Last week's column - 10 Years Wasted
- certainly struck a nerve.
It's not unusual to have reader feedback, and sharing on Facebook or Twitter. But last week's feedback was considerably higher than normal. We heard from a lot of folks via email and Facebook, and we appreciate all your feedback.
I'm not sure If I should be pleased or disappointed, but everybody agreed with my take on where we stand and how we've not fully taken advantage of our opportunities over the last 10 years.
So.... What are we going to do?
No really. Are we going to sit around and talk about it, or are we going to actually do something?
Tom Gresham invited me on his Sunday radio show, Gun Talk, to discuss the article and he pointed out that we spend a lot of time talking. Running our mouths (my words, not his).
Now, for some of us that actually is the work. Tom talks for a living on his show. Michael Bane talks for a living on his show and podcast. The same is true for Jim and John Scoutten. And, of course, there's Jim Shepherd - though he's taking his message on the road with MyTime2Stand.com
Joining these professional communicators in the conversation is great, but don't confuse talking with doing. We need more doing, especially if we hope to accomplish anything.
So what should we do? Well since I opened my big mouth I now owe you some suggestions - some ideas - on what we need to do. In no particular order...
1) Fully Support A Girl & A Gun...
About this time last year I wrote about
A Girl & A Gun (www.AGirlAndAGunClub.com), a program launched by Julianna Crowder to get more women active in the shooting sports. In July of last year this women's organization had 470 members and 13 chapters in three states. Today they are about to break 1,500 members and have 46 chapters located in 19 states. They have tripled in size in under 12 months and all without any substantial financial support from the collective industry.
This program is working. Women are joining and finding a home within the firearms community, usually at a commercial range facility where they are spending money. We don't need to do anything but step up and help them grow faster.
There's no telling how successful this program could be a year from now. Will it be 3,000 members? or will it be closer to 5,000?, maybe 10,000? Are we looking at the early days of another successful nationwide organization (think NWTF or North American Hunt Club)? I don't know, but I wouldn't want to be the company that sat on the sidelines waiting for them to "become important" before reaching out and helping.
Not surprisingly last year Smith & Wesson was the first to recognize the program's potential and signed on as the presenting sponsor of the AG&AG 2012 National Conference. Comp-Tac Victory Gear, Taurus, MGM Targets, XS Sights and others joined S&W, including Jim Shepherd and the Outdoor Wire Digital Network. We (Jim really) donated free advertising. For my part, I volunteered to write press releases promoting the conference and its sponsors.
This program is making a difference, and it was created by women, organized by women and all for women. Don't reinvent the wheel, just help it roll along faster.
2) Nationalize Ladies Night Out...
Most successful ranges host a ladies night where they discount range fees or targets. You probably know of one. But only one. Why not know about all of them? How about we set up a national database of ranges with information on their ladies night events?
This is actually easier than you think, it just takes wrangling the info. NSSF already has the excellent WhereToShoot.org
site which, as the name implies, lists places to shoot all across America. All that needs to be done is for ranges to augment their information with ladies night details. Additionally, I would have that information available in a separate search. Now, WhereToShoot.org allows for this with a general "women's/youth programs" search option but it just tells you that the range has "women's programs," vaguely helpful but not exactly enlightening.
Overlooking the fact that we gang together women and children in the same category (as if women can only be defined as moms), the search does not yield detailed information. For instance, The Arms Room in League City, Texas, a Five-Star Range, does have a Ladies Night (in addition to A Girl & A Gun events) but any event details are missing from the WhereToShoot.org database.
How about "re-skinning" the site specifically for women? Then add the data to include specific events with all the details a woman would need to take part in the event. Women shop online more than men. Their experience searching for a range should be as close as possible to the user experience they are accustomed to when shopping online. Add that feature then offer it as a resource manufacturers can offer their female customers on their own websites. Imagine a button on every major gun maker's site taking women customers straight to this database. A MeetUp & Shoot for women, if you will.
