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Free press from the press.

As a sporting goods retailer, if you were offered "free" advertising in your local newspaper with "no strings attached" would you turn such an invitation down? We sincerely think not. Yet that's precisely what hundreds of retailers are doing every day and in just about every comer of the country.

We're talking about the sporting goods retailer and his lack of communication with his local outdoors columnist - that media representative who is habitually searching for information for his daily or weekly column.

The retailer can most assuredly furnish the news media, particularly his local outdoors staff writer, with a wealth of information that will not only provide interesting copy but will ultimately enhance the image of the shooting sports and directly aid the retailer in attracting customers to his store.

In bygone years we often attempted to communicate with various sporting goods retailers inquiring if local hunters they encounter had any interesting tales to relate regarding the outdoors. Our answer? Generally we would be told they indeed heard any number of such tales from customers concerning hunting and or fishing exploits. But on further investigation we were told they couldn't remember their names ! Such happenstances are surprisingly common with all outdoor staff writers. While today we have a decided rapport with retailers within our circulation area because they have now learned just how effective such an outdoor column can be, yet we occasionally find it difficult to obtain news from a retailer even though they have daily customers with intriguing tales of outdoor adventures.

It is a similar story across the country

a seemingly gross lack of communication between the sporting goods retailer and his local outdoors columnist. This is most ironic, too, since having your name or your shop mentioned periodically in a local outdoors column is surely "free" advertising no matter how you look at it.

As proof of the effectiveness of the local outdoor column, some years ago a local archery merchant within our circulation area began hosting a bowhunter contest. Fortunately its proprietor was aware of what an outdoor writer can do. Therefore, prior to his initial event he provided us with all the pertinent data and immediately thereafter he was invariably deluged with entries. "Had 1,400 entries that first year and most came directly from your column," he happily stated.

Yet another local gun shop was struggling to conduct a handgun shooting clinic and the price tab was $60 per student and the program generated little interest, that is, until he eventually notified us. We wrote about the clinic and following its publication the dealer signed up some 250 students! Needless to say the dealer was enthusiastic, as well as yours truly, since we not only generated sales for the local dealer but brought the shooting sports before the public.

Unfortunately, however, the average sporting goods retailer doesn't usually communicate with his local outdoor scribe. Keep in mind, the outdoors scribe is an average guy who usually likes to hunt, fish and spend time at the rifle range or local trap/skeet fields. He is always looking for information to spark his column and whatever a dealer can provide in the way of such material will generally appear in his column - and to reiterate, such advertising is free.

In-house promotions and seminars provide fine copy for the outdoors column, especially when a retailer has a factory representative on tap from a major company. Yet in many instances the dealer hesitates to call his local outdoor writer but will continue to gripe when few people attend his in-house program. Again, the fault lies primarily with the retailer.

The retailer should remember to jot down an occasional note when one of his customers returns from a hunting trip or has an interesting tale to spin and then call his local outdoors columnist. If the retailer doesn't wish to be bothered taking notes, he should endeavor to get the phone number of the customer and relate it to the local outdoor scribe. Perhaps the outdoor writer will even incorporate the sportsmen's tale and include the sport shop name too.

When we receive such information today from a retailer we make every effort to quote the retailer by leading with his name and store. For example, "According to John Doe of Doe Sporting Goods, large concentrations of Canada geese are now filtering into the South Fork Marshlands and it is time for prime hunting. Joe Sportsman got his limit there yesterday."

By leading with the dealer's name and store he has directly received free advertising via the outdoor column and once his name appears in the local media the dealer is generally considered to have the wherewithal to provide up-to-the-minute information, a decided attraction for the retailer.

So don't shun your local outdoor columnist. Make a point to know him and call him occasionally when you have information which he could use in his column. Generally the outdoor scribe will use any and all such information. Nevertheless, the legitimate scribe will tell you when he believes your information is not worthy to print. But most often he will be delighted to have you call.

While the competitive shooting sports as well as sport hunting is often shunned in the news media we must emphatically state the problem basically lies NOT with the media but in the hands of sportsmen and sporting goods retailers who simply won't get off their rumps to inform the local outdoor scribe about such happenings within his realm.

Because I continue to sit on "both sides of the fence" - as a competitive shooter/hunter and with almost three decades in the outdoor writing field - I can honestly say don't blame the media all the time. Blame yourself the next time an important outdoors event failed to make your local newspaper or your in-house promotion was a total bust. You probably never made a concerted effort to contact that guy who can surely enhance your customer relations and sales success - the outdoor writer.
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Title Annotation:sporting goods retailer and his lack of communication with local outdoors columnists
Author:Brant, Howard
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:column
Date:Sep 1, 1990
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