Rachel Spencer is a freelance journalist who specialises in helping pet businesses and pet charities get more media coverage. In this exclusive interview I talk to Rachel about some the media success stories she has been involved with, and you will learn how you can get more media so you can raise awareness and money for your charities cause.
Dominic – Hello everybody and welcome to this special interview, which I’m doing with my good friend Rachel Spencer, who I’m very excited about talking to.
We’re going to be talking in a moment about how you have in the past helped loads of rescue charities to get press coverage so they can raise money and raise awareness, which is exactly what I’m going to be doing with this event as well.
I’m going to very, very quickly tell everyone about with the tour de rescue and then we’ll dive into how you are involved in that as well. So the tour de rescue is a charity event, which I’m doing on the 9th of September, and I’m going to be riding around on my bicycle visiting a bunch of rescue centres in Northumberland, Teesside, Derbyshire and in north Wales.
It’s a four day event. I’m going to be doing about 200 miles. Hopefully if I don’t get lost, I have to do more. Along the way we’re going to be interviewing and I’m doing some Facebook lives with the charities, the people who work there, and shining a light on the dogs, Alex, the video guys coming along as well. So it will all look fantastic.
And then on the evening of each of the legs of the tour, we’re holding a special seminar where we’ve got a load of great dog trainers coming along who are going to be sharing their most actionable, um, advice about settling in a rescue dog, and teaching you things you need to do to make sure your puppy or dog doesn’t end up in a rescue.
So, as a little example for you, we’ve got, um, Steve Wiley from SHAK sanctuary up in Northumberland and Steve deals with a lot of the dogs who are really broken and difficult to train, and often can’t be rehomed, because they’ve, they’ve had such terrible lives.
We’ve got a Rachel Bean coming alone who’s going to be talking about the work that she’s done with Asian straight dogs and obviously a lot more people are interested in getting dogs from abroad. Now Rachel’s gonna be talking about the pitfalls and the benefits of doing that.
We’ve got author Sarah Bartlett coming along too. She wrote a book called another pup and she’s going to be talking about how you can settle in a rescue dog to like a multi -dog households to a dog house where you already have dogs.
There’s going to be a range of awesome content that we’re going to be collecting over the next week. It’s about education and awareness and hopefully people will find entertaining as well, and they’ll find it in their hearts to, to support their local rescue or to support one of the rescues that we’re visiting as well.
And obviously Rachel’s helping out too because, um, it wouldn’t be, it wouldn’t be a Dom event if I couldn’t get Rachel roped in. So now, so, um, this started, Rachel was, uh, more than happy to salts and press releases out and stuff for us and they’ve literally just got out this week and already we’re getting some good stuff.
I’ve just sent you a link for some press that we got today. So, um, tell us very quickly about what you do in case anybody just want to think about you and then, um, what you do and why you were happy to help out with this.
Speaker 2: Brilliant. Okay, well thanks Dominic. And I’m really weird. I went online this morning and putting towards the rescue into Google and see some things coming up and it’s getting, you know, we only really kind of started putting stuff out yesterday, so it’s brilliant.
So I’m Rachel and I’m a freelance journalist, and I am, well basically because I’m a crazy dog lady a few years ago I evolved into writing more and more about pets, and about 80 to 90% of what I write about for national newspapers and magazines is pet related.
And so what’s happened is now I also work with small businesses and, and pet professionals like Dominic to help them raise awareness of the work they do. So I’ve helped Dominic with publicising his books, with the tour de rescue, and I help other pet professionals. So it might be, they might have a dog brand or dog business. So I help them with content, immediate coverage and help them to find the stories in their business that journalists are going to be interested in.
And so I’ve got a website on a free Facebook group and if you basically Google publicity tips for pet businesses, you’ll find me.
And I also have a book as well. So I put everything that I kind of know and I’ve shared with other people or the pet professionals into a book. So you’ve got it there in front of you. And that was all because of Dom because he kept sending me emails telling me I need to write books. So I wrote a book. So that’s the short hand version. And I’ve been working with Dom with the total rescue. And, and what I’ve done with this is I have created, I’ve got a pet blog as well called the Paw Post
So, and that’s really, really focused on rescue dog. It’s kind of, that’s my, my drum to bang on about. Um, so yeah, the paw post is like my little kind of media thing that I created.
So I did a blog for a blog on that and then what I’ve done, because the total rescue is covering four different areas.
