Author: Cassie Gasaway
Press and media members nationwide tuned into the ATA’s 2021 Virtual Media Summit on Jan. 13 from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. to receive information on hunter recruitment and retention from six well-known panelists. The online event also unveiled the industry’s new bowhunter recruitment effort to unite and connect all outdoor communicators in their mission to recruit bowhunters, inspire the newcomers and the outdoor community, and encourage all outdoorsmen and women to mentor someone.
Throughout the summit, an overarching theme was the recent surge in hunting interest generally attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each panelist stressed the need to capitalize on the momentum and make the most of the opportunity right now.
Dave Thomas, founder and creator of Bowhunterplanet.com, said everything the industry expected to see in 2020 regarding the decline in hunting numbers didn’t happen, which is a great thing.
“With the pandemic, we’ve exceeded all expectations,” Thomas said. “Each state has seen an increase in hunting license sales, and companies also have citied record product sales. Some of them have had their best year ever. So what does that say? That says more people are interested and want to learn about hunting. 2021 is the year of retention. We need to keep these hunters and this generation going but also strive to get more people involved.”
Mark Kenyon, host of the “Wired to Hunt” podcast and author of “That Wild Country,” echoed that thought.
“It’s never been more important to connect with new people,” he said. “We have a unique opportunity right now. This is the first time in a long time we have new people engaging, and we don’t want to let them slip away. We want to be able to connect with them and show them what great things we’re able to do (and experience) in the woods.”
Each presentation provides tips and ideas on how to grow archery and bowhunting participation numbers throughout 2021. Let’s take a look at the information shared before we dive into the details of the all-new #LetsHunt campaign.
Aaron Warbritton, The Hunting Public: “How to Create Educational Videos that Perform Well”
Warbritton shared the details of two YouTube videos that were created in parthernship with the ATA and received a lot of traction in the hunting community. The first video “$500 Archery Shop Challenge! | How to Get Started Bowhunting! – (Bow Giveaway)” followed intern Ethan Gooch through an archery pro shop as he got outfitted to hunt for $500. The second video “Bowhunting for under $500! (Shots Fired)” chronicles Gooch’s first few attempts to arrow a deer with his new setup.
Warbritton said they didn’t know how the videos were going to perform, but they were surprised by the hunting community’s reaction. The first video received over 390,000 views, and the second video has almost 165,000 views.
“That showed us that we can create videos like this with out-of-the-box topics that relate to the average person and resonate well,” he said. “The engagement on that video was through the roof.”
He said big buck videos often receive a large number of views, but they’re essentially clickbait, and media members shouldn’t base their content strategy on kills. He said there are lots of different ways to create content that entices and educates new hunters.
Mark Kenyon, Wired to Hunt: “How to Create Messages for Diverse New Hunter Audiences”
Kenyon said a simple rule to content 101 is to know your audience and create for them. Think about who you’re talking to and what you need to say so they understand. Kenyon said it’s easy to forget the simple stuff, so he reminds all communicators to focus on the aspect of hunting, provide story context and avoid using jargon, especially when creating content for beginners.
“When we’re in our circle of people, around our friends that are into (hunting), a lot of us live within the top 2% of people who are passionate about hunting,” he said. “I’m surrounded. All my best friends are really into this stuff. We talk about stuff a certain way. We have references, acronyms, abbreviations, and stuff that is a part of our everyday conversation that someone who doesn’t have that background wouldn’t know. It’s like we’re speaking a different language.”
Kenyon said he changes how he talks when he creates content for new audiences who come from all walks of life, compared to when he talks to his hunting friends or followers. He tries to focus on the meat hunting provides, the sport’s history, and the adventure of the hunt, all while providing context and avoiding jargon.
“Those simple foundations can make all the difference when you speak with new audiences,” he said. “If we can connect with people who want to be hunters, that’s the first step that will lead to everything else.”
Dave Thomas, Bowhunter Planet: “How to Collaborate with Partners to Grow the Outdoor Industry”
“We need to come together internally,” Thomas said. “I mean dealers, pro shops, brands, celebrity personalities, brand ambassadors or influencers, media, all of us need to work together to spread very important messages to all these people who have come into the fold and don’t know much about hunting.”
Thomas stressed the importance of community, not competition. He encouraged everyone to get rid of negativity and stop talking among themselves, so they can focus on how to help newcomers. He believes the way to do that is to work together on a large scale. He hopes to see industry members pool funding, share central messages, and accomplish goals as a unified whole.
“Forget about money and think about heritage,” he said. “That’s the most important part of this. Without heritage, we won’t survive; nothing in our industry will. We have to keep moving forward, and you can only do that through cooperation and working together. Start thinking differently, take responsibility, and push forward.”
Nicole Qualtieri, GearJunkie: “How to Balance Sponsorships and Advertising with Media Ethics”
Qualtieri outlined five things GearJunkie does when they’re working with paid media, aka ads or sponsorships.
