks to EU humanitarian assistance.

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Five countries, three continents, one universal custom: sharing a meal with family members. Chris Terry’s pictures reveal that our desire to share is one of the most essential ingredients, not only for the family meal, but also for a zero hunger world. It is a joint meal at lunch or dinner time that brings families together, everywhere in the world.

Family_meal_EU_ExpoMilano

EXPO Milano 2015 is a global showcase of innovative and shared solutions to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone in ethical and sustainable ways. The area of food assistance and nutrition represents about half of ECHO’s humanitarian assistance, amounting to a total investment of €535 million in 2013. Bringing families back to the dinner table is a priority for the EU, WFP, and us all.

I was truly stunned by the introductory speech of Klaus Sorensen, Director General of DG ECHO of the European Commission, which thoroughly integrates the message the European Union at Expo Milano is trying to communicate to citizens here and all around the world: We cannot take global challenges for granted.

It is our main goal to address those, especially the younger generations, which take the historic achievements of the European Union for granted: Peace, freedom, equality. Values that my grandparents did not know during their youth.

Family_meal_EU_ExpoMilano

The same goes for DG ECHO and the WFP who make a significant effort in communicating how a world with 800 million undernourished people and rising obesity is both paradoxical and unsustainable.

I am managing the digital communication of our pavilion and it is truly impressive to see how citizens express so much interest in what the EU does in the field of nutrition. This is because they are properly addressed via digital communication and social media. People care about their future, and it is our duty to reach out to them in the most efficient way.

Follow the hashtag #FamilyMeal for further updates

An amazing Social Media Happy Hour!!!

Take a few minutes to think about the daily routine of a Community Manager at Expo Milano: running up and down the Decumano, answering hundreds of mails in a record time, posting on Facebook also during lunch break, collecting every kind of business card…This is why sometimes we need a moment to relax, to do some networking and to have fun or, as I like to phrase it, to bridge to online with the offline

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It was an honour and an awesome experience to the Expo 2015 Milano Social Media Happy Hour with all the Community Managers of the first real Social Media World Expo! It was a great and interactive event meant to bridge digital with traditional networking in the biggest event of the year.

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During the event we ran two competitions awarding Austria at Expo Milano 2015 as the favourite pavilion by all community managers and the Dominican Republic Pavilion as winners of our Instagram photo competition. Congratulations to both and to all the participants! View the full Storify of the event

The occasion was also picked up by Italian national press:
ANSA.it http://bit.ly/1HPMLol
Il Tempo Quotidiano bit.ly/1HPMLol

Photo credits Valentina Macciotta

Getting the Expo Milan 2015 Community Managers together

Last 20 May was a great day for me and for all the Community Managers working at Expo Milano 2015. I was invited to share my experience in live-covering Europe Day at a social media workshop in Expo.

Europe Day at Expo Milan was a true success and as Head of Social Media Stefano Mirti said “the great thing about the European Union pavilion is that they were really ‘social.’ They managed to perform activities and engage with people in ways that only social media allows.”

It was for an honour to hear Stefano’s words and I take my hat off in front of the guys of the Social Media Team at Expo. They are doing a terrific job not only in informing and engaging visitors at the biggest event of the year but they are creating a proper solid network of digital communication professionals. Bridging the gap between human and digital relations among people is the main purpose of social media.

What I wanted to stress in my presentation was that, no matter how well you can get prepared for live-covering big events, you need to be able to change strategy promptly. Social media nowadays requires flexibility and a reactive mind. All that matters at the end of your event is the overall success and the bonding you create with your team mates. Yes, I say “team mates” because the work we do as community managers is very similar to what sports teams do when they prepare for a big game. All that matters at the end, after the game is over, is represented by the picture below.

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The more people digitalize their relations, the more people are surprised to physically get together or even receive a phone call. These regular gatherings, that the Expo team has been organizing, is a great example of what more and more networks of professionals should be doing both in the public and the private sector.

Special thanks go to Mariella Merlino and Manuela Bonfiglio for making this network happen and to Giacomo Biraghi for his continuous effort in making people aware of the great opportunity that Expo Milano represents for Italy, Europe and the world.

Thank you “or not” for the follow

Lately I get more and more “Thank you for following me” direct messages on Twitter. Thanking for the follow is a quite common practice especially among consultants, communication experts or people working in public relations. Also it might make sense for companies to automatically feed new followers on relevant information or contact details. Still, I find it hard to see the added value in “thanking for the follow”, and besides, it’s quite annoying. Let’s break this down:

PROS

  • You display engagement with your audience.
  • You acknowledge and digitally “reward” your new followers, giving them “social currency.”
  • You look kind and friendly.

CONS

  • You display FAKE engagement with your audience. Which is even worse than not saying anything.
  • You look like you’re trying to sell a second-hand car.
  • You’re annoying

Acknowledging your network is absolutely golden, but is automatically thanking for the follow the right way to do so?

What do you think? Let me know.