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outdoor industry communications council

Note: This article was originally published in the June 6, 2024 edition of The Outdoor Wire

For years, probably decades, the broader pro-gun, pro-Second Amendment community has been accused of preaching to the choir.

And that’s pretty much true. Almost entirely true. We spend most of our efforts talking to each other as if voicing it out loud to a like-minded individual is making a real difference. It isn’t, but for some the only thing better than rehashing the same old cliches in support of our 2A rights is the sound of their own voice.

But preaching to the choir is one of two problems we face. It’s a big one and difficult to overcome, especially since so many speak in what Tom Gresham once told me are “bumpersticker slogans.” Think “judged by 12 than carried by six” or “from my cold dead hands.”

The second problem is that almost nobody in the choir is on the same page. We lack a consistent message. And we definitely lack a consistent message that those outside the choir can relate to.

We desperately need to get on the same page in the hymnal in order to be effective.

When it comes to messaging in support of hunting, there are several conservation organizations and, of course, 50 state wildlife agencies all independently promoting their message. Oh, and let’s not forget the NRA’s often overlooked but well focused efforts on promoting hunting, as well as that of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

The problem is that ‘“despite the common goals and audiences of these groups, historically there has been little coordinated communication between them,” which is the heart of the message from Outdoor Industry Communication Council (OICC).

What’s the OICC, you ask? Well, it’s kinda exactly like what its name implies. Their goal is “to better inform people on the benefits of going outdoors and participating in activities such as hunting, fishing, trapping and target shooting.”

In order to do that they have assembled, and are growing, a coalition of state wildlife agencies, NGO’s (Non-Government Organizations), media, industry manufacturers and retailers to “work together to develop and communicate messages that promote the positive contributions of HATS™ (Hunters, Anglers, Trappers and Shooters).”

HATS is a simplistic acronym but it’s also the easiest way to collectively identify those, who through their equipment purchases and participation in hunting, fishing, trapping and shooting, are responsible for the lion’s share of conservation funding. It’s through the excise taxes paid on equipment purchases, and the money spent on licenses and tags, that state wildlife agencies derive much of their operational funding.

However, not many people know that. And certainly not many of the HATS responsible for that significant contribution to fish and wildlife conservation in America.

Funded by a Multistate Conservation Grant, the Outdoor Stewards of Conservation Foundation (OSCF) was tasked with developing an integrated communication strategy with the goal of reaching as many entities that collectively deliver fish and wildlife conservation in America to educate the masses on conservation topics.

Jim Curcuruto, who previously served as the highly regarded research director at NSSF, is the executive director of the Outdoor Stewards of Conservation Foundation, where he manages the OICC efforts along with Jon Gassett of the Wildlife Management Institute and content creator and freelance journalist Andrew McKean.

These three, along with input and support from the OSCF Board of Directors, are putting together the coherent and consistent messaging for the Outdoor Industry Communication Council, which in turn acts as an echo chamber to spread that messaging further through our community.

outdoor industry communication council image assets
Free to use, the shareable graphics available from OICC deliver succinct yet powerful information about the importance of hunting, fishing, trapping and shooting, and they’re ideal for use on social media, blogs, newsletters and websites.

The messaging resources available to state wildlife agencies, conservation organizations, industry partners all the way down to the grassroots level of local hunting and shooting clubs consists of shareable infographics, as well as articles that are ideal for newsletters and blogs. The free articles are on topics such as ‘Herd Mentality – Nonprofits Dedicated to Conservation’ and ‘Funding American Conservation One Box of Ammo at a Time.’

These tools provide valuable information that every hunter, angler, trapper and shooter needs to educate others about the critical role HATS play in conservation.

It’s important to note that the messaging moves beyond just hunting and well into the important – and significant – economic impact of HATS. For instance, in the article America’s Firearms Industry Jobs the OICC outlines how the firearms industry sustains 400,000 jobs and contributes a whopping $80 billion to America’s economy every year.

In politics, staying on message is critical to a campaign. So much so that it’s jokingly said that when a candidate is asked a question, any question at all, they should immediately pivot to their key talking point.

Question: What time is it?

Answer: It’s time to recognize that $80 billion is pumped into our economy every year by people just like me who hunt, fish, trap or shoot, and the money we spend is what fuels wildlife conservation in America.

We need to stop preaching to the choir when it comes to promoting hunting, the outdoors lifestyle and the Second Amendment, and instead get the choir on the same page. With the formation of the Outdoor Industry Communication Council, and the resources they are providing, that’s becoming a little easier, if only we’re willing to accept their help.

If you want to join in this effort you can become a member of the Outdoor Industry Communication Council and help carry their well-crafted messages forward to your local club, organization chapter, or local media.

With each additional voice the chorus gets louder and reaches further, which is exactly what we need. And thanks to OICC, we now have the tools to do just that.

– Paul Erhardt, Managing Editor, the Outdoor Wire Digital Network

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