Be proactive

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

If you’re like most professional anglers, you haven’t won back-to-back Bassmaster Classics or caught an all-tackle world record of a major species. You probably haven’t dined with the President of the United States and you don’t host a television fishing show that regularly gets more than a million viewers. And it’s a good bet that you haven’t discovered a cure for cancer or written a bestselling diet book.

Shaw Grigsby

Shaw Grigsby on the other hand …

That means the media is not beating a path to your door or causing your phone to ring off the hook.

Guess what? You’re in the same boat as just about every other established or aspiring professional angler in the entire world. You need more exposure than you’re getting!

That’s OK. You’re in luck!

We’re here to help.

Types of media exposure

There are two kinds of media exposure: advertising and publicity.

If you’ve ever watched television, flipped through a magazine or driven down a busy highway, you’ve seen advertising … a lot of advertising. Companies pay big bucks to interrupt your life with it. You can’t watch television without being interrupted by commercials. You can’t read a magazine without being interrupted by print ads. And you can’t drive down the highway without seeing hundreds of billboards. Advertising is everywhere.

Of course, the reason it’s everywhere is that it works. People see it and respond to it. Sales go up.

And advertising is great for businesses because they control the message. They control what it says, they control where it goes and they control when it’s delivered.

The problem with advertising, of course, is that it can be expensive. Reaching a lot of people or just the right people when you want to reach them and creating an effective message to do that is often more expensive than a business can afford. The most extreme example is a Super Bowl commercial. In 2015, the average 30 second Super Bowl commercial cost more than $4 million.

Publicity is different than advertising in several important ways. First, it’s something that the magazine, newspaper, website or television show is putting out there because they think it’s of interest to their audience. Publicity is “content.” In the publishing industry, publicity is also referred to as “editorial” because editors choose it (or choose not to use it).

Second, with publicity the timing of the message and the message itself — what it says and who it reaches — is controlled entirely by the media.

Third, publicity typically lasts much longer than advertising. Most ads are seen and quickly forgotten. Publicity — whether it’s a major news bulletin or merely a good how-to fishing story — will often be remembered for years.

Finally, publicity is not something you can buy.

Publicity is worth a lot more than advertising for one very big reason. People generally don’t believe advertising. It’s not objective. It’s been bought and paid for. It’s not news.

Publicity carries more weight than advertising. It is usually viewed as something that’s objectively true and honest … unlike most advertising.

Most media experts and consultants maintain that publicity is three times more valuable than advertising. Thus, if a full-page ad in a particular magazine cost $10,000, a full-page story mentioning the same product would be worth $30,000.

As a professional angler, you are in a position to offer your sponsors publicity — something that’s potentially worth three times as much as a comparable ad … if they could buy it.

A two-way street

In Part 3 of the More from Media series, I covered getting to know the players and the importance of familiarizing yourself with the key media people in your geographic area and your discipline. As a pro staffer, you’re only as valuable as your ability to sell product for your sponsors, and most of that is going to be evaluated on the basis of your media exposure.

The outdoors media is based primarily on relationships. There is certainly room for quality and ability, and the anglers who win the biggest tournaments will always get attention, but most jobs, most assignments and most opportunities in the outdoors industry come from relationships. You need strong media relationships to maintain consistent exposure. Building those relationships was covered in Part 3. Now we’re interested in capitalizing on them.

Any “professional” angler who tells you he works well with media, but they just don’t call him very often, isn’t doing all he should be doing.

Any “professional” angler who can’t show you the contact information for at least a dozen outdoor media people on his cell phone, isn’t working hard enough or smart enough.

Any “professional” angler who thinks he needs more tournament success to get some press, is wrong.

Any “professional” angler who is sitting by his phone waiting for an outdoor writer to call, is wasting his time and his sponsors’ money.

Unless you’re one of a handful of “hot” anglers, the system doesn’t work that way … and it never will.

You need to be proactive to be successful. You need to leverage your contacts and relationships, and you need to work as hard off the water as you do on the water. Your performance on the water is just half — maybe less — of what it takes to be a real professional.

