Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

How to torpedo your brand without really trying

Written By: Bob - Jan• 14•12

I didn’t know the name “Paul Helinski” until yesterday, until just about every other gun blogger on the Internet took offense to his comments on the SHOT show blog.

Heliniski began:

I think your link explains your argument Tony.  But if you had to deal with it from not just our perspective, but also the manufacturers’ perspectives, you would understand that between the organizations out there in the market place blatantly lying about their readership (ahum), and the hundreds of people who call the manufacturers every month to get T&E guns, I think that NSSF as the industry organization could do a lot more to qualify the media list to those who have actually built something that people read.  Even the print mags have been marginalized by the “bloggers,” many of whom, when you look at their stats on, have only a few thousand people every month, if that. I have no problem with letting people *trying* to build something into SHOT, but they should not be allowed into Range Day, and they should not carry the same press credentials as those of us who have put the work and the years in to actually build something. NSSF themselves put together some of the highest quality videos for youtube in the firearms world.  They have made a deal with our competitors that I’m sure has cost them a lot to broadcast those videos to hundreds of thousands of people.  They know the dedication, money, and time it takes to build quality editorial and find a way to get it to the people. They should use that experience to set a standard.

I have some sympathy for Helinski’s position that it can be difficult for manufacturers to know what their return on investment might be for agreeing to provide testing & evaluation (T&E) guns and equipment for bloggers. If I spent a good chunk of change developing a new product, I’d hope that the product I provide for review would give me the best return on investment possible.

But Helinski’s statement didn’t stop with that. He struck an unwarranted adversarial tone and advocated restricting SHOT to a much more selective group of journalists that meet certain “standards” that were never pinned down. The argument itself is not entirely without merit. It’s about the allocation of resources to assure the best return on investment.

But Heliniski made the huge mistake of turning on gun bloggers, in a gun blog, and in a decidedly combative and ignorant way in succeeding comments. He clearly doesn’t understand the very medium (the internet) on which his company (GunsAmerica) depends upon for it’s existence as an online retailer, nor the trap he was setting for himself or the brand he represents.

There’s a special place in Interweb Hell for the ignorant and arrogant, and Paul Helinski managed to destroy whatever little goodwill his company may have had with the gun blogosphere with careless, heated words. He raised an interesting and valid question about the power and reach of the gun blogosphere and just as quickly, he put himself in the position of becoming a real world case study testing the very reach he questioned.

Single-handedly, he has demolished GunsAmerica’s reputation with many gun bloggers. Whether this exchange and bad blood translates to an economic object lesson will be something both gun bloggers and the industry itself should watch with keen interest.

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  1. Junk Science Skeptic says:

    This same blogger vs. old-media battle has taken place in many other verticals (topic areas), some more diplomatically than what you’ve described, others far worse.

    What Helinski and his ilk don’t realize is that blog influence reaches far beyond what typical site stats show. Product opinions expressed in a blog are frequently linked and/or re-blogged elsewhere. Unlike the print world, where follow-ups take months, linking or re-blogging is contemporary, so the actual reach of a good product review in a popular blog is exponentially larger than site stats convey.

    A friendly mention on InstaPundit has been known to overload servers around the globe. When was the last time anybody heard of a print article that was so popular that it overloaded the print world’s delivery systems?

    Unfortunately, there are manufacturers, marketers, PR people, and old-media types out there who haven’t yet noticed the shift from old-media to new-media, just as there were plenty of buggy-whip manufacturers who thought the whole car fad would never catch on.

  2. Larry says:

    I’ve checked GunsAmerica a couple of times, I found everything to be priced 2-3 times more than they could be found elsewhere. I would be a poor return on his investment, I’ve never bought anything from GunsAmerica and I’m not likely to do so now.

  3. rumcrook says:

    you dont buy guns from guns america you buy guns through guns america. guns america is a meeting site for sellers and buyers. the people selling guns set thier own prices.

    ive bought a few guns through that portal myself and I find it ironic that this guy is saying such stupid ham handed things, since they have thier own “blog”

  4. I’ve always found the articles and reviews posted through the blog-side of GunsAmerica to be thoughtful and informative. No, really.

    But clueless? Even moreso than Reese.

  5. Millwright says:

    My experience in this arena has always been in capital equipment. But, from experience, I can attest you can’t always tell the sheep from the goats among the tire kickers at any show or on your lot. The advent of “instantaneous media” makes that task even more difficult, I suspect. Even more so in the case of a relatively inexpensive consumer product.

    How to winnow the grain from the chaff ? I certainly don’t have a “magic formula”, else I’d be advising all the vendors at SHOT. But I suspect, particularly in today’s viral world, courtesy a plan and some technology would go a long way to satisfying the serious.

    Perhaps being “upfront” and stating your firm’s policy is to tally and schedule “T&E requests” based upon documented market correspondence ? >MW