QA Outdoors Interview: Ryan Gresham of Gun Talk Media

Ryan Gresham Gun Talk Media
Ryan Gresham (Jim Shepherd for SNW)

QA Outdoors: The outdoor industry is, despite the presence of major companies, still is a family business. Some people say, “Well it’s easy for somebody to do whatever…you know…they got it from their daddy or whatever.” You are generation three of the Gresham businesses.

Ryan Gresham: I think that’s the generation they say usually screws it up, is the third, right?

QA: That was where I was headed, so thanks for heading me off before I had to ask that. It’s not as simple as it seems. Is it?

RG: Not at all. And it’s true that I’m third generation in this industry. But I’m not the third generation in Gun Talk Media. Because Gun Talk media didn’t exist until about 15 years ago. Right? My grandfather, Grits Gresham, was an outdoor writer and an on-air personality doing American Sportsman on ABC, but it wasn’t his show. It wasn’t his magazine. He didn’t have any employees. He was kind of a hired gun, so to speak.

My dad Tom followed a similar path for a while. He worked for different publications. He was editor of different magazines. Then he started doing some television stuff just simply as an on-air host, started working as a producer, director and that’s when when I joined him. My background was already in media and people…some people don’t know that.

QA: You have a television background that’s far deeper than than Gun Talk or even 357 Media before that. So talk to that. Explain that it’s not like you just showed up and your dad said “Here you go!” with a business with a bow tied around it.

RG: People would ask me, “Are you going to be a gun writer like your dad and your grandpa?” And I answer, “Absolutely not.” One, I know that, you know, compensation for gun writers wasn’t where I wanted to be. At least that’s what I thought…and I didn’t consider myself a writer.

I’ve discovered I’m not a bad writer because I’m a communicator. But I went to school for mass communications. And really, my emphasis kind of turned into sales, marketing, and ad sales.

So I worked in radio. I worked in publications, not in the gun industry, and worked for cable television. I worked for broadcast television, on the advertising and sales side and sponsorship side. I learned that world.

I did grow up in the gun industry. I mean, from as young as I can remember, my dad, my grandpa went to SHOT Show every year, and I knew that was a big deal.

And I grew up reading Gun Digest and shooting and hunting and so I had the benefits, maybe a little bit more than some. I grew up around guns, trying out a lot of different guns. Knowing about that stuff.

Not necessarily an expert because I was a kid, but you know, learning and you’re you’re getting to use a lot of things. I was a kid working on photo shoots for magazines, photo spreads, and just helping out looking being the 12 year old Continuity Director on a photo shoot, because I’m noticing that I was wearing a Swatch watch and asking “you think maybe I should take that off?”

But it was definitely not handed to me. And really when I joined up with my dad, it was just the radio show. It was just Gun Talk Radio. It was on 52 radio stations. Today Gun Talk Radio is on about 260 radio stations. We’ve got three TV shows and and this facility that’s really become a content creation vehicle.

QA: But your exposure to the working side of the industry was the as anybody who’s gripped in TV or worked as an intern to learn the industry. But you also had the advantage of two pretty high grade hunters to help teach you hunting and fishing and that sort of stuff. But everybody who had a grandfather, who took them hunting and fishing, had that exposure too.

You kind of evolved the business into the media that your generation is more comfortable with. Your dad and I used to laugh about social media and the internet and those things. Today, it’s a viable part of the business, right?

RG: Absolutely. And we look for ways to increase audience which means increasing the distribution channels. I joke that I long for the good old days of when my grandfather was on TV and it’s like, “It’s on Saturdays at 4pm on ABC.”

But that’s just not the way it is anymore. You can still be on television which, by the way, is still a really good way to reach a lot of people. It’s still a big megaphone.

But you can’t just simply tell people, it’s on this time at this place and go find it. You have to give it to them however they want to consume that content.

So, for instance, with one of our TV shows, we’ll put it out on traditional TV, but we’ll also put it on other online video systems — YouTube, Roku, and then we’ll re-edit those pieces and put them across different social platforms as well.

So now it’s more of a snippet of easily digestible content that way.

QA: We’ve talked about “amortization of a digital asset.” Say you’re a manufacturer, you spend X amount of dollars to create content, whether it’s a picture or even a demonstration of your gun working via high speed photography to study the mechanics and the geometry of a gun.

You’ve spent money to create that asset. Every time you repurpose that asset, you’ve lowered the cost of creation and raised the asset’s value.

You and the Gun Talk media team seem have have hooked into that pretty well here.

RG: We are cranking out an enormous amount of content. We’ve got about 20 between full-time and part-time employees and that was the idea behind our new location.

We moved into this space with 10 acres of land for outdoor shooting ranges. We have a 17,000 square foot building, full-time TV studio, classrooms, and edit suites, a shoot house for doing SIMS training.

So it’s kind of a content creation Mecca if you will. We can get guns in the front door, silencers, whatever…we have our licenses. Clients can walk in the studio and walk out back and shoot their guns. Then edit and post it the same day.

With high speed fiber internet we can go live here. We’re looking for efficiencies in creating content because the thing is, whether you’re a media company or a manufacturer with products, everyone is trying to crank out content to feed that beast of social media and online.

QA: So what’s next?

RG: There are a lot of companies and certain brands that have their own strong audiences. And they’re realizing that they’ve got some pretty good “followership” and they need content. Whether you’re a gun company, a scope company or an ammo company, you’re not a media company. We’re hearing that a lot of them need their own content that’s not necessarily from a particular media outlet. They still need that, too.