And I thought I did a little coaching video for the people who were hosting the different events in different areas. And then I did the press release template for them to fill in and then send out to the local media. And then I did a pitch template.
So quite often, um, you know, journalists are very busy, they’ve got lots of stories to work on and if you, if you make it as easy as possible for them, so you give them the right information in the right place and the right format and they can, you know, save some, a lot of work and it means it’s much more likely that your story about your rescue getting in the paper, then it will be, if you kind of rung up and said, oh well you write about me because budget quotes, lots of other things have changed in the media.
And quite often they, they just don’t have time.Um, so yes. So that’s me.
Dom – Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. And um, we’ve had some, we’ve had some hits already. I’m, we just like I say in the last couple of days, um, if you’ve got some of them, Living North and The Northern Echo. I also did an interview with radio Newcastle yesterday which will be going out in the next couple of days. And an interview with the Sunderland Echo as well. And they came in and took some pictures. but obviously we’ve just started this so hopefully we’ll be getting a lot more.
And the more publicity we get, the more people will come along on the night and will help raise more money and stuff. And that’s why we’re doing it all.
Tell us a bit about some of the stuff that you’ve done in the past, some of the success stories that you’ve had in the past with regard to articles that you’ve put out there, that have done really well. And then we’ll maybe just talk about, if you run in a rescue and you’re watching this, like what can you do to get a similar result.
Rachel: Okay. Brilliant. Okay then so yeah, like I say, I write a lot about rescue dogs. Some of the success stories I’ve had recently and have been brilliant.
Quite a lot of the time stories will start on social media. So if you’re running a rescue and your, you’re watching me you’re looking for tips on how to promote what you’re doing. If you find that something great takes off on social media, that’s the kind of thing that you should be thinking about pitching to your local newspaper. Um, so if you put, if you put a story on about a dog and it gets a lot of Facebook shares or likes or comments, um, lots of engagement then that, that, that could be something for you to sense with journalists as well.
So one example is I did a story about a rescue in Manchester and it’s a small rescue like the ones that Dom’s visiting on the tour de rescue. It’s called Dogs for Rescue and its run by a lady called Emma Billington and her first dog that she rescued when she said set up was this Dog called Sherry.
Sherry is a Romanian rescue dog. And when she came to Emma she’d been shot outside the restaurant. So she was paralysed and basically have the back of her body was paralysed so she couldn’t use the back legs. She was dragging herself along with the front legs. She was in a terrible way and Emma needed to raise the money to get her through surgery to remove about legs. So now Chevy has a wonderful life. She has an old car that she goes around and on and there’s videos of her on my blog actually, she’s such a happy dog and she just, I mean the things I was doing was just wonderful.
So Sherry is like the kind of poster girl for her rescue. And, and I had a fundraising idea. She wants to open up a visitor centre so people can come in and find out more about what they do, but she needs to raise a lot of money, 15 grants to pay for the visitor centre. So she had an idea of people of Sherry running a mile every day. If it’s 26 days and people can go and join us. So Sherry will be walking or running on a car. She’ll just do a mile. So she’s not in any pain or anything. And then people can join her every day.
So Chevy is going to be doing a marathon. She’s only got two legs. So a dog would see legs is running a marathon. That’s your headline.
So when I send that off to the Sunday Mirror, they were like, oh my God, this is an amazing story. Jumping up and down.
So went in the Sunday Mirror, then you got followed up by the Manchester Evening News.
Then it ended up on Wammys which is a pet site in France.
Then it went into like loads of different Manchester Publications, I love Manchester, inside Manchester in South Manchester, all these different ones. It went on ITV news, it went crazy and raised 12 grand in like less than a month, which is amazing.
So she’s like four fifths of the way there. That’s just awesome.
So the angle, think about the angle there. So it’s a two like a dog dog is running a marathon. What would make people go, wow, that’s amazing. So that’s what you want to be thinking of.
Another example, I won’t go through too many because I do tend to go on, another example is a lady called Liz who runs beds for bullies, again, a very small rescue. Liz has got 16 dogs who can’t be rehomed because of behavioural problems because of what they’ve been through. Not because they are horrible dogs or anything, but because they’ve been terribly treated.
They’ve come from all over the world and she has them living in a home.
Now, a few years ago, she came to me and said I need to move house. I don’t know what to do, my landlord is asking me, asking for the house and the land back because he needs to sell it. So we kind of created a story about, you know, how can we help her, she’s got these 16 dogs, we can’t be rehomed, please can people donate.
