Like many media categories, hunting and fishing journalism has gone through some notable changes in recent years.
But the good news is that though coverage is now increasingly fragmented, there are still ways to reach those enthusiasts if you're willing to do the legwork.
"The national publications like Field & Stream are still there, but if you really want to promote your client's products, you better be prepared to get down and dirty with a bunch of little regional publications," says Carson Stanwood, founder of Jackson Hole, WY-based Stanwood & Partners Public Relations. "Most of these have small circulations and cover specific styles of hunting or fishing, but are very influential."
The general-interest press, especially newspaper outdoor editors, will still occasionally write about hunting and fishing, but "the overall interest in 'hook and bullet sports' is not what it used to be," says Frank Singleton, SVP at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide's Atlanta office. "Now the stories are more experiential, so reporters want to know about the flora and fauna and amenities at the lodge, as well as the actual hunting and fishing."
Part of the reason for the decline in mainstream coverage may simply be that there are fewer hunting and fishing enthusiasts than in the past. However, John Merritt, chair of Carmichael Lynch Spong's outdoor and leisure industry group, says that although the overall numbers have declined, the intensity of participation has increased, thus impacting gear sales. "Hunters used to go out four to five days a year, now it's 14 to 15," he explains.
Hunting and fishing have also gone up-market to an extent. That means high-end products can be pitched to the gear pages of Stuff, Men's Health, and Men's Journal.
"Those magazines will be interested if it's something unique and different," notes Steve Roth, PR manager with Lincoln, NE-based Swanson Russell Associates. "With things like electronic fish finders, I'll have more success because there's a lot of computer chips and other features."
There is still plenty of hunting and fishing shows on TV networks such as ESPN and Versus, though Stanwood notes that a lot of it is "pay to play."
As far as keys to pitching, Merritt stresses, "You need to be able to 'walk the talk,'" he says. "These reporters ask questions like 'How do you fish that lure?" and 'What depth should I be fishing at?' If you don't know the answers, it can make your pitch more difficult."
Pitching... Hunting and Fishing
- Sampling is very important to hunting and fishing reporters; they want to feel and try out most products before recommenting them to their audience
- The surprise in hunting and fishing media is the growth online, as many enthusiasts now go to Web sites for information on weather and other conditions
- One-size-fits-all pitches won't work in a media category of increasing specialization, so don't use the same press release for a deer-hunting magazine that you would for a bird-hunting outlet