Cate and I were about to go on holiday to Cornwall. We were ready for an epic road trip and relaxing break. She dropped off the dogs at a boarding kennel about twenty miles from our home in London near a town called Chertsey. Our holiday plans suddenly changed when we received a call to inform us our oldest dog had escaped.
We spent the next four days searching a ten mile radius for up to twenty hours per day. We weren’t going to stop until we found Savannah, our beloved Miniature Pincher. Thankfully, we eventually found her about four miles from the kennel. She was thin and dehydrated, but had survived to live and bark another day.
After the incredible sense of joy and subsequent relief had subsided, I was reminded how one can find inspiration in everything and anything. If I hadn’t found her my perspective may have been different, but I’d like to think I would have taken something out of the experience no matter the outcome.
I was inspired by the incredible people who gave up their personal time to help with the search. I will never forget their kindness. Our little dog’s survival instinct and quest to find us after breaking out of the kennel was also an inspiration.
As a communications and public relations consultant, I no longer take for granted my profession’s ability to influence outcomes and drive tangible results. It took losing my Miniature Pincher to drive home the following truths:
Plan for success: Cate and I had discussed an initial outline of our plan of action as soon as we heard Savannah was on the run, but it took us at least 24 hours to make time to define our strategic approach. We were so focused on the search, we hadn’t made enough time to plan properly as we feared it would take precious time away from our mission. It was clear we hadn’t made enough time to think and be strategic. I’ve found this often to be the case in marketing and communications campaigns with clients expecting immediate results and agencies eager to please the new client. By dividing specific responsibilities between us and setting clear metrics against a defined timeline we immediately noticed a big difference in our approach with far more sightings of Savannah reported by the community. Our plan targeted community engagement, local public relations engagement and a digital content strategy.
Get to know your target audience: Savannah went missing in a multi-use area of villages, farmland, industrial sites and towns intersected by major road arteries. The local community played an important role in finding her. The campaign took off after my wife and I began meeting community members who welcomed us into their homes, caravans, shops and parks. We received many calls detailing her whereabouts and were given sage local advice about the search area. Our grassroots approach was supplemented by an engaged and enthusiastic online community who helped us spread the word across forums, instant messaging platforms, local media, social channels and face-to-face.
Integrated marketing communications works: The marketing and communications sector has been through a profound evolution marked by an integrated approach to content generation and stakeholder engagement driven by the convergence of society’s media consumption across shared, earned, paid and owned channels. I used a mixture of tactics including paid social media, targeted media influencer relations, various poster designs, a call centre, social media platforms and face-to-face community engagement. Once I understood the Surrey stakeholder landscape (our core audience), I wrote tailored content ranging from a text message to a radio station’s morning show about our African dog trying to escape Surrey to a Facebook page post written in the first person (or in this case in the ‘first dog’) relating the adventures of a dog on the run. The community reacted well to the local content framed around a scared and helpless dog’s point of view. She pleaded with them to catch her if they could! Her Twitter handle was used to update the community on everything from Savannah’s recovery to other lost dogs. We discontinued Savannah’s Facebook page.
We had one goal. It was measurable, clear and tangible. We achieved it!
This experience changed my life forever. I feel grateful to have found our little dog and in doing so I was reminded about why I do what I do for a living.
If you are reading this post and have lost your dog, please don’t ever give up. Dogs are smart and there is a good chance you will find your furry friend. I encourage you to read my wife’s tips for finding a dog posted on this London veterinarian’s Facebook page.