“They laugh and say that I might be the busiest person in the booth,” says Mossberg’s Director of Public Relations, Linda Powell, when asked what her coworkers would say about what she does at SHOT Show®. Powell is one of the matriarchs in the public relations facet of the outdoors industry, with 22 SHOT Shows under her belt, all of them with major firearms manufacturers.
While booths are certainly a busy part of SHOT, they’re actually just the culmination of the extensive amount of preparation it takes for companies such as Mossberg to have a productive show.
Working On the Next Before the One You’re Working is Over
“The initial planning for the next show actually starts before you leave the current year’s SHOT Show, with things like selecting your booth. Beyond that, you do things throughout the year but work really kicks in probably when you get to about August, September, and then it builds greatly in momentum, because everything is driven by SHOT Show,” she says, noting that when her SHOT Show prep really amps up, it’s also the busiest time of year for the outdoors industry in general.
New Products Need a Supporting Cast
A lot of that pre-show buildup deals with what Powell calls “collateral material.” In addition to building new product prototypes, product photos, videos, sell sheets, catalogs and other materials are all needed.
“When we’re coming out with new firearms, you don’t have production guns yet, so, at the factory, they’re individually building the guns to get them ready for SHOT Show,” Powell says to emphasize how deeply within the company a successful SHOT Show runs.
During the buildup to SHOT, companies such as Mossberg often outsource much of that needed collateral material, such as photography. Powell explains that that outsourcing has to be managed, and it can be trying.
“I think it’s just the volume of materials that you have to have for SHOT Show,” she explains, adding that some things are simply out of your control. “We’ve had times when catalogs are literally shipped into the show and arriving the day before. That’s not what you want to have happen, but, you know, sometimes that’s just the way it is when you’re depending on outside vendors.”
Get the Word Out Early and Often
That manufacturers get everything together in time for the show at all is almost miraculous, when you consider the workflow and sheer volume of materials for show setup. Getting it done smoothly speaks volumes of how important it is to have people like Powell.
“For our size company, we take a fairly large staff,” says Powell of who goes to SHOT Show, explaining that members of Mossberg’s executive team attend, as well as sales and marketing. “Typically, we have support staff like people who work in technical service or engineers to be available to answer questions,” she adds.
Ultimately, Powell says the biggest work she does leading up to SHOT Show is create the awareness and interest in new products. “When people come to the show, they already know what they want to come in and see. They’re not coming in and asking what’s new. Instead, they’re coming in and saying ‘Let me see this product.’”
In the two or three months before SHOT, Mossberg’s sales professionals are setting up their meetings with customers, while Powell and her team are getting products ready for events such as Industry Day at the Range. They’re also working out advertising schedules and educating the media ahead of time.
“A lot of SHOT Show PR promotion is done by NSSF, particularly with Industry Day. They do a good job of announcing that and getting people involved,” says Powell. “If we have a major new product introduction, we’ll typically reach out to members of the media and give them a preview of the product, so they’ll be teed up and ready to announce it in conjunction with SHOT Show.”
In addition to dealing directly with the outdoor press, Powell and the marketing team strategically distribute press releases and other informational material on Mossberg’s website, social media and to dealers to let those stakeholders know what they’re going to see at the show and where to find it.
Two Events That Help Make the Show
Over her more than two decades at SHOT, Powell has seen changes that she calls “tremendous,” specifically calling out Industry Day and changes to the Press Room.
“I think you can tell someone about a product and how it operates, but to actually have hands-on with firearms at Industry Day has been a tremendous asset,” says Powell. “The Press Room also is great, for multiple reasons. Obviously, we put our materials there — press kits, catalogs — that sort of thing. If members of the media come by the booth and I’m not available, they know they can go to the centralized Press Room and find all that material. But it’s also a great escape if you just need to sit down, get off the show floor and maybe talk with someone or do an interview.”
Preparing for SHOT Show and using the tools NSSF provides has really paid off. As an example, Powell explained that when Mossberg introduced the 590 Shockwave a few years ago, they were really concerned about people understanding how it [wasn’t an NFA-regulated firearm].
“The opportunity to be able to show people that and to talk them through the regulations there at Industry Day helped them understand that. It’s not a shoulder-mounted firearm, so people being able to understand how to shoot it really helped us tremendously with the launch. I think generally we had a lot of sales to people who, if they had just looked at it in the booth, maybe would not have understood the whole concept and the possible uses of the Shockwave.”
About the Author
Warren Berg is a 25-year veteran of the shooting, hunting and outdoors industry. He has penned hundreds of articles under many names for American Rifleman and Field & Stream. He has produced award-winning television programs on personal defense and has hunted extensively in North America, Europe and Africa.