Over the course of a weekend, people donated two grand, which was amazing. Then the story got picked up by This Morning and then it went in all the national papers across the UK and she’s appeared in magazines as well. So, it was a very, very sad story, and thankfully Lisa has found a new home now. Um, but yeah, that’s the power of storytelling really. And what we did was we said these are the dogs who are so desperate. There was Eric who’d been shot 50 times in the head and there was an x ray of the bullets in his head, that was Deller and Dot, who were bait dogs. And they’d been thrown into fighting rings and we had photos from when Liz first rescued them.
And you know, its harrowing, but as I said in the post, this is harrowing, but this is why she needs your help. And people responded. They really dug into their pockets and it achieved what we wanted to achieve. I get emotional talking about this cause the things that she does, but that’s the thing. So think about emotions, think about, um, think about what people would find amazing or upsetting or shocking or, or inspiring or heartwarming, and these are the stories that you need to be telling. Sorry, I’ve gone off on a little bit that, but yes, that’s, that’s the key thing. Think about emotional responses.
Dom: Yeah. And there’s usually always like an angle isn’t there You might not have a dog with two legs or something that as in your face as that, you know, but there’s, there’s always usually some kind of angle and that’s what you’ve got to try and find.
Rachel: Yeah. Oh, another good angle are stories about fashionable dogs. So I know a lot of rescues we’ll be getting Instagram dogs that have been bought for Instagram and then handed over to rescue.
This is very current. It’s very newsy, and it’s something that lots of people are concerned about. Some people buying dogs for social media purposes, and then it doesn’t work out. People are breeding dogs for social media. There’s Hope rescue in Wales. I did some work with and they were talking about China Jugs. It was a Chinese crested, cross it with a Chihuahua and a pug, and all three of these breeds that all have health issues. And she described them as Frankenstein dogs.
Now I saw her post on social media about that and I contacted her and I said Vanessa, I want to do something with this, can we work on it?
And we did a piece that went in the Daily Express and then got picked up by lots of other people.
So using articles that are already in the media, and topics that are very current are a great way to get PR.
And then also, you know, the kind of, you will have dogs come into your rescue who will have come from extraordinary circumstances. So again, you know, nobody wants dogs to be used in dog fights. If you do have a bait dog come in that’s an emotional story.
So if a dog has been used as bait in a dog fight, local paper, we’ll want to highlight that because it’s so awful and their readers will want to do whatever they can to help that dog.
So if you can highlight the terrible thing that the dog has been through that will help get you publicity for your charity.
I don’t want to come across as being a sensationalising misery or anything like that. But ultimately if you’re running a shelter, you need to have money coming in and you need people to know about the work that you do. And you need people to read about, read stories about the dogs.
How can we remember you? So then when they’re thinking of it, they concentrate. So these are the stories that people to journalists and editors are interested in. So again, I’m saying, I’m repeating myself. I don’t want you to think I’m sensationalising things, but that’s what you need to do.
And another thing to do as well. I will stop soon I promise, is to think about the dogs who’ve been through shelter and then you see them doing brilliant things.
As an example, there’s a dog called Rolo, who is an RSPCA dog and he came from a puppy farm. He was really poorly, you nearly died. And then he’s gone on to be a Pets as therapy dog and he’s a really famous pet as therapy dog. He’s got a big Instagram following, and he’s on the Pets as Therapy calendar, and on their website and he’s an ambassador for Pets as therapy, and he even sits with people when they’re going into hospitals and hospices and he built relationships with people, particularly in the hospices, obviously, you know, it’s end-of-life palliative care. And he will go with the patient and he will build a relationship with them.
And quite often ring up Claire, Rolo’s owner and say, you know, I’m sorry, but I think you know, my relatives, they haven’t got very long left, but they said that they want to see roller and roller.
I’m, getting emotional talking about it, but that’s just extraordinary.
So if you’ve got a dog that’s come from your rescue that’s gone on to the extraordinary things you should talk about that and help get the message across that these dogs aren’t damaged.
They can go on and do amazing things.
Final story. So Roger Mumford, who runs the company of animals, he’s retired now, but he used to train the Queens corgis and he goes rescue dogs from China and South Korea.
He went and rescued a load of dogs from South Korea a few years ago. They came back and they became some of them went on to be medical detection dogs.
