Welcome to episode 291 of The Outdoor Biz Podcast with Matt Bennett and ECHOS Brand Communications. In our wide-ranging conversation, we talk about how Matt got into the Outdoor Biz, the REVEAL Global Media Conference, Sobriety, Sustainability, and plenty more. Brought to you this month by Wolfgang Man and Beast.
How were you introduced to the Outdoors
Yeah, it’s funny, I think there’s this idea that if you grow up in Boulder, Colorado, you’re just by nature, an outdoor kid. And that’s not really the case, there’s a lot of people here that just that’s not their thing. And it’s just a place to live and it was. As a little kid, you think everybody’s staring up at the flat irons like you are. And you just take it for granted, but yeah, I grew up pretty close in south Boulder just to the mountains.
We would just walk out and that was the entertainment. You’d walk out and you’d hike up and goof around and you build a Fort or whatever it was. And so that was part of being a Colorado kid. And my folks were into camping and I started skiing at a young age, doing Nordic and then downhill. And obviously downhill, really the speed and the fun of it really caught me.
And then I started like gen one mountain biking when that took off. I was going to mountain bike camps as a little kid, pre-suspension, right? And as a kid going up to Crested Butte for mountain bike camps in the eighties or whatever it was, I had a lot of different experiences. And I love it. It’s changed over time. Now the focus is on my kids and getting them out there, but I still have to get my fun in as well.
You have a lot of experience in communications in PR how’d you get on that path?
It’s interesting, cause I went to school for international affairs, Undergrad. And then I did a master’s degree at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, which is a really small school in California. And so I was on this track for, diplomacy. A lot of the people go into government agencies or the department of defense or whatever it was. And I was on that track and I got my degree and I moved out to DC and was interviewing for jobs. And then I ended up connecting with a public affairs firm out there. And that’s really what kicked my career off. They hired me as a writer and I’d always been into the writing and the communication side of it. They say, your first job really sets your career in some ways. And it sure did for me, because I’d been on one track and it took me on a totally different track where all of a sudden, I was like in this, more of a government. Circle doing communications around governments, whether it’s legislation or initiatives and obviously that’s DC. So I worked for that firm for eight years and two years as a writer and then I started managing programs. We had teams in Mississippi and Arkansas, New York and Vermont.
So it was all these different things going on and a great experience for sure. But it was one of those burn hot types of jobs. Couldn’t do it forever, but you could go like hell for 10 years, right? From an experienced standpoint, it was amazing.
Tell us about ECHOS Communications
We are a public relations agency specializing in outdoor and active lifestyle brands. Media relations are a huge part of what we do. We do storytelling, we also do affiliate marketing when it’s assigned to that social media, the gamut of communications. affiliate marketing. It’s assigned to that social media, the gamut of communications.
We look at what our clients need and come in and design a program, tailored to them depending on where they are. I would say the core, the brands that we really specialize in are those that capture something beyond what would be seen as their endemic audience. So if they’re outdoor they also have this broader audience. In lifestyle or in streetwear her or whatever that is. And so we really specialize in brands that have, or want to transcend beyond what would be seen as their endemic audience.
Sobriety has been a pretty important part of your life. Tell us a little bit about that.
I wasn’t a huge drinker, but it was consistent, and it was one of those things that I just I needed to change.
I’ve been sober for going on four years and change now. And, it’s interesting because I didn’t realize how deep it was in my life until it went away.
The family side of it has obviously been the biggest thing, just because I’m more present. I’m here with my family helping where I necessarily wasn’t before. And then on the professional side of course I can show up as I’ve never shown up before.
I think it’s an important thing for us to talk about in the industry, especially now that inclusivity and everything is just such a focus. I do think there’s a lot of what we do in the outdoor industry that revolves around drink.
I’m not here to change anybody’s mind or try to change anybody’s mind. This is my choice and my choice alone. And I can’t tell anybody else what to do, but I just, I guess my thing is. I’ve been to some of the events and I’m like, Hey, do you have anything else? And they say there’s a drinking fountain over there. And I guess that would be my first thing is just provide something else. Just provide an option. Cause I do think that’s so important in this industry where it’s nice to see the conversation happening.
How about the industry events like trade shows, how do you think those are changing and what do you think that means for the future?
As an agency, we fully appreciate and enjoy the industry events, Outdoor Retailer of course. That’s been the core. I just think it’s going to change a little bit and we’re already seeing it with The Big Gear Show. There’ve been others in the past, whether it’s Outpost or others that have created an alternate and very appealing experience for people.
And I do think the cost at the end of the day is a huge thing that, especially after this year is going to come up. What did it look like last year? And now we’re going back? And I think there are a lot of brands that are going to have to really look at that and evaluate, and that by necessity is going to change things up.
Where do we go? Where do we allocate these dollars? But at the end of the day, people love to go to. And it’s a great place to have a brand presence. So I don’t think it’s going anywhere. I just think it’s going to look a little different.
Let’s talk a little bit about sustainability. That’s another thing that seems like we’re walking the line of creating a bunch of stuff and calling it sustainable or creating the same stuff, what can we do about that?
I think it starts with the term itself. I think we’re getting desensitized to the term sustainability because it’s so broad. What does it mean anymore?
What I’ve heard lately is this, if we’re creating something, whatever it is how could that be sustainable? Take LIVSN, I’ve chatted with Andrew and it’s fascinating to hear his thoughts on it. Cause he’s just straight up and I know he doesn’t have 500 skus and that’s by design. But how do we cut some of the products that just don’t need to exist in the first place and stop making stuff?
I love new stuff, I love it when our brands launch new stuff that’s music to our ears because we didn’t get to go out there and talk about it. But at the same time, from a sustainability standpoint, it’s tough to continue to do that cycle. And that’s a hard conversation to have. Can it ever be successful? Can we call it sustainable?
Maybe we start talking about something else, responsibility or whatever that is that takes a different, more realistic tack about if we are creating a bunch of products, whatever those products are at the end of the day, will they ever be sustainable?
What other outdoor activities do you still do?
I’m a huge cyclist. I do road, gravel, and mountain biking, and I just absolutely love that. That’s my kind of day-to-day thing. It keeps me feeling great. I run if I have to if I don’t have a bike but then skiing, I do Downhill and Nordic. I started doing backcountry last year.
Do you have any advice or suggestions for folks wanting to get into the outdoor business?
I’m looking at the skills more than necessarily the experience in our industry. If you can write, if you can communicate, if you get what we’re doing, then that’s more important and worked in the outdoor industry before.
I think and I think for employers, we should be more open to hiring people outside the industry for sure. I know it’s tough you get someone with great potential, coming from a similar brand or agency, and that’s very appealing. But I do think there are a lot of people who want to be in this industry that would be fantastic. They just don’t have experience in what would qualify, roughly as outdoor experience. But I have no problem, in fact, I think it appeals to me for someone that’s really excited and wants to be part of this.
What’s your favorite outdoor gear purchase? Under a hundred.
This probably nails me as a quintessential Boulder kid, but a hacky sack. I have a $10 hacky, and it travels well, it’s small and it is just the source of more fun. Whether you’re traveling or backpacking or at the campsite or wherever it’s just great. You bust it out, people start playing other people join. It’s just a riot.
Follow up with Matt