When you’re running a rescue it’s vital people in your community know about the work you do.
More dogs find homes, animals lovers volunteer to walk the dogs and donations can help cover your running costs.
Working with your local media helps you amplify your message so how do you go about it?
I’m a freelance journalist and I’ve worked with hundreds of rescues and charities helping them share their stories in the media.
As a nation of animal lovers, journalists and editors know their readers love uplifting and heartwarming stories about pets.
People also dig deep in their pockets when it comes to helping animals in need.
A YouGov poll (https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2018/02/26/what-kind-person-would-rather-donate-animal-charit) last year asked people if they would rather donate to human or animal charities and a third chose animals.
With a little planning you can build up relationships with journalists in your area who can rally support for your rescue.
Below is a step by step guide for you to follow.
1. Do your research
Take a few hours to find out the publications that cover your area.
Search online for newspapers and websites and get out and about to find freesheets and magazines.
The more places you have to pitch to, the better. Also reach out to any pet bloggers who live near you.
They will most likely be happy to support you and their audience will be made up of animal lovers, exactly the kind of people you want to reach.
2. Build relationships with journalists
Journalists have papers or websites to fill or radio and TV shows in need of guests and interesting stories.But you can’t just demand they write about you.
Building relationships is really important.
A great way to start is on social media.
Once you’ve done your research, study the names of the journalist and find them on social media and engage with their posts.
Twitter is the platform where they hang out and put out story requests which you can respond to.
Once you’ve built a rapport, invite them to come along to see the work you do, or ask if you can meet them at their office.
• DON’T be disheartened if they say no initially. Cutbacks mean many reporters barely leave their desk. It doesn’t mean they’re not interested in you.
3. Give them stories
Journalists want stories and your rescue will be full of them.
When you leave the shelter and you meet your friends or family, think about the stories you tell them that leave them captivated.
These are the kind of stories that journalists want to hear about. It might be a heartbreaking tale about a dog being saved from a terrible situation.
Or a story about a dog who was mistreated or abandoned going on to do extraordinary things to help people.
Here are a few examples of stories about rescue dogs I have shared that have appeared in national newspapers.
How Sherry the two legged dog is running a marathon on wheels.
Meet the rescue dogs who are helping tackle loneliness for the over 55s.
How a dog once used as bait in dog fights is cheering up residents in a nursing home.
Rescue puppy Olaf is helping domestic violence victims as a therapy dog.
How a dog rescued from a Korean slaughterhouse is now saving lives.
4. Make their lives easy
Sadly there have been huge cuts in local newspapers over the last two decades and many are running on skeleton staff.
My old paper had four photographers back in 1999, now they only have one. Reporters can’t go out on jobs as often as they’d like to.
So it’s important to give them all the vital information they need to write their story.
If you have a story, put the key points in an e mail, including photos, and call up the office.
Ask for the news desk or news editor, say who you are and give a very brief outline of what the story is and say you can send over the details on e mail.
The conversation might go something like this:
You: Hi, it’s Rachel from Scrappy Paws Rescue, can you talk for a moment?
Reporter: Yes, I have a minute.
You: We have a story about a rescue dog, Sandy, who came to us in a terrible way, she had been used as bait in dog fights.
She has now fully recovered and is a lovely, gentle character. We have found her a new home and she is going to be living in Fairfield nursing home, cheering up the elderly residents.
Reporter: That sounds like a lovely story, can you send over some details on e mail?
You: Yes, please give me your e mail and I will do that now.
See, it’s easy. Always call and get a name and e mail address.
If the journalist asks for a press release, on my website you’ll find an easy to follow template to use to write one.https://www.publicityforpetbusinesses.co.uk/
5. Network in your local community and online
This is really important because the more organisations you can get involved in your local rescue, the more people learn about you and the more chances there are of you finding homes for dogs.
Think about the people you can work with.
Can you take dogs into schools and give talks on rescue dogs and why being kind to animals is so important?
Perhaps the dogs could sit with children as they read?
Could the dogs visit local nursing homes to cheer up the residents?
What about taking a well behaved dog to a networking meeting to talk to businesses about the work you do?
Is there a volunteering centre in your town or village? Can you get involved there?
What about dog friendly cafes? Could you work together sharing stories about dogs in need of homes? Put up a pet of the week poster?
Things like this all help get the word out there about what you.
Do the same on social media. Spend some time going through every dog related business close to you and connect with them.
So dog walkers, groomers, trainers, people who make dog products, dog friendly places, social media influencers, bloggers.
Reach out to them all and collaborate as much as you can and remember your ‘why’ is to help dogs and give them that second chance for a happy life.
If you’d like more tips on promoting your pet business, brand, rescue or charity, you can join my free Facebook group, Publicity Tips for Pet Businesses.
and on my website https://www.publicityforpetbusinesses.co.uk/
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.
Rachel has supported the tour by writing press releases and learning resources for partners on how to get media coverage