1. The company doesn’t accept paid reviews because it believes in integrity and expertise in product reviews.
2. It determines which metrics are important for both parties and strives to create those metrics when building campaigns. Consider things like brand or product awareness, product sales, bounce rates, and key performance indicators.
3. GearJunkie uses search engine optimization techniques to create high-performing pieces with longevity.
4. Both parties work to make the content educational or entertaining by using experts.
5. Work together to create and use various paid ad options, including articles, website banners, social media posts, etc.
These strategies improve relationships with brands and help create quality content for consumers.
Alex Robinson, Outdoor Life: “How to Grow a New, Nontraditional Audience Without Alienating Your Traditional Audience”
Robinson spoke about creating content that appeals to new audiences without leaving your current audience behind. The answer: stay true to your brand’s voice, identity and mission. Whatever you’re known for, stay true to it.
“You can cover whatever topic you want and your audience will stick with you,” Robinson said. “Even if you write about something that seems more basic and is geared toward a new hunter, as long as it looks, feels and sounds like (your brand or personal identity), you won’t scare people away.”
He also challenged the notion of what beginner content looks like.
“People think they have to create the most basic content,” he said. “That’s true because people need to learn to hunt, but also, some of that is really boring. People who are into learning about hunting don’t want manuals. They want to be inspired and see the fun side of it. They want to see stuff that challenges their ideas and philosophies.”
Robinson encouraged media members to produce stories outside of their usual content to attract new readers or viewers, as long as they feel confident in their brand or identity enough to break their own rules. If it’s important, report on it, but make sure you do it well to limit conflict and negative feedback from your audience.
“We should all be willing to take risks with our editorial content,” he said. “As new hunting culture develops, it (likely won’t) have the traditions of previous decades. Our job is to teach ethics and guidelines, but much more of our job is to embrace that hunting culture will change and explore that change. Our risks will turn into great stories and be rewarded, and if they don’t work out, we should use them as a learning experience.”
Introduce someone to bowhunting and discuss the ethics and regulations that go with it. Photo Credit: ATA
Cuz Strickland, Mossy Oak: “How to Make or Find Mentors. (In the End, That’s Where the Rubber Meets the Road)”
Strickland said more and more people are interested in hunting because of their desire to know where their food comes from. However, they might not know how to get started, and they look to experts and current hunters to obtain instruction, guidance and tips. He said all outdoorsmen contribute to growing participation numbers by giving donations, but many don’t physically commit to helping the cause.
“We’ve all heard the story about breakfast,” he said. “A chicken makes a contribution to breakfast, and a pig makes a commitment. There’s a big difference in those two.”
He encourages all outdoor communicators and hunters to commit themselves to the sport by mentoring someone new to ensure the tradition lives on. Media folks can create contests and motivate people to mentor others by entering them into giveaways because “the most powerful word in marketing is ‘free,’” he said. Meanwhile, individuals can find people in their circles or at community places they regularly attend and feel comfortable in. For example, offer to mentor someone in your church, school, or workplace.
Strickland said the way to grow participation numbers is similar to the way you eat an elephant, “one bite at a time,” he said. Reach one person at a time and be committed to helping them succeed, so they pass along the torch and help someone else.
The Industry-Wide Recruitment and Mentoring Effort
The panelists and industry members agree the industry needs to work together to recruit bowhunters, inspire newcomers, and encourage all outdoorsmen and women to mentor someone to grow participation numbers. As such, they unveiled a unified recruitment effort to create content that inspires new hunters to start bowhunting and current hunters to take someone hunting for the first time.
Each panelist agreed to use their voice and platform (The Hunting Public, Outdoor Life, Gear Junkie, Mossy Oak, Bowhunter Planet, Wired to Hunt and Bowhunting 360) to mentor someone and post their content using the #LetsHunt hashtag. The effort will begin in spring 2021 with mentorship content focused on spring turkey season. We hope other media brands will join in this combined effort by using #LetsHunt in their online, print and social media content.
“Our brands have powerful pages with lots of readers and followers,” Robinson said. “We asked ourselves, why don’t we use our platforms all together to do the same thing we’re all trying to do separately, which is to recruit and retain hunters. So, that’s what we’re doing. It makes people think, ‘if the most influential brands and people are doing this right now, so should I.’ We hope anyone who is a part of the hunting culture will jump in. We need all hands on deck to be influential.”
The ATA will release more details in March.
Watch the 2021 Virtual Media Summit Recap Video
If you weren’t able to watch the webinar live, a recording of it is available in the MyATA Learning Center. You don’t have to be an ATA member to watch it. Click here to see it now.
Questions? Comments? Contact Scott Einsmann, ATA’s digital manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (866) 266-2776, ext. 114.