So we all see what goes on in South Korea and it’s horrendous. You know, the way they treat dogs and meat markets is terrible. And what he wants us to do, he, he wants to get the message back to, to the people in those countries to change hearts and minds that these dogs are now saving people who’ve got cancer that detecting cancer and lots of other life threatening and life limiting illnesses.
So things like that as well.
And that’s another rescue dog story that gets covered because it’s just extraordinary seeing the things that these rescue dogs are capable of doing.
Dom: You’re able to tell a full story then aren’t you through a, through the press or it’s like, obviously we know that it’s sad that dogs are in rescue and we need to do more to help them and stuff and it shouldn’t be happening, but it is.
So it’s like, how can we highlight that? But without just talking about the same thing.
And like you just said, talking about the successes that can come out of rescues, you know, really helps to take the stigma away from rescue dogs and made people see that they’re little undiscovered gems out there. Not only are you going to save the dog’s life, but the dog’s going to bring so much more to your life, and potentially other people’s lives as well, you know?
Rachel: Absolutely. Yeah, the Mayhew rescue, just did a campaign with Lily’s kitchen actually, where they are matching people who retired and older people, with senior dogs because quite often people who are older might really want the company of a dog, but then they worry about something happening to them, and then who would look after the dog.
So they would be much better suited to getting a senior dog who is more suited to their lifestyle.
If you’re doing something like that, then the media will love to hear about it. Yeah. And yeah, and then just your general fundraising, your events and things that you do in the community.
So some sometimes like rescue centres might send their dogs into schools to help children read and things like that. And it’s all lovely, heart-warming stuff.
If you can think about photos as well and maybe video. If you’ve got a little rescue dog going to school, helping the children read that kind of thing, or if you’re having a fun dog day you can get I the paper for that too
Dom: Yeah, for sure. What, where can people go, Rachel, to find out more about you and what you do.
Rachel: Okay. So I’ve got the best place for people to come and find me is in a Facebook group. So if you go into Facebook and search for publicity tips for pet businesses, it’s a Facebook group and I share loads of tips and stuff in there. And I’ve also got a blog, which is called publicity tips for pet businesses.co.uk.
And my book is on Amazon as well.
I blog kind of blog every week. But the Facebook group is the best place I think.
In the group I think about ideas all the time that might prompt you to write a press release. This week for example there has been a story about Boris Johnson adopting a Jack Russel. So you might want to send your local paper an email about that, and they might come and talk about Jack Russell terrier, who needs adopting from your shelter. That’s an angle for you, and that’s the kind of stuff I share.
Sometimes it’s a bit wacky but it works. You know, it works cause you do, you, you do as you’re told, don’t you dogs. So yeah, it does definitely work. So yeah, I’d love to see that. And um, yeah, there are some of the rescues and the group as well, like Emma who has the two like it’s dog Sherry who’s running the marathon.
Dom: Yeah. Fantastic. Hey Rachel, thank you so, so, so, so much for this and for your ongoing help with my own business, and also the help it, you have donated to the Tour de Rescue event.
It’s much appreciated and I wanted to say this before, but I forgot actually. What’s given me a really big buzz at the minute is like how everyone’s kind of pulling together with this. I know this happens all over with lots of different rescues, but it’s been fun and fantastic for me to get you involved, get Ben involved with the website with the Vicky who is coming along to one of the talks as well, and then all of the dog trainers that I know, you know, to get all them involved as well. It’s been pretty brilliant.
Rachel: Well it’s down to you. You’ve made it all happen. So yeah, full credit to you for this. But yeah, I’m really pleased to be a part of it and to be, you know, sharing these stories, so that’s fantastic.
Dom: Brilliant. So I shall see you at the northeast of festival on Saturday, and then I’ll see you on Monday. Thankyou.
Rachel Spencer is a freelance journalist who writes about animals and the pet industry for national newspapers, magazines and websites. She helps pet professionals, brands, rescues and charities with blogging plus training and online programmes explaining how to work with journalists and get featured in the media.
Visit site www.publicityforpetbusinesses.co.uk
In 2011 Dom Hodgson revolutionised the pet service industry with his first business Pack Leader Dog Adventures, the UK’s first, award winning ‘dog adventure’ company. Now a respected dog trainer, author, speaker and mentor to pet business owners, Doms calling is to help dog walkers, trainers and groomers to excel with their marketing, so they can help change the lives of more dog owners with their amazing skills. You can join the elite, ambitious pet business owners inside the Pet Business Inner Circle, or apply to work with Dom personally by going to www.growyourpetbusinessfast.com.