Do Metal Detecting Hobbyists Need a National PR Message?

Let’s face it.  We’re not all good writers, journalists or storytellers.  But the hobby of metal detecting needs clear, constant messaging, standards and PR responses.  We need a clear stance on the hobby’s relationship with public resources, academia/archaeology and private property hunting.   More and more restrictions are being placed on our hobby because of simple misunderstandings (and a few bad apples.)

So my hypothesis is…If you had a national brand effort, such as the League of American Bicyclists, and could get everyone to follow a few guidelines about the hobby (like what they say to the media, and how they approach charities) a lot could be done to build recognition and credibility.

The push-back I always get is – Why would you want to publicize it?   Silent running is a better idea for the hobby – keeping newbies, and TV shows, from damaging our reputation?   I totally understand the concern…  but is No PR better than Positive PR?   How do we develop a common response when accused, as a group, of grave robbing and raping the land clean of artifacts with little regard for context?

I also think that this credibility program must include a framework for working with archaeologists.  Some are never going to discuss the topic, but there are many others in historical archaeology programs, very interested in our collective skills as avocational participants in their programs.   It’s a long shot, but I want an archaeologist to see our program’s efforts at building reputation as a positive step for them as well – so they must have a roll.

Children enjoying metal detecting in grounds of Bowden Cottage

Kids getting involved in a histori site – Image (cc) Community History SA

Some ideas I’ve had are:

a) treasure hunting for inner city kids – take a group of kids out detecting to a safe, seeded site where coins are placed in typical scatter patterns (e.g.  we all know those patterns, right?)  Have everyone have a part in the research, recovery (plug, refill) and cleaning.   In some cases, actual visits to historic sites may be possible, but this does mean that there is more risk.

Connect heritage, history and artifacts for kids.

b) big-brother, big-sister type arrangement.Get a troubled teen to come with you detecting to a known good spot. Issue a press release to local news (protecting privacy of course) and discuss the benefits of fresh air, focused tasks, and good clean thrill of finds.

c) team up with boy scouts/girl scouts and get a badge for metal detecting started.  Similar wilderness clubs might be a better start to avoid bureaucratic tangle and politics of the scouts (sadly.)

d) publish press releases (mfgs should help!!) whenever items are returned. Send releases to local community papers with a COHERENT MESSAGE about the hobby. Not just “I found her ring over yonder” but “I know I’m among many metal detectorists willing to help – this hobby is full of honest people ready to return lost items.”   Every recover should have stories like these.   Similarly, when cooperative efforts with preservationist interests and archaeology groups is conducted, make sure that the public knows it!

e) Volunteer under the national brand’s name, for clean-up days for parks, feed the hungry days, community garden projects, and the huge list goes on.  Take photographs of the event and get names of those in the photos.  Publish a press release each time such happens and provide the images to the reporters.

Clean up day

Clean up day – image (cc)

f) Work with local American history teachers to bring artifacts into their classroom at certain times that correlate with the period they’re studying.  When possible, connect this with efforts by local archaeological, genealogy  or heritage work.

g) Donate finds and help with fundraising for local historical endeavors. Like the Sayre Barn project …and, yes, Publish a press release!

The big thing for me is the clean, message. If we all had “cheat sheets” that we could turn to whenever certain good things happen for the hobby, it would give some consistency. But the detectorists I know are an independent bunch and possibly not very likely to follow guidance for the good of the whole…

See Also:  What is Kentucky Unearthed?  (A very popular public-facing social network I’ve built.)

See Also:  Rallies and Avocational Detecting.

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