Be ready!

This is part 17 of a multi-part “More from media” series.

About 10 years ago I went to a media junket hosted by a major bait company. It’s a big company that does a lot of things right, and I was happy to attend because I can get plenty of great content from a trip like that.

Bernie Schultz

One way to be ready and to help the media is to have supporting images to go with the stories you are interviewed for.

If you’ve never been part of one, a good media junket combines several things:

  1. a quality venue offering excellent photo opportunities, good food and comfortable accommodations,
  2. top professional anglers who are media savvy,
  3. quality products, and
  4. good weather.

(By the way, a lot of media types would add “beer” to this list.)

The host can’t control the weather, but the other elements are critical and there’s no excuse for any of them to be anything less than outstanding.

This particular company was (and is) known for its outstanding pro staff — among the very best in the industry. They have Classic champs, Wood Cup champs, Anglers of the Year from BASS and FLW. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a trophy when these people get together.

But this was back in the days of the old Women’s Bassmaster Tour, and the company had decided to add a female angler to the pro staff. She was there with the “big boys” and clearly outmatched. She was a nice woman and she was reasonably intelligent, but she was out of her element and not nearly ready for prime time.

If I had walked up to any of the other anglers at the junket, they would have given me a professional and efficient interview on almost any fishing subject you could name. At this moment, though, all of the other pros were busy. So I walked up to the WBT angler and tried to make her job easy.

I was working for BASS at the time, and although I had my quarrels with the goals and methods of the WBT, I needed to support the effort. What better way than to get a quick web feature done with one of the WBT’s top anglers?

I gave her the easiest question I could think of.

“Let’s do a tip story,” I said. “What’s a technique you like to use at this time of year (fall)? We can get some photos to support it tomorrow.”

You’d have thought I asked her to do really sophisticated calculus without the aid of pencil or paper. She panicked, stammered (“Uh … uh … uh …”) and looked around the room as though “phone-a-friend” might be an option. Faced with the easiest question in the business, she drew a complete blank.

After a few moments, I let her off the hook. “You don’t have to answer right now,” I said. “We can talk again tomorrow.”

“Oh … OK. I need time to come up with something,” she said.

Of course, that was the wrong answer. I was already dreading our next conversation. I like helping anglers whenever I can, but this was going to be pure charity for someone who didn’t deserve it.

The next day she got an idea from an established Elite Series pro, and we got the photos I needed for the story. I had to crop the image I used. If you were to see the full image, you’d see the Elite pro just out of frame, telling her how to pose and keeping the boat in position.

It was embarrassing, and I couldn’t just let it go. I told her how lucky she was to have a “big brother” like the Elite pro and that other media in other circumstances (we were trapped at the sponsor media junket) would have left her alone after the first conversation. I hope she took it to heart.

Be an idea machine

At no time of the day or night or month or year should you ever be at a loss for a story idea. Story ideas are easy for a talented angler with real skills. Everything you do to catch fish is a potential story, from hooking your boat to your tow vehicle to the knots you use to the hooks you select to the modifications you make to baits before you tie them on to the way you set the hook. Every product your sponsors make is a dozen potential stories.

If you can’t come up with ideas, save yourself a lot of heartache and get out of the industry right now. You’re wasting your time.

A lot of ideas are overused. How many times have you read a story on sight fishing in the spring, Carolina rigging in the summer or square-bill fishing in the fall? Outdoor writers rehash these stories year after year after year. What can you do to make them fresh and interesting?

When you’re reading a story in your favorite fishing magazine or on your favorite website, think about how it could be better. What would make it more useful or unique? What angles were missed? How would you have answered the questions that were obviously asked to get to the story that was created?

And think about the stories that haven’t been told yet, but need to be. Are you the person to tell them? Why? If the stories are good, share them with the media so you can reap the benefits.

The anecdote that started this article was particularly painful because the angler and I were at a media junket hosted by one of her sponsors. That she was unable to come up with a story idea while surrounded by new products and her pro staff manager was unbelievable to me … and would certainly not have impressed her sponsor.

To a small degree, her pro staff manager should share some of the embarrassment here for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, he selected her and put her on the pro staff. That was a mistake! Second, as host of the junket, he should have held a meeting with his anglers to tell them their priorities at the function. That would have enabled all but the most hopeless and helpless of them to speak intelligently and on point.

Unfortunately, I was dealing with the most hopeless and helpless person in the group.

Pro staff managers are a great source of story concepts because they always have something they want to promote — a rod, a reel, a line, a lure, whatever. Once you know what that is, you should be able to develop several story lines around it.

Support with support

Another way to be ready and to help the media is to have supporting images to go with the stories you are interviewed for. Most of your media contact will be over the telephone. That means the writer is often hundreds of miles away — too far away to take pictures of you to illustrate the story.

Have you got pictures that will work? If not, can you get them … very quickly? If so, you’re a great asset to the media.

Having good high-resolution (or “hi-res”) images will often save the day. These photos should show you in your up-to-date tournament jersey with quality fish against a variety of backgrounds and with multiple orientations (horizontal and vertical).

Images showing multiple bait types in the mouths of fish are also extremely helpful. And if you have shots in different seasons (spring, summer, fall and winter), you’ll save the day for lots of writers over the years.

Keepers

  1. Be ready with story ideas and with angles that will make them interesting and unique.
  2. Ask your pro staff managers which products they want to promote.
  3. If you can provide photo support, you’ll be a media favorite.
Ken Duke is the managing editor of Fishing Tackle Retailer and the author of two books on bass fishing. He has 33 years of experience working in a multitude of media platforms, and he’s arguably the most knowledgeable stat guy in the sport.

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Author: Ken Duke

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://181.224.139.98/~proangle/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/duke_mug_60x60.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Ken Duke is the managing editor of Fishing Tackle Retailer and the author of two books on bass fishing. He has 33 years of experience working in a multitude of media platforms, and he’s arguably the most knowledgeable stat guy in the sport.[/author_info] [/author]

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