July 20, 2021
Categories: Marketing, PR, and Social Media

This is a guest post written by Caitlin Quinn, Director of Operations at HeARTs Speak. Stay tuned for part two on Thursday!

It is an understatement to say we’ve all heard enough about 2020. But it’s also a year that revealed many important lessons that could help make a brighter future for the pets and people we all serve, if only we take the time to reflect. Let’s look at a few timely takeaways from 2020 that we can use in marketing our programs, animals, and organizations well into the future. 

People want to help, but need direction
We saw a heightened version of this amid the COVID-19 crisis, especially early on when everything was rapidly changing. This rings just as true now. We know the public may not have access to the information or knowledge that we have, but being clear about how they can help or how an evolving situation is unfolding can make all the difference. 

  • Use relationships with media (press releases, news alerts, personal outreach to reporters) to get the word out. Don’t hesitate and communicate updates in a timely manner. Here’s a great recent press release from Pima Animal Care Center
  • Realize that uncertainty is okay, but keeping the public in the loop is critical. Be patient, responsive, and transparently share information. Check out this example from Norfolk Animal Care Center
  • This is also where we see a critical intersection between our policies or programs and our communications. For all organizations, being able to explain operational changes in clear messages for your constituents is where the magic can happen. Get comfortable repeating yourself and standardize responses so the same message is coming from all departments. 

We can be the source of positive content that builds connections
COVID-19 also showed us that we could bring goodness and hope to people – and a break from everyday life. Marketing joy and companionship of pets means that we can tap into universal human emotions, deepen commitments and develop trust.

  • Positive marketing doesn’t mean that you gloss over the tough stuff. In fact, when your general messaging centers on hope and connection, it allows the community to respond to messages of crisis because they understand the situation is urgent.
  • This style of marketing also means that we can also push back against stereotypes and myths, not just about the animals we serve (they’re not all broken or unwanted), but also about our work (caring, compassionate people who care about keeping families together), our services, and our clients. 

Take a second look at marketing materials to ensure they are welcoming and inclusive
Our marketing goals are to establish community connections and offer solutions for pets and the people who love them. That means we have to be conscious of the ways we may be thwarting our own progress. Two of our most important marketing tools are words and images, and we must be willing to overcome bad habits and biases in both these areas to dismantle barriers. 

  • Marketing needs to compliment policies and procedures. Making changes to our external marketing materials does not in any way replace much-needed practices like auditing our programs, overhauling our hiring practices, or doing deep internal work to reduce discriminatory policies and barriers to inclusion.
  • Take a close look at the words used in public communications and appeals. Are we expecting the public to know terms that are more like industry jargon? Instead, look at how you can translate those terms into concepts that everyone can understand. Other important considerations include translating materials into other dominant languages in your area, captioning videos, using alt-text on images, and understanding and using person-centered language. 
  • Does our imagery represent our community? We can take steps to ensure that everyone has a chance to see themselves in our mission by taking more photos and videos that show staff and volunteers interacting with animals, and by building a portfolio of images that dismantle stereotypes. Learn more and explore inclusive stock images if you need a place to start

And perhaps the biggest reminder of all: We have the power to deepen community connection and support through our interactions and communications — even when they occur online or from afar.  By maintaining compassion for people as well as pets, we ultimately help build trust, support, and lasting relationships. 

Want more? You can watch an early recording of this presentation from the Association of Animal Welfare Advancement Learning Center.