by Terry W. Sheely
Making a buck from outdoor communications is more than photos, microphones, TV slots, social media and writing contracts. It can also mean introducing outdoor enthusiasts to one-on-one adventures they would not otherwise experience.
Over the years, mostly out of the limelight, several NOWA members have organized and lead small groups of readers, listeners and viewers to unforgettable destinations; allowing credit-line followers to accompany them to guided fishing, hunting, hiking, rafting etc. As professional outdoor communicators we have the name recognition and industry contacts to make it happen, and as businesses we need to make a buck or two along the way.
The first realization, and for many of us the hardest part, is cashing in on our names. Like it or not, we in the outdoor media are genre celebrities of sort. All of us—whether we write a hunt/fish/‘shroom column for a 4K weekly, blog, or contribute to National Geographic. We have name recognition. We autograph our books, draw folks to our seminars, shake hands at outdoor expositions and are on first-name basis with renowned experts and famous faces. Hard as it is for many of us to accept, we have followers and some of those followers would like nothing better than an opportunity to share an outdoor experience with the celebrity you.
You won’t get rich, but we’re in a skinny business where every dollar counts. Most of us welcome any work that puts money in accounts receivable, small numbers in accounts payable and transform business expenses into tax deductions.
Public speaking is a common way to cash in on ‘celebrity’ status. If we pay attention.
Our businesses neighbor with countless organizations that covet ‘free’ speakers. Unless you represent a government agency, manufacturer, guide/lodge or benevolent organization my advice is to steer clear of such groups. Affiliated free-speakers get paid by their employers to speak. You should too. We are professionals and our hard-earned insights and expertise are marketable. If we give it away we undermine our own markets and reduce our value to zilch.
You may not make $500 a night speaking to upscale fly clubs (although some NOWA members have) but you’ll put dollars in the income and expenses-deductible columns.
The exception to my speak-not-for-free rule is self-promotion, and while it appears to be for free it’s really covert selling. Hype your book at the podium and sell autographed copies (not at the end of your talk when your audience is leaving, but during an intermission at a table in the center of the seating section).
Or describe, visually illustrate and promote an unforgettable adventure trip—a sign up to fish/hunt/whitewater with me in a place you’ll not forget trip. What we do and the places we go to make a living are once-in-a-lifetime epics for a lot of outdoor folks. Some will pay to go with you.
I’ll never forget the whispered comment of a guest I was hosting to a remote British Columbia lodge. We were coming in by helicopter, skating low level across mountains, over fjords, black bears and above towering white ocean rollers shattering on black reef rocks. Face glued to the Plexiglas, he muttered, almost reverently, “If I never catch a fish this trip will already be a success.”
The Reel News publisher/editor Jim Goerg and I teamed up more than a decade ago to organize and host trips using advertising and descriptive articles in The Reel News as our primary marketing platform.
We’ve taken guests to Alaska, British Columbia, Haida Gwaii (AKA Queen Charlotte Islands), and Baja, Mexico. Some trips were limited to a dozen guests at high-end lodges in remote fly-in wilderness areas. Others, like the one were’ putting the finishing touches to now, our 15th annual Baja Amigos and Heroes adventure to fish Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, will include upwards of 100 guests. This is the 15th year for this saltwater adventure and it grows every year.
Working with Van Wormer’s Hotel Palmas de Cortez in Los Barriles, takes a lot of the work out of it and we need that. We’re wordsmiths and celebrity hosts of sorts, not concierges or tour guides.
We produce the guests. Hotel management handles bookings, collects the money, assigns rooms, organizes fishing boats and shuttle services, arranges meet-greet-and-fiesta banquets, and provides everything our guests need. Jim and I host, spring for some ceviche, a few margaritas and a round of Pacificos, arrange discount group pricing for the guests, put together a couple of entertainment features—and fish-photograph-and take notes.
Fishing on these trips provides my writing/photo business with a wealth (hopeful pun intended) of magazine story materials (destination, how-to, adventure, travel), new faces to photograph, and the bonus of fresh fish for the home table. Jim gets an inside track on destination advertising and exciting fish stories for The Reel News—all just for being us.
Besides eventual revenue from magazine, book, photo, and video it’s also possible to build in commission percentages from guests’ bookings and from sponsorships sold to defray expenses and generate income.
A triple bang—celebrity host commissions, sponsorship revenue and stories to sell.
Travel, accommodations and guide services for ‘celebrity’ hosts are worked out with destination lodges that benefit from a week of solid, no effort, bookings with opportunities to woo repeat business. Our guests get a hosted adventure in a spectacular region that they’ll talk about for the rest of their lives. Sponsors benefit from extremely targeted marketing contacts, and Jim and I put numbers in income columns. Wins all around.
Outdoor communicators are small businesses run by genre celebrities. If you are a member of NOWA you are an outdoor media celebrity like it or not–may as well make some money from it.