The sport of hunting has long been supported by numerous enthusiast publications and broadcast outlets, but it has never enjoyed widespread coverage among general interest press.
“You do have newspapers with outdoor[s] writers who cover hunting, but the majority of the hunting press is almost completely separate from the mainstream media,” notes Kevin Paulson, founder and CEO of HuntingLife.com, a combination outfitter directory and online news magazine focused on both gaming and conservation.
However, the interest the mainstream press pays to the sport is slowly growing, says Karen Lutto, president of Lutto & Associates.
“From a PR standpoint, [pitching hunting clients is] not that easy,” says Lutto, whose hunting clients include firearms manufacturer Beretta. “We always have to look for new angles, and [Gov.] Sarah Palin has really helped us pitch the family hunting angle to the press.”
Hunters are also gaining mainstream media traction by leveraging their green credentials, says Brent Lawrence, PR director for the National Wild Turkey Federation. “We really use conservation as a selling point,” he says. “We take writers to places where our organization has gone. For example, we've taken an old strip mine in Ohio and turned it into useful habitat for not just turkey, but all wildlife. We see very good pickup for things like that.”
The editorial mix at hunting outlets doesn't vary that drastically from year to year. Mike Nischalke, editor-in-chief of Shooting Times, says his outlet remains heavily focused on product reviews.
“We've actually begun to put a lot more emphasis on the practical uses of these firearms, whether... for a shooting competition or hunting,” he explains. “I'm now asking my writers that a lot more of the hunting lore be included in their articles.”
Whether it's Field & Stream, Petersen's Hunting, , or the host of outlets specializing in specific types of bird, predator, or big game, hunting media has always been a print stronghold. Yet, that's also beginning to change thanks to the rise of online outlets and the growing popularity of TV programming devoted to hunting, Lutto adds.
“You see a lot of the big companies – especially on the firearms end – are... sinking a lot of their budgets into TV outreach,” she says. “That's because you can talk about the product as you're pulling your audience into the excitement of the hunt.”
Like many review-driven categories, sampling is a key component of hunting media outreach, Nischalke adds.
“If I go and hunt with something personally, whether it's a new hunting shirt or a great pair of boots, and really feel like I can't live without it, I will try to get that into some kind of coverage,” he says.
Leverage issues, like Gov. Sarah Palin's hunting background, to pitch stories on the growing number of women hunters, as well as hunting as a family experience
Hunting and conservation groups, such as Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and Pheasants Forever, are really driving a lot of wildlife habitat preservation efforts, which can provide a fresh, feel-good angle to the hunting story
Many outdoors titles conduct frequent product reviews, so prepare executives to discuss hunting equipment in-depth with reviewers or journalists