So Just Who Are Those “Pro Staff” Guys?
by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, September 11, 2011.)
You’ve probably seen headlines in magazines or on websites that announce something like “Big Game Hunting Tips from Our Pro Staff!”
“Pro staff” usually means “promotional
staff,” not “professional staff.”
It seems as though every hunting and fishing company has its pro staff. So, what’s a “pro staff”? Who are those guys (and gals) who brag up the merits of the various outdoor products? What do they get for plugging the benefits of game calls, tree stands, bows and camouflage?
Those are some of the questions the average guy wonders about, but the big question that underlies all the rest is this: Is he a sell-out?
First, the term “pro staff” usually means “promotional staff,” not “professional staff.” Few of them are professional spokespersons. Some of them get paid a little. Most do it without expecting compensation.
Many pro staffers are friends of the guy who owns a product or a small company. I’ve invented a turkey call you’ll hear more about in the future, and already people have asked me if they can be on my pro staff. (Maybe I’m not thinking big enough, but I don’t foresee needing a pro staff, other than just me.)
The idea that pro staffers are sell-outs suggests that they’re making big money on something they don’t believe in. Nonsense. Outside of celebrity hunters, there isn’t much money offered to pro staffers in the hunting world.
So, a person doesn’t need to “sell out” when he’s on a pro staff. He only needs to believe in the product, and be willing to endorse it. He might get a few hundred dollars per year for associating his name with the product, or a few samples at little or no cost. Or a shirt. Does that make him a sell-out? I think not.
Compare what the average pro staffer gets with the money professional endorsers bank outside the hunting industry. Have you ever heard anyone say Tiger Woods sold out to Nike for $105 million? Or Hanes underwear spokesman Michael Jordan for the $40 million he earns in endorsements per year? Probably not. Is Hanes really better than Fruit of the Loom? You decide. They’re probably made in some of the same factories.
No one thinks less of Tiger or MJ for the windfall they get from the brands they promote. We tend to associate those deals with celebrity status. We say it’s “just business.”
In the hunting world the pro staffer doesn’t reap a windfall. He might get a new suit of camo. Maybe he’ll be invited on a hunt. The shirt with a logo on it comes when he spends endless days promoting the product at shows.
One way to tell if someone is a sell-out is not by his public association with a product, but by his private speech and actions. If it’s a lower shelf product, does he disparage the people who buy it? If it’s a top shelf product, does he disparage those who don’t? When not in the public eye, does he treat the product as though it’s worthless? Does he really prefer something different? (Actually, for the sake of comparison, a pro staffer should use competing products.)
The difference between a hunting pro staffer and a professional spokesperson is that a pro staffer gets to talk about what he loves talking about. Good luck getting an underwear guy to talk outside of the commercials about the product he promotes. He won’t. But hunters won’t shut up about hunting and the products they use.
The bottom line goes something like this: Pro staffers usually aren’t sell-outs. Aside from a few high profile people and the occasional bad apple, pro staffers use the products they speak for, with little or nothing promised in return.
Disclaimer: Maybe nobody is asking this question, but the Everyday Hunter proudly serves on the pro staff for Alpen Optics and for the website of Deer & Deer Hunting magazine. He believes in both and recommends both. Neither promise any compensation – no shirt, no contract, no money. Maybe someday. Oh yeah – he’s also the pro staff for his own turkey call, coming soon.