Many hunters and archers have wondered how they could become a “pro staffer” for a company within the industry. I’ve fielded the question many times, and just recently received this email…
“I have been trying to get on a pro staff for a while, but have had little success. I love to hunt more than anything else and have had good success. Do you have any tips or ideas on who I should contact to become a pro staff member?”
I am a relative newcomer to the “industry” side of things, but I’ve gotten to learn from some great people at companies throughout the business. What I hope to share with you today is not a formula to gain pro staff positions, or a way to create a name for yourself as a hunter/shooter; instead I’ll share my perspective, and what I’ve learned from some great people in the industry. (Not every company works the same way, so I cannot speak to every facet of this subject.)
What is a pro staff?
The “pro” in “pro staff” can stand for one of two things, or sometimes a combination of both – the “pro” can stand for professional or promotional. Not all pro staff members are professional hunters/shooters, but typically all professional hunters/shooters are on the pro staff of companies in the industry. (And when I say “professional”, I mean guys that are actually making money and supporting their livelihood by hunting/shooting.)
Even companies that have a staff of professional hunters/shooters are doing it for promotional reasons, so in the end, a pro staff exists to promote a product.
Read that last part again. The purpose of the pro staff is to promote the company/brand/product that they are associated with. Far too many people want to become pro staff members because they want to promote themselves, not promote the company.
There’s a weird sort of ego tied to the idea of being a “pro staffer”, as if the position validates the person. This ego is, in my opinion, a big part of what is wrong with this part of the industry.
What does a pro staff member do?
If a pro staff exists to promote, then the pro staff members’ job is to promote the company/brand/product. The common misconception is that this promotion means shooting a big buck and including logo/product placement in the “trophy photo”, or shooting an archery tournament with your “shooter shirt” on. I don’t mean to discredit any of those things, because they do have some value, but the pro staff member should be doing much more than that!
Not only should a pro staffer promote a product, they should promote the pursuit. Pro staff members should seek to further hunting/shooting by being involved wherever possible. Yes, the product is important to the company, but without a healthy industry surrounding hunting/shooting, the company has no chance at being successful. Pro staff members should be active in promoting and protecting the future of hunting and shooting for this generation, and the next.
There are a variety of ways that pro staff members promote the company/brand/product that they represent, including: attending trade shows, consumer shows, retailer events, shooting events, producing content for informational and promotional use (photos, videos, and/or articles), participating in online and social media, working with archery pro shops, etc.
Different companies have different strategies for promotion, but it is safe to say that being a pro staff member involves work. Yes, I’m sorry to disappoint – it’s not all free gear and endless self-promotion – it is work. You’ll spend time, money, effort, and energy to represent and promote the company you’re working for.
What does a pro staff member get?
Alright, let’s be honest – part of the appeal of becoming a pro staff member is the access to free or discounted gear. A reason that so many people want to become a pro staffer is because they think that they won’t have to do much, but they’ll receive a ton. But, in one way, or another – pro staff members work hard for their (supposedly) “free” gear.
In fact, as a pro staff member, you may not get any free gear at all. Some companies have different levels of promotional staff, such as “field staff”, “shop shooter”, and yes, “pro staff.” Typically “pro staff” members receive some free or heavily discounted gear, with the opportunity to buy more discounted gear at their choosing. Field staff or other promotional members often just receive an opportunity to purchase products at a discount. Again, don’t be fooled into thinking that becoming a pro staff member means you can pick up the phone at any time and receive whatever you ask for.
Additionally, many companies will make arrangements with other manufacturers in the industry, so that their pro staff can receive industry discounts from a variety of brands.
What qualifies someone to be a pro staffer?
Are you pro staff material? As we’ve discussed, companies have different strategies for their promotional positions, but let’s just put it this way – applying for a pro staff is like applying for a job. Companies aren’t just looking at a big buck that you’ve killed, or a great round that you shot on the course, they are looking at you – the person.
Do you have a genuine passion for the pursuit (hunting, archery, etc.)? Are you already involved in promoting and protecting the industry? Do you have any accolades, accomplishments, or activities in the industry? Are you willing to give up your time to attend events, work with dealers, and perform other duties? Are you a good communicator, a responsible worker, and can you build a good relationship with dealers/customers?
Remember, it’s not about what a company can do for you; it’s about what you can do for them.
Finally, do you have a genuine belief in the company/brand? And are you already using their product(s)? This is a personal pet peeve, so excuse my rant, but it drives me nuts to see someone seeking a pro staff position from any, and every, company that will give them the opportunity. Why spend so much time and effort promoting something that you’ve never used, or wouldn’t buy with your own money? I understand the need for television shows or professional shooters to accept sponsors that are willing to help them pay the bills, but the non-professional that is seeking a promotional position should not be seeking it from a company whose products haven’t been personally tried, tested, and trusted.
How do you become a pro staff member?
So, the million dollar question – how do you get on a pro staff? I can’t speak to every situation, but in general there is an application process. Applications are typically accepted yearly, and then reviewed, and opportunities are given to applicants that fit a particular need of the pro staff. If you are interested in joining a pro staff for a particular company, then contact them and ask about the application process, and when applications can be submitted for consideration.
As I’ve mentioned before, many companies have different levels of promotional relationships, so starting as a “shop shooter”, then working your way up to a field staff member, may help you become a factory/pro staff member. Typically a “shop shooter” is not tied directly to the company, but is given an opportunity to represent the shop and receive discounts from the company. This is a great way to get involved in the industry and prove that you are willing to work hard for the betterment of the sport.
Don’t wait for a position to validate your love for, promotion of, and involvement in the pursuit. Start now by getting involved, working hard to promote hunting/archery, and helping out in any way you can. Prove that you have the drive and willingness to work. Be helpful. Network with other hunters, shooters, shop owners, and pro staff members. Be patient. Have a good attitude and be positive!
There is a lot more that could be said on this subject, but I hope this gives you a good idea of what a pro staff is, how they work, what is required of pro staff members, and how you can begin to work toward an opportunity to become a pro staff member for a company that you truly believe in, and want to support.