This one isn't reinventing the wheel either, simply upgrading what we already have to better serve that key customer group.
3) Use Women To Define Shooting Sports To Other Women...
This is an ad that would run on channels like Lifetime, Bravo, the Food Network and others with strong female viewership. Sure it costs money. But so does fighting a legislative battle with 90% of the country supposedly (allegedly?) opposed to your position.
From this ad you could develop longer online vignettes on each woman. Tie in resources specifically for women, like listings for all those ladies night events at ranges, plus First Shots, competition organization information and the like.
Stealing a little from the "I'm The NRA" concept, the ad would use top women shooters in a direct to camera spot sharing personal information that all women can relate to. For instance the women would say things like: I'm a mother. I'm a grandmother. I'm divorced. I'm a cancer surviver. I'm a widow. My husband is deployed. I own my own business. I'm the first in my family to go to college. I co-signed for my daughter's first house. etc.
All the things, the life experiences, that everyday women go through. Towards the end of the spot add in "And I'm a 5-time Olympic medallist" (if you happen to be Kim Rhode) and similar accomplishments from the other women. The ad closes with each saying, "And I'm just like you." - because they are.
4) Do Public Relations...
Imagine you pay a couple thousand to sponsor the women's championship in a match. Now imagine that after the competition the match doesn't mention the women who won the award you sponsored, and by association your company. What would you think? Was it money well spent? Did you get a 'return on investment?'
No, you didn't.
This isn't a hypothetical, it actually happened and it had a lot to do with what brought me to writing last week's column.
I'm not going to give details because I came to praise Caesar, not to bury him.
Try this: if you have a match, start promoting it. Today. Because why should anyone else care if you don't care enough to tell anyone?
Press releases are the easiest way to promote the sport, the match, the shooter(s) and the sponsor(s). And almost nobody does it. Yes, there are company releases going out (usually well after the fact) but there must be organization-driven releases going out in a timely fashion about the matches - and not just to The Shooting Wire
but to local media outlets as well.
The NSSF and its major members - because let's face it, they are the 'money' in the shooting sports - need to have a come-to-Jesus meeting with the heads of the major shooting sports organizations.
They should demand active promotional programs and enforce that demand financially. Sure, the organizations will need help to get up to speed on PR, but the professionals at NSSF can help teach them how. Plenty of us in the industry would help, too.
The Scholastic Clay Target Program, which NSSF built, promoted young shooters in their local hometown newspapers. Right next to the blurb about the local National Merit Scholarship finalist there might be a blurb about a kid shooting a shotgun in a major championship.
Unfortunately when NSSF handed over that program to others, the PR aspect dwindled away to almost nothing.
But the template is there. The know-how is around. And it's not just NSSF with the knowledge to help organizations. People like Gresham, Shepherd, Bane, the Scouttens, Lars Dalseide, Jodi Stemler, Chad Adams and others know their way around a keyboard and how to tell a story.
And the stories are all around us. We spend too much time talking to ourselves and not enough communicating with others about who we really are. Our people are our greatest strength and, like I said, we're just like you. Let's tell women the stories of the women in the shooting sports. They will realize that in these champions they can see much of their own daily lives, making it that much harder for them dislike gun owners.
And finally, there's this King of New England three-match competition in IDPA that is only focused on the male winners. Why isn't there a Queen of New England title up for grabs? Even if there are only two women that shoot each match shouldn't they be rewarded? Life's about showing up, right.
Well the idiot that came up with that exclusionary idea is going to have to suck it up, admit he was dead wrong and pony up the money for a Queen of New England trophy.
So to Tara, Dori and the other women shooting IDPA up in New England, I apologize. I will sponsor your Queen of New England trophy...since, you know, the whole King thing was my idea to begin with.
- Paul Erhardt, Editor, the Outdoor Wire Digital Network
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