Maybe they have a video guy and he can do some things. But they don’t…they can’t crank out the volume that’s needed to do whatever the cadence is that your are posting. Once a day, once a week, twice a week. That’s a lot of content that you’re trying to push out there into the digital atmosphere. A lot of companies need that content.

QA: I’m a marketing or positioning guy at a company and I’m listening or reading this interview. Tell me how I know if I’m ready for that step. When does it make sense for them to do, or not, to do things?

RG: We consider ourselves marketers here. Yes, we’re, we’re a media company. We’re a content creation kind of video production company, but we have ideas, too. For the past 15 to 20 years, we’ve sat down with companies and talked with them about their marketing plans. Asking, you know, “How can we help them out with that?” We help plan that out. And a lot of times that’s just in the scope of our media outlets, but we help with marketing plans all the time. So yeah, we definitely have some experience with that.

But that’s a great question, Jim. How do you know if you’re ready for that? I think it makes sense to try to do it on your own, until you can’t. Until you can’t keep up with it. And I think there are efficiencies where it’s best working with a video company that can crank out a lot of content.

My opinion is the volume is a little bit more important today than some mega production video. I think those are really needed, but I also think spending four days and getting 40 videos that would have more longevity through the year would be better.

QA: So you want to bring the audience into your tent, then bring them along with what you’re doing?

RG: It can’t be all about me and look at how great we are all the time. You have to maybe lift up the curtain a little bit, let them behind the curtain. Let them see the culture of your company beyond just the products.

That’s the expectation now and I think people appreciate that. I think the companies that take a stand of where they’re at and what their values are get a wonderful, rabid following when you do that.

QA: So…now Gresham family 4.0…you have another successor in the wings?

RG: Maybe…my 10-year-old is always telling me what we should be doing on YouTube. She watches a bunch of that and, believe it or not, her suggestions are usually right on the money. She should probably be running things for us.

QA: This next generation can take advantage of all of the things created by all of us who came before them that we just mashed up together and fed into the media sausage grinder. They take all that magic that just flows from everywhere for granted. It makes sense that in lots of cases, 10-year-olds are more media-savvy than some older marketing directors. They take the “magic” for granted. They’re not intimidated at all by media.

RG: They consume so much media, they consume so much content. They recognize what gets attention and what doesn’t. Really, what gets a 10-year-old’s attention, it really isn’t much different from what gets a 40-year-old’s attention.

QA: So we just blow stuff up? Blowing up stuff always works…shoot a gun, noise, flashing lights, whatever? Works for me. Let’s blow something up.

Here’s a back-door way to ask the same question. When it comes to media, how do you know where you don’t need to be?

RG: Hmm. That’s a good question. There are so many channels, you probably can’t chase them all. Unless you’re a giant company and you want to invest a lot of people and lots money into it. Even then, I’m not sure that you can chase all of them.

I think it’s better to really be committed to certain types of content or certain types of distribution systems, social media or whatever that is, and do well at that.

And I think certain certain websites or social sites are better suited for our industry and better suited for a manufacturer.

For instance, I think manufacturers don’t do that well on YouTube, in general. They do better on Facebook. Personalities do better on YouTube. But it doesn’t mean you should just not be there.

And that’s another tricky part for our industry…being in all those places where we’re not exactly wanted by the people who run those platforms. I think you still have to make the effort to be there. It’s easy to say, ‘Forget it, I won’t deal with this,’ but you have to try and be there.

QA: If you’re gonna sell to the masses, you have to be where the masses are. Makes a lot of sense.

You talked about your facility. Tell us how you got yourself into this place.

RG: We knew we wanted to buy a piece of property for the new Gun Talk Media headquarters. We were in about 3000 square feet. We probably needed five or six thousand square feet. Never in my wildest dreams would I think that we were going to be able to have a shooting range and the studio and our offices in the same location without it being in the middle of nowhere where no employee wants to drive every day.

We looked, and looked, and looked, and found this place. Way bigger than what we needed building-wise at 17,000 square feet. But it was only 20 minutes from our old office. And just rural enough that we can do a lot of shooting.

I met with the local government here and they were 100% onboard with what we were doing. They supported this. This used to be a slaughterhouse, which is the fun part of the story. It was really a shell, a big metal building, kind of a warehouse sort of building. You know a studio requires a lot of special construction. It took about a year to renovate and cost a lot more than we’d planned. But you kinda know to expect that going in.

It also turned into a bigger thing. We now have a second business called Range Ready, where we put on classes that are open to the public. It’s still not a public shooting range. I have that question all the time from locals. But they can take pistol class or rifle class here.

And we partner with manufacturers who want to sponsor them and we’ll kind of do a hybrid event where we’re creating content within the format of a class. But we have instructors, we have a great classroom, and we’re starting to do more and more media events as well.

There are a lot of great places around the country who host media events, ranges that do that. One of the things that people seem to like about what we’ve got going is our facility is not as big as a lot of them. It’s not enormous, but it’s terribly efficient, because it’s all in one spot.

It’s shooting ranges and a professional video studio and classrooms, literally one minute apart just by walking around our little campus here. And it’s easy to get to as well. We’re just outside of New Orleans.

QA: There are lots of great facilities within a day’s drive of a major airport. The only long wait here is for your luggage in New Orleans.

So…any new developments in the works?

RG: Always. We actually have room to expand our ranges if we want to and we’re always trying to improve facilities to make content creation better. To make the learning experience better for students and the time more efficient for all the companies we work with.

We’re only limited by our time, not our imagination.

QA: Imagination has ever been a problem for us. I have no problem with that. Thanks, Ryan.

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