Time The Outdoors Industry Throws Bloggers A Little Meat On The Bone

Having written this blog for what is going on nearly a decade, I feel uniquely positioned to comment on this matter.   Quite honestly, a large segment of the outdoors industry just doesn’t seem to get it.   What am I talking about?   I’m talking about using bloggers as brand ambassadors to help promote their new products and spread the word why other outdoorsmen (aka readers) should consider using their product line.

Case in point.   Recently I received a nice package in the mail from a product manufacturer who shall remain unnamed in this blog post.   The outdoors company doesn’t really matter.   What truly matters is what the package contained.   Did it contain a new product soon to be on the store shelves?   NOPE!   Did it contain a product redesign promising improved performance in the field.   NOPE!   Did the package contain anything of value to this blog’s readers?  Likely NOT!   What did it contain?   SWAG…a fancy way of saying promotional nick-nacks.   A baseball cap, some gloves, some pens…I think you get the picture.

C89qngvxAs bloggers we are constantly on the lookout for content.   You know, the stuff we tend to write about.   If I know a company has an array of cool products and all they send me is a baseball cap, what do they expect out of me?   Seriously, if you want me to test and talk about your product then put the product into my hands.

During the past year I can count on one hand how many outdoors companies have contacted me to give their product a test.   In most of those instances I declined the offer as: #1) I was either not inspired about the product; or #2) the product didn’t really fit my blog’s audience.   In each case I thanked the company for the offer and explained my reasoning to them.

Now mind you when someone sends me a gift—no matter what it is—I don’t want to sound unappreciative.   Yes, the hat and accompanying items was very nice and I will put them to use.   Still, how can these companies be swinging and missing so in the marketing game?   After all, if they really believe in their products doesn’t it stand to reason they need to put them into the hands of people who can expose them and enlighten others to the product’s great benefits?

Bloggers are the perfect ambassadors to promote a product.   They publish on the web which makes what they do very searchable by anyone putting in those key words.   Bloggers are required by the FCC to be forthright and honest in the fact the evaluation was sponsored and accurate to the best of their abilities.   Plus, most bloggers will give products a thorough testing and scrutiny because they realize their reputation is as much as stake just as the product being tested.   By default I believe most bloggers want to be fair and accurate.

So, it really befuddles me why the outdoors industry isn’t doing a better job at understanding bloggers and putting into their hands the sort of tools they need to generate lively, interesting web content.   Oh, sure, when a package arrives in the mail it’s always nice to receive something new no matter what it is.   But, sort of like the dog who usually only gets tossed a bare bone.   Next time leave a little meat on that bone and watch how the dog attacks it with renewed vigor and enthusiasm.

©2013 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Are We Forgetting About Keeping The Older Generation Outdoors?

Now that I’m in my 50s I tend to look at life a bit differently than I did when I was…oh, say 20 or 30 years old.   When a person is younger they have an abundance of unbridled energy and enthusiasm.   As you age, the mind often says I sure want to do that, but the body doesn’t always agree with that misguided thinking.

This past weekend while I was deer hunting I looked up at several trees and thought…hmmm, those trees would sure be wonderful supports for a cobbled together deer stand for next season.   All a person would have to do is climb up the tree, start pounding some nails into wood, and contort the body into unusual positions to get the project completed.   Sure sounds like fun…NOT!   Well, it did when I was half my current age, but not now.DSC08896

As a sportsman ages you learn to adjust your activity to what your body can endure.   Unfortunately, there comes a time when many hunters (and certainly even fishermen) simply give up.   When the fun of an activity becomes a chore, that signals to many it is time to move on to other less strenuous activities.

Now, let’s contrast this with the efforts underway by many organizations to get more youth involved in the outdoors.   A very noble cause and I don’t mean to take anything away from those efforts, but I still have to wonder if perhaps we are forgetting about the other end of the sportsman spectrum?

