Kevin Paulson is the Founder and CEO of HuntingLife.com. His passion for the outdoors began very early hiking, camping and hunting with family. Kevin has followed his dreams through hunting, backpacking, outfitting, wildlife conservation work, photography, videography and hunting trips around the world.
HuntingLife.com was founded in 2006 after Kevin sold out his portion of an outfitting business in Idaho and Montana. The brand of HuntingLife.com has grown over the last 12 years focused on hunting, conservation, outdoor recreation, sporting goods, backpacking, hiking and fishing.
In this Intellifluence Influencer Spotlight focusing on the sporting goods category, we spoke to Kevin about his background, his favorite campaigns and much more:
When did you get started as an influencer?
We [Hunting Life] started being an influencer probably ten years ago when we first started blogging and we had brands almost instantaneously reaching out to us because we were one of the first fifty bloggers focused on hunting and the outdoors…
You’re an influencer as an individual personality, but you also work as your own influencer brand (Hunting Life). Can you tell me a little bit more about that dual approach?
Our brand, Hunting Life, basically is a lot of who I am as an individual but along with that, Hunting Life basically is a national news source for hunting and conservation. Our website covers what’s going on throughout the entire hunting industry and really the outdoor industry as a whole.
In a couple weeks we’re going to be covering what’s going on in the camping world, in the backpacking world, in the hiking world so we’re trying to cover that broad spectrum of really anybody that wants to live a great life in the outdoors.
What is the strangest influencer request you’ve ever gotten?
Our strangest request was a women’s product that was an… Um… A product for women to be able to stand up and go to the bathroom in the outdoors.
It surprises me how many people truly do not read my blog or pay attention to who we are and then make a request to us [to review a product].
Of the campaigns you have been involved in, what was your favorite review? In other words, what has been you most successful brand partnership?
I had two that were really, really successful and they came about because I loved the products. I did one when I first got started with a product called SPOT Messenger. We were an affiliate with this product and I really loved the product.
It is a GPS device that allows you to use a satellite to communicate. So if you’re stuck in the backcountry, if you call down and twist your leg or break your ankle and need to be rescued, to get off the mountain – this is a device where you can push a button and somebody is going to come and get you.
We were an affiliate with them so they basically said, “Hey, will you help us promote this product and write about it on your blog.” When I was in seminars, I would talk about the product because I truly loved it. At the time, I was an outfitter and I believed in the product, I carried it with me every single day… I gave one to my mom because I was like “if you’re ever in [a situation] where your car breaks down and you can’t get cell service – push that button, somebody’s coming to help you!” So it’s a phenomenal product to have. I believed in the product, and that made it tremendously successful.
The second product that I had the most fun reviewing is a [product] called the Otto Wilde grill. It’s a grill out of Germany and it basically cooks from the top down at fifteen hundred degrees. So you can sear a steak in literally four and a half minutes. It was just a ton of fun – like, “Hey, I’m getting to eat steak… I’m doing a product review… What’s not to love?”
As a successful influencer, you’re obviously really busy. How do you structure your day?
I structure my day around an editorial calendar. For me, that’s one of the things that made me the most successful. Creating a calendar, knowing I have posts scheduled out and I really want to follow that editorial calendar.
Also, I spend time in the morning and time in the evening doing e-mails. I’m not spending all day just responding to e-mails and that’s helped dramatically to help me lock in the times I manage e-mails versus doing gear reviews or something like that…
Is there a category within influencer marketing that you haven’t done but always wanted to?
I would love to do some more technology stuff, but it’s not really in the niche of my blog, per se. I really do enjoy working with technology and getting to test out cameras, computers and things like that. But like I said, it’s not really in my niche. I use computers all day long, it’s just not really what we write about.
What’s your favorite social network to use? Do you prefer visual-centric networks or ones where you can write more in-depth on a topic?
My primary focus of where I put the mass load of my content is HuntingLife.com first – that’s my site, because I control that domain. Everything that goes on it- I own it and it’s never going to get shut down and I don’t ever have to worry about it.
Then from there it goes Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – in that order. My reasoning for that is our following is tremendous on Facebook. I get a lot more engagement one-on-one with individuals. I really like our Facebook fan page and the reason I like that page is because it’s not about me. It’s not about Hunting Life and what we’re doing. It’s really about all of our fans. We have over two hundred and sixty-five thousand fans and because it’s Hunting Life – we’re out there sharing what our fans are doing. I like that for that particular platform. It’s really about people living the hunting life.
Twitter is where we share all of our articles and stories and I communicate with a lot of brands via Twitter. And then we use every other platform that’s out there… We have a YouTube channel… We’re across every other platform. I always want to make sure we create one great piece of content and we share it across as many sites as humanly possible.
What are the biggest issues your audience has, and how do you help them overcome them? In short, how do you help your audience solve their problems?
I really look at our audience as a broad spectrum. We have people from all economic walks of life as members of the Hunting Life fanbase. We’re always trying to put out information on – if you’re going to go buy a sleeping bag, per se, here’s a good sleeping bag, here’s a better sleeping bag and here’s the best sleeping bag you can purchase. We kind of carry that spectrum across the board.
A lot of brands come to me on regular, everyday basis and they’re like “Here’s the best rifle scope that we make… Can you share this with all of your fans?” I respond, “Yeah, that’s great… I can do that, but I’d rather see your average scope that the average person can purchase. Let me write about that one because I think that’s going to resonate more with a [larger] group of people than the most expensive one.
I think that this happens within influencer marketing a lot… Influencers want to have the best product… I’m not always about having the best product. I would rather have that middle of the road one from that same company and say “don’t give me the one with all the features – give me the one that the average guy’s going to buy.” If I can write about that, everybody wins.
Do you have any advice for prospective influencers or entrepreneurs who are just getting started? Is there anything specific that you would have done differently while building your brand?
[Laughs] I have a million things I would have done differently when I started. First and foremost, I had the “Field of Dreams” mentality. I was like, “If you build it, they will come.” I just kept building things all the way across the board… I would have built a mailing list as fast as I could have… I would have asked every single person as soon as they came on board, “Hey, thank you for joining our network, please sign up for our mailing list.” That’s incredibly important in today’s world. If you can control the way in which you communicate with your fanbase as an Influencer – that’s going to be much more powerful than anything else you can possibly do. People will read e-mails from their fans. So that’s the biggest piece of advice I would offer any influencer.
The second thing I would probably say right off the bat is always, always, always be honest. If you’re going to do a gear review, if you’re going to do a product review – if a product is not a fit for you, tell the brand it’s not a fit for you. Don’t destroy your fanbase over products that don’t matter. Be honest and tell the brands, “Hey look, I’m going to review your product but if I find something wrong with it, I’m going to tell my audience.” Having that trust with your audience is way more valuable than having that trust with the brand.