Author: Cassie Gasaway
Writers, podcasters, videographers and other members of the outdoor media strive to inform and inspire audiences about bowhunting. To improve and broaden those efforts, the ATA held a webinar July 8 titled “How Media Can Grow Bowhunting.” Their discussions focused on creating positive images of hunters and hunting while reaching outside our circles to recruit bowhunters.
The event was well-received by the many who tuned in live to watch and listen as Aaron Warbritton of “The Hunting Public” led the discussion. Joining Warbritton were outdoor-media icons Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland, senior vice president of Mossy Oak; Alex Robinson, editor-in-chief of Outdoor Life magazine; Mark Kenyon, host of MeatEater’s “Wired to Hunt” podcast; and Nicole Qualtieri, GearJunkie’s hunting and fishing editor. Their combined expertise in print, TV, podcasts and YouTube provided lots of insights and in-depth perspectives for improving communications with today’s diverse audiences.
Warbritton said hunting media help shape today’s hunting culture, and it’s their responsibility to accurately and respectfully depict wildlife, wild places, and the hunting process.
“We’re all influencers in some way,” Warbritton said. “To be an influencer means you have a certain amount of power over people’s opinions, (including) what they do, how they believe, and what they think. That comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility. We need influencers who take the time to put forth positive messages that create valuable content for people, and gets them excited about going to the woods.”
The webinar covered similar topics to those brought up at the ATA Social Media Summit at the 2020 ATA Trade Show. Photo Credit: ATA
This virtual event continued the ATA’s Social Media Summit at the 2020 ATA Trade Show in Indianapolis. The January event focused on recruiting bowhunters and media ethics. The webinar discussed communication strategies that rely on sincerity and quality in sharing the hunting lifestyle.
To start the webinar, Warbritton played a three-minute video of a dying white-tailed buck that went viral in 2019. He then asked the panel for reactions. The video has over 3 million views on social media, and generated a lot of critical attention in and about the hunting community.
Qualtieri said one experience with a negative hunting video can forever change someone’s perceptions. “That video is important to understanding what a good shot looks like, and what happens after the shot,” she said. “But that (perspective came from) six years of experience. If I had seen that six years ago, I probably would have been horrified. As communicators, we must make sure we don’t become part of the problem with our videos and communications.”
Robinson said every action has real-world reactions. In this case, the video hurt hunting’s image. “You can’t just say, ‘People won’t get it. Who cares?’ and post the content anyway,” he said. “You have to show all aspects of a hunt in a way that weighs their importance fairly.”
Members of the outdoor media need to represent all hunters and show diversity in their content. Photo Credit: ATA
Kenyon encouraged media members to consider and understand their audience. He said MeatEater sometimes uses different clips and footage from the same story for different channels to ensure specific audiences relate to what’s happening and understand it.
“It’s more appropriate to share that video and message on a channel with serious hunters,” Kenyon said. “Sharing it broadly on Facebook where anyone can see it? That’s where you can get into trouble. We must be careful about where we put things.”
Strickland agreed and said good content entertains hunters without turning off nonhunters. “We have to build a story for both people,” he said. “We owe that to the 300 million people in the middle (who don’t hunt).”
Only about 4% of Americans hunt, but over 84% of Americans approve of hunting. Therefore, it’s almost more important to create content for those who are curious about bowhunting but have never tried it, Strickland said. Hunters, after all, rely on nonhunters’ support to survive.
The panelists said outdoor media must strive to share good, honest representations of hunters and hunting to create allies, advocates and active participants. They encouraged influencers to be inclusive, provide context, and represent nontraditional audiences when producing hunting content.
They also stressed the importance of …
– including women, children and minorities in marketing materials.
– creating content for beginning hunters who need advice and support.
– explaining all parts of the story, including scouting, field-dressing and cooking wild game meat; not just the shot or kill.
– realizing the media’s vital role in changing minds and perspectives, so they must take their role as influencers seriously.
The nearly two-hour webinar ended with a call to action: Mentor a newcomer and lead by example.
“We need to build energy about mentoring,” Kenyon said. “If you want people to mentor, they need to see us do it first. We need to walk the walk (because) people do what we do. They look to us for leadership. We need to stop telling people what to do and do it ourselves.”
This year's goal is for experienced hunters to take at least one person who's never hunted before on a hunting trip. Photo Credit: ATA
Strickland wants the outdoor media to encourage everyone with a hunting license to take one person hunting this year. “Let’s create a nationwide thing,” he said. “(Tell people to) find someone, put your arm around them, and help them. Recruit one person. If we all do it, we’ll double our participation numbers.”
Robinson presents that message as a fun challenge. “If you want to prove your expertise as a hunter, take someone hunting and mentor them throughout the year,” he said. That’s a true test of knowledge, patience and skills.
Qualtieri said mentors must also create space where hunters feel connected and supported.
The ATA summarized two takeaways from each panelist for a one-page document titled “Takeaways from the ATA’s Social Media Summit.” Click here to download the document. ATA members can also find it on the ATA’s Resource Website.
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.