I think it is time all of us as sportsmen don’t overlook the seniors in their hunting and fishing camps.   When things start getting tough—whether it be building deer stands, getting into or out of boats, walking long distances, etc.—several years can be extended to a sportsman’s outdoors fun just by providing a helping hand.   Trouble is, for many seniors acknowledging this loss of independence is a bitter pill to swallow and they will not ask for help…and sometimes will not even accept it when it is offered.

P1010015It’s fine and dandy to introduce youngsters to the great outdoors.   I think in many ways for our heritage to continue this is an obvious priority.   But realize older sportsmen, or those with disabilities, also deserve some greater attention throughout our ranks.

Consider the efforts you spend to help an older person continue their enjoyment of the outdoors simply “paying it forward.”   Eventually, God willing, we all grow older and our day will come soon enough to deal with these same dilemmas.   Do you simply hang up the outdoors life for the easy chair or accept some assistance from a younger, stronger, more able-bodied person?

Thankfully, I am not quite to the point where I need to curtail too many of my outdoors activities thanks to a decrepit body…but when the day draws closer it would be my hope that someone younger recognizes the importance of keeping me out in the woods…or on the waters.   If for only a few years longer than I otherwise could.

©2013 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Never Lose Your Sense Of Humor Over A Bad Day Spent Outdoors

I’ll choose a fun bunch of hunters or fishermen any day over a group who takes their task outdoors far too seriously.   In fact, it’s the group of sportsmen who know how to laugh and tease one another before, during and after the outing whom I want to be around.   Those who are so focused and serious on achieving some lofty sporting goal…want little to do with them.

You can’t assemble a group of hunters like this in close proximity without the BS flying and the laughs flowing non-stop.

Perhaps that’s why I watch very little outdoors television.   It just doesn’t inspire me to watch edited video of hunters performing at the top of their game show after show as if they were some super hero with a bow.   I want to see sportsmen razzing each other for a missed shot or a fish that didn’t quite get landed in the boat.   The real outdoors contains more misfortunes than achievements and laughter is one of the best medicines to soothe the sometimes painful sting of that reality.

And that’s why I like deer camp.

It certainly doesn’t take meat hanging from the deer pole to generate a good story.   In fact, some of the best stories often end with an unfilled possession tag still in the hunter’s pocket.

This past weekend my buddy, Mitch, had taken several shots at deer with no luck.   Of course, the obvious banter revolved around the fact maybe at the age of 52 he finally needs glasses to see things better.   After some good-natured teasing Mitch’s son whispers a confession to me.   “Dad just got glasses but he doesn’t want you guys to know about it.   He was having trouble in the deer stand keeping them from fogging up.”

You know what that’s called?   That little tidbit of disclosed information in secrecy is called fodder.   Fodder for continued harassment and amped up commenting about needing glasses.   Oh, Mitch has shot and missed a deer since that information discovery…and you can believe now with renewed enthusiasm we commented about his eyes obviously going to hell quickly considering he’s reached middle age.

And that’s what the outdoors should be about.   Not bullying or relentless griping about how someone is a failure in life, but a friendly give and take that is interrupted occasionally by smiles and laughter.

These fishermen have a contest ongoing…and that is to see who can score the best insult on the others in fish camp.

Honestly, when you take the fun out of the outdoors for me it becomes a chore.   I don’t voluntarily get up early and go sit out in a boat during the rain just to catch fish.   I do it to both catch fish and to experience the process of catching those fish.   Often times its the happenings and down-right discomfort about the experience that gets long remembered afterwards.

Certainly, I’m not saying how a person shouldn’t go out on the lake or into the woods focused and serious about why they are out in the first place.   But, I do think that today more than ever there is a pressure on sportsmen to succeed.   That pressure comes from TV, it comes from industry experts giving seminars, it comes from an array of products promising the world if they get used in the field or on the lake.

Truth is, the savvy sportsman knows when to funnel the mental energy into concentrating and focusing on the techniques that put them in the best position to score.   And at the end of the day, rather than beat yourself up because expectations were not achieved…find a way to laugh at yourself and others.   For it is the mature hunter who best appreciates how laughter is the best way to decompress from a stressful day spent in the outdoors world.

©2013 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.