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What they don't know can hurt you: dealing with the press at the Shot Show.

Here's an interesting statistic: The number of shooting enthusiasts in the United States is remaining steady. It's not increasing and it's not declining.

Interesting, but is it meaningful? Most gun rights advocates would have you believe that since the numbers are stable, the industry is in good shape. However, the American population as a whole is certainly not standing still; the numbers are increasing exponentially. That means that as a percentage, shooters are becoming a smaller and smaller minority.

In business, there's no such thing as a "status quo." You can't afford to rely on steady old customers to keep your business afloat. As they say, if you're not getting better, you're getting worse.

Like any business, those in the firearms industry must work constantly to attract new clients. One of the easiest and most effective methods of doing this is through press coverage, and there's no better place to attract the attention of the press than where the whole firearms industry comes together -- like the SHOT Show!

Dealing With The Press

Wandering the ailes of the Show you'll meet freelance writers, editors, publishers, photographers, and other journalists. They, like you, have come to the Show to see new products, catch up on current events, and acquire the tools they need to do their jobs. For you, those tools might be ammunition, clothing, handguns, or hunting blinds. For members of the press, it's information.

Too often a writer or photographer is given a cold shoulder at an exhibitor's booth because "they're not going to spend any money." This may be true, but they certainly can be responsible for a large amount of future revenue.

Because many manufacturers and dealers have a reputation as being less than friendly with the press, many journalists won't bother to approach a small booth. Instead, they will simply deal with the "big guys" who have a reputation for professionalism. If you need some publicity but you don't have the money to advertise, let the journalists roaming the SHOT Show know that you're friendly to the press. Hand out product literature, encourage writers to handle your wares, and let photographers snap all the pictures they want.

When answering journalists' questions, give them all the information you can. Nothing dulls a writers' enthusiasm quicker than an interviewee who responds in nothing but "yes" and "no" answers. They don't know as much about your products and services as you do, so enthuse them with your answers. If you're excited about what you sell, the press will be too, and you'll wind up with lots of exposure.

What Do They Want?

Some of the journalists you'll deal with at the SHOT Show (and throughout the year) will be knowledgeable about your field of business, but most won't. Being a member of the press means being able to become an "instant expert" on almost anything. A reporter who interviews you at the Show may have been an expert on Christmas turkey recipes last month and on professional bodybuilding the month before that. Don't hold that against them.

Instead, educate them on the various features and functions of the products you're displaying at the Show. Perhaps they have never constructed a hunting blind, loaded a rifle magazine, or used a duck decoy. They are coming to you because you are the expert. If you expect them to know everything about your product and its uses before speaking to you, you're limiting the exposure you'll be getting.

The easiest way to get facts about your products to journalists is with a press release. This is a brief statement about your business or your product which will give the press all the facts they need. Always include any statistics about your products which the public would need to know, such as caliber, size, colors, weight, and/or price along with your name, address, and phone number, and the date of the release.

Distributing a well-written press release can increase the amount of coverage you receive and therefore the amount of business you get in the upcoming year; if you had 500 press releases in your booth at the beginning of the Show, you probably wouldn't have to take any home with you.

Am I Newsworthy?

If the world was filled with interesting news, there would be no need for the press to go looking for stories. Fortunately, readers, listeners, and viewers are always hungry for something new and unique, and they rely on the press to keep them informed.

So, rather than asking, "Am I newsworthy?" your question should be, "What can I do to make myself newsworthy?"

There's hardly a business or product out there, especially in an industry as full of controversy as ours, which can't attract the attention of the press. If you've produced a new product or are offering a unique service, offering the press an "angle" is pretty obvious, but what can you do if you feel your business is ordinary?

Perhaps you should consider offering a lesson on how to use your product. If you were the only dealer at the SHOT Show giving a five-minute class on the correct use of your cleaning kit, you can bet you would be the cleaning kit manufacturer who would get a majority of the press coverage.

The same philosophy can be used in your home town. Don't be just "another pistol range," be the only one in the area to offer gun safety classes for women, or reloading seminars on the weekends. Perhaps you could invite an officer from the local police force to give a lecture on self-defense. Submit an article on nearby hunting areas to your city newspaper. Now you've got the idea!

Everyone involved in the firearm industry knows that nine out of 10 stories about guns portray gun owners in a negative light. Remember, fear comes from ignorance, and when we don't give information to the press, we allow that ignorance to continue.

Take the opportunity at the SHOT Show to speak with members of the press. If they have questions about your business or your products, answer them cheerfully. Be sure you furnish them with all the information they need, and let them know why your business deserves media coverage.

A full-page advertisement in a magazine or a one-minute commercial on the prime time news could easily cost you upward of $1,000. The same coverage by a journalist is absolutely free, and it's even better than an ad because it carries an implied endorsement. The few minutes you spend speaking to the press may not put any money in your pocket on Monday morning, but think of it as an investment in your own future.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Publishers' Development Corporation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:1992 Shot Show Extravaganza; Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show
Author:Farrell, Scott
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Dec 1, 1991
Words:1112
Previous Article:The 1992 Shot Show: it doesn't just happen.
Next Article:Explaining the deadly force decision: "the reasonable person doctrine." (self-defense shooting)(part 7)
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