Those who produce bowhunting podcasts and online video shows need to be authentic, inclusive and bold enough to “fish in the ocean” if they want to expand our shrinking hunting population.
That was the message Aaron Warbritton of The Hunting Public delivered Thursday in Indianapolis to about 85 fellow podcasters and video producers during a workshop coordinated with the Archery Trade Association and its “Bowhunting 360” program at the industry’s annual trade show. The Hunting Public is an online video series featuring tips and strategies for hunters. Warbritton and co-host Zach Ferenbaugh create podcasts, video journals, and how-to videos to teach listeners and viewers tactics to try when hunting.
Warbritton said it’s too easy to use the same bait to catch the same fish by repeatedly fishing the same small pond. To avoid “overfishing” those convenient ponds, he encouraged attendees to find or create new baits that appeal to global audiences now accessible through Apple, Google, YouTube and other big communication platforms.
“Years ago, hunting shows on TV were reaching millions of nonhunters through ESPN and TNN, but we lost those audiences as cable outlets grew,” Warbritton said. “Now with YouTube, podcasts and social media, we’ve regained access to bigger audiences than ever. But we’re using the same ‘bait’ we’ve long used on people who are already hunting. Those things don’t work outside of our circles.”
That means images and messages built around “grip-and-grin” photos, antler scores and point totals usually fall flat outside the hunting community. Nonhunters basically don’t get it. As several audience members said, it’s not that nonhunters are universally offended by photos of big, dead deer. They just don’t understand what those photos mean to hunters.
“A lot of people out there have never even seen a dead animal up close, so you can’t expect them to connect to your photos unless they understand something about hunting and hunters,” said Allie D'Andrea, or “Outdoors Allie.”
MeatEater’s Mark Kenyon, host of the “Wired to Hunt” podcast and the “Back 40” video series on YouTube, said he tries to consider how nonhunters perceive what they’re seeing and hearing when creating content.
“You have to consider the context if you want to get past people’s first impressions and continue the discussion,” Kenyon said. “Most people—roughly 80% of Americans—don’t oppose hunting. When they understand what hunting actually involves, they’re more open to it.”
Hank Forester, manager of hunting heritage programs for the Quality Deer Management Association, runs the organization’s “Field to Fork Program.” He organizes crossbow hunts for beginning hunters, many of whom fear firearms. He also regularly attends farmers’ markets and other public gatherings to cook and share venison meals with people who have never before eaten deer.
“We give them a glimpse of what responsible, respectful hunters look like,” Forester said. “We aren’t in a fight with nonhunters. No one is attacking us. We’re out there instructing and connecting. They’re listening, but you better be ready for anything. The people you meet could be left-leaning greenies, but they want to connect to meat and learn how to acquire their own food. Many people we talk to have never met a hunter, they know nothing about hunting, and they’ve never before seen or eaten venison.”
Jack Borcherding, marketing manager for Bear Archery, said today’s hunters could learn much about connecting with nonhunters by simply watching old movies Fred Bear filmed in the 1960s and 1970s while promoting bowhunting.
“Fred was doing ‘content marketing’ before anyone even called it that,” Borcherding said. “He was showing beginners how to hunt with a bow, how to build blinds, and how to sharpen broadheads. If you make it interesting and authentic, people watch and learn.”
Sawyer Briel, marketing communications manager for Vortex Optics, said expanding bowhunting’s message isn’t about sanitizing the activity. It will, however, require action and discussions that involve the entire archery/bowhunting industry.
“I haven’t heard anything in this meeting that I disagree with, and that worries me,” Briel said. “I worry that this meeting is just an echo chamber, and that we’re just preaching to each other. The real challenge is what should we do next to reach industry members who purposely didn’t come to this meeting?”
Allison Jasper, senior director of marketing and communications for the ATA, said the workshop started an important conversation.
“It won’t have tangible results right away, but it’s clear that there’s an appetite to create better messages to capitalize on social media and online communications,” Jasper said. “This is the first time we’ve held something like this at the Show. Our next step is to work on a more targeted communications plan with other media members to keep this process moving.”
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