We recently wondered about some of the NRA‘s throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks PR strategies, from the ad focusing on President Obama‘s daughters to the extremely misguided decision to release a video game for kids right after blaming video games for gun violence that resulted in the deaths of 20 young children.
This weekend brought a New York Times report on the organization’s ongoing efforts to promote “recreational shooting” to younger audiences via assorted PR initatives and partnerships. While most would assume that the Times and the NRA are not exactly best buds, this report was less a hit piece than a PR strategy review.
In short, the NRA needs to ensure the continued growth of its membership, and in order to do that the organization works to find ways to make gun culture more appealing to young people in the interest of “recruiting and retaining” teen hunters and target shooters. Makes sense, right? Here’s the challenge: “introducing minors to activities that involve products they cannot legally buy and that require a high level of maturity.”
We know how tough it can be to make products appealing when members of your target audience can’t legally own them…
In an interesting twist on the “brand ambassador” strategy, the organization’s related research suggests a focus on kids aged 8 to 17 who could introduce their peers to firearms “slowly, perhaps through paintball, archery or some other less intimidating activity”. Sounds like a solid way to encourage kids who aren’t comfortable around guns for some completely unknown reason.
Related projects include publications like Junior Shooters magazine, described as “a place for our next generation of shooting enthusiasts”; the NRA has also long sponsored target shooting activities among local Boy Scout troops and 4-H Clubs in addition to promoting gun manufacturing brands via first-person “shooter” video games (which are bad, remember). Newer programs seek to “introduce children to high-powered rifles and handguns” by tying firearm ownership to universal life skills like personal responsibility and ethics. Independent strategies also include lobbying efforts designed to convince state lawmakers to do things like lower minimum hunting ages.
We understand why the NRA wants to pursue this demographic and encourage the growth of a culture that promotes responsible gun ownership among children and teenagers, who could then become members and supporters for life. But it does make for an interesting case in expanding influence, and it raises a question:
Why, in our ongoing (and largely pointless) debate over gun control, has no one mentioned PR initiatives catering to young people?