Our brief was to provide a one-day-per-month PR campaign with the objectives of raising the Dogs’ Homes’ profiles in local media to increase volunteering, donationsand adoptions and assisting the organisations in the dissemination of policy recommendations around issues including micro-chipping, homeless hostels, gangs’ ‘weapons’ dogs, and general dog care issues
Wagging the Dog
From the start we knew that to run a news-based campaign for the charities, we needed to comprehend the two sites, by understanding the people involved, what they do and why.
ManchesterDogs’ Home enjoyed great support from local people and across the city, but donations were frequently needed and they were often desperate for more fosterers or adopters. Although pioneering in thinking around dog care, the Home’s ideas regularly went unpublicised due to lack of resources.
We realised Manchester Dogs’ Home could be streets ahead of other institutions in terms of lobbying and raising awareness around relevant issues, so we put together a thought leadership programme to present them as such. Many of their innovations had huge relevance beyond their target audience’s areas. To reflect the serious weight behind its ideas,our PR campaign needed to act like a terrier among bigger dogs, where size didn’t enter the equation.
Our MDH strategy: maximise thought leadership opportunities available in local, regional and national media, and run stories that would engender donations.
The results: local, regional regional and national media coverage around thought leadership on homelessness, as well as effects of the credit crunch on dog ownership and abandonment
Examples: ‘Don’t getbitten by the credit crunch’, Manchester Evening News, 16 December 2009 (full page), ‘Stray alertas hard times bite’, Manchester Evening News, 2 September 2008, ‘Driving theHome Stretch’, two-page feature in Pet Focus, January 2009. ‘Twin Hounds Reunited’, Countryman’s Weekly, 7 May 2009
BBC Radio Manchesterbroadcast live from Manchester Dogs’ Home, Christmas Day
Newer than the Manchester site, Cheshire Dogs’ Home struggled to get its messages across. It was short of volunteers, despite offering more modernfacilities for staff than the Manchester site.
Our CDH strategy: publicise the site’sfacilities and raise its profile as a Cheshire institution; run stories toincrease volunteer numbers; appeal to a younger demographic.
The results: coverage in Cheshire county media
Examples: ‘Lapping upthe Celebrations’, whole page coverage in Cheshire Life, August 2009, ‘Dogs’ Home celebrates 10th anniversary’, Warrington Guardian, 23 June 2009,‘PuppyLove’, Warrington Guardian, 26 March 2009, "Jason Done: Dogs' Homes New Patron, Living Edge M
A ‘Bark Call’ System
News stories happened fast, from reunions to canine mistreatment. It was essential to set up a clearc ommunications channel whereby staff could quickly get news to us - like the rooftop bark call system in the film 101Dalmatians.
We provided ‘what we do’ and ‘what we’re looking for’ fact sheets to the organisations’ staff, and wrote a piece for their internal magazine explaining what we did.
- Staff and volunteers have been fantastic in coming forward with stories
- Where news wasn’t appropriate for media, we’ve usually been able to use it in the organisations’ magazine that goes out quarterly
- We feel confident everyone at the charities knows what’s of media interest
When Fur Flies ...
We devised a Crisis ManagementStrategy, which was presented to general managers and the Board of Trustees.
The week following its delivery, astory broke where the strategy was used effectively, providing a useful‘real-life practice run’ that left us and the organisations confident that wehad a valuable procedure in place for any given crisis.
‘Four Legs Good, Two Legs Less Interesting’
The popular news stories of the dogs –how they came to the Homes, special requirements, how they got rehomed – were many and varied. Our challenge was to get the stories as they happened.
We knew no matter how eloquent the volunteer or new owner, the dogs were always going to steal the show. ‘Four legs good, two legs more interesting’ became our internal motto for presenting stories to the media. A story without a good close-up picture of the dog or a real-life example was never going to be any good.
‘Take me home for Christmas’, Warrington Guardian, 18 December 2008
‘Jack is looking for anew home’, North East Manchester Advertiser, 22 January 2009 (one of a series)
‘Dog duos need homes’,Warrington Guardian, 27 January 2009
‘Puppy dogs’ tale offight for life’, Manchester Evening News, 20 February 2009
‘Gentle giant needs ahome’, Warrington Guardian, 1 October 2009
‘Rocky’ story,Newsround, November 2009
Manchester and Cheshire Dogs’ Homes Twitter page at www.twitter.com/manchdogs
Dog Rescue programme, ITV, December2008 / January 2009
‘12 Dogs of Christmas’, rehomingcampaign on Channel M breakfast show, December 2008
BBC North West Tonight filming ofanimal blessing service, December 2008
‘Olive’ on the Paul O’Grady Show, 25June 2009
Our campaign has resulted in average year-on-year increases in volunteers, adoptions and donations of 34%. Adoptions grew massively with the homes having empty kennels – and manager Lisa Graham told us “this is largely down to the PR.”
While we are unable to precisely monitor the vast amount of media coverage we have achieved, as the pro bono budget doesn’t cover cuttings services, from the cuttings we’ve collected, the opportunity-to-see for the past year stands at almost seven million.
In December 2008, we adopted a rescue dog from Manchester Dogs’ Home. Buster, 18-months-old, lives with directorsJ ane and Nathan, and comes into the office most days. Buster is a much-loved fixture for colleagues, clients and suppliers. He has his own Facebook site, publicising the work of Manchester and Cheshire Dogs’ Homes.