Most critically, if you’re not having great success on the water, you need to make up for it by being a winner off the water.

And you do that by being proactive, by understanding what the media does and helping them do it. Just because the writers type the stories and the radio and television hosts get in front of a microphone or camera doesn’t mean they don’t need or want your help.

But don’t just call

Being proactive means more than just calling your media contacts. It means meeting them more than halfway and doing part of their job for them.

It’s sad but true that most of the outdoors media is no better at their job than most “professional” anglers. A lot of them are lazy, think they’re more talented than they really are and expect opportunity to come their way. Sound familiar?

To reach the average outdoor writer, you need more than his cell number or email address. You need an idea. It’s one thing to call and say hello, but quite another to call with an idea that he can turn around and sell to a magazine or website. To do that — to be able to help him do his job — you have to recognize a good story when you see one.

All outdoors stories are not created equal — not even close — but evaluating the qualities of a good story is pretty easy once you know what to look for and how to assess it.

First, a good story is timely. That doesn’t mean it’s happening right now. That means that it will be happening when the story is published or broadcast. All media outlets have production cycles. The stories being written for a magazine today will not be in mailboxes or on newsstands for several months, but a story being written right now might be in a newspaper tomorrow or on a website later today. If you want to do a story on postspawn buzzbait fishing, it should be the postspawn when the story comes out — not months later.

The most popular feature in Bassmaster Magazine is “Day On the Lake with a Pro.” In that series — which appears in every regular issue — we see how a professional angler breaks down a body of water he’s never seen before at the same time of year that the article comes out. If the article is in the June issue, the pro was on the water in June — a year earlier — so that the story and the publication of the story match up. That’s an extreme example of lead time and how it works within a production cycle. Most stories are put together much, much closer to publication date.

Second, a good story has broad appeal. How to catch barramundi in Australia does not have broad appeal to an American audience. But neither does a story about stitching plastic worms for largemouth bass on a small reservoir in Southern California where they only allow four boats on the water three days a week. The bigger the potential audience, the more a media person will be interested in the story because it will be easier for him to sell.

Third, a good story is different. If you’ve already seen the same basic story 10 times, getting someone else to tell it won’t be easy … especially if that outlet has already told a version of the story. The story you pitch should be unique on some significant level. If your story idea is about punching matted vegetation with a Beaver-style bait and the only thing different about your approach is the knot you tie, no one is going to be interested.

Fourth, a good story has pictures. A story without pictures is called radio because that’s the only place it will work. If you want a media person to be interested in your story, you need to be ready to take him fishing or provide photos — high-quality photos — that are ready for him to use at no cost to him or the publication. And trust me when I tell you that your idea of good photos and the publication’s idea of good photos are probably very, very different. If your idea of a good photo is something that’s currently on your cell phone, you have a lot to learn about photography.

Don’t forget the editor

If you’ve got some experience and savvy, a lot of the things that have been mentioned in this installment might be things you already knew or things you might have put together on your own. This next tip, though, is worth a lot more than the price of your membership in Pro Angler Resources and very few professional anglers or their sponsors seem to realize it.

Editors are more important than writers or photographers.

Editors are the gatekeepers. Nothing gets in the magazine, the newspaper or on the website without their approval. (In the television industry, the editor counterpart is the “producer,” and he fills the same basic role.) Even if an editor doesn’t write the story, he assigns or approves it. Your story doesn’t reach anyone unless an editor likes it first.

The editor is the outdoor writer’s boss. You may be more familiar with the names of popular outdoor writers, but you’d never see their work if it wasn’t selected by an editor.

Developing relationships with outdoor writers is a fabulous use of your time. Developing relationships with their editors is even better. What magazines or websites are headquartered near your home? Find out and get to know the editors.


  1. Publicity is worth more than advertising, and you can deliver it for your sponsors.
  2. Get to know the people who control your key media outlets.
  3. Understand what makes a great story and get it to your media contacts in a timely manner.

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'][/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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