Now that National Purebred Dog Day 2015 is in the rearview mirror and there’s been a chance to assess and reflect, can the day be considered a success, and if so, by what measure? Did it have an impact, what can be learned from it, and where do we go from here?
To answer one or two of these questions, let me tell you the back-story of the photograph below because ultimately, I’ll be referring back to it.
“Steve” is the newest hire at our local watering hole, and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Prior to taking this picture, I had wandered into the dog-friendly brew pub with my camera knowing there’d be a few dog owners around. After snapping pictures of few purebred dogs with their respective owners holding the “I (heart) Purebred Dogs” sign, I thrust the sign into Steve’s hands on impulse and told him to smile for a picture. Steve turned the sign over, read it, and immediately said, “But I rescue.”
Think about this.
In less than a second, Steve’s mind made a distinction between purebred dogs and rescue dogs. His reaction was so visceral that he couldn’t have reacted faster if I’d given him a sign to hold that read, “I am a girl.”
Once I pointed out to Steve that rescue dogs can also be purebred dogs, the proverbial light bulb over his head went on. “Oh yeah,” he said, visibly relaxing as I took the picture.
His wasn’t a unique reaction. With permission from the storeowners, I had put small stacks of “I (heart) Purebred Dogs” stickers free for the taking at the check-out counters of a couple of shops. They went virtually untouched. The part time help at one pet shop rolled their eyes and hinted that the stickers had caused more problems than they were worth, while at a coffee shop, I overheard several customers scoff at the signs and snidely profess a need for National Mutt Day. Note to them: National Mutt Day was created in 2005.
Was I surprised? Not in the least. An entire generation has cut its teeth on the adopt-don’t-shop mantra. One need only have witnessed Steve’s knee-jerk reaction at holding the sign to realize how engrained this mindset is among his age group. It’s not realistic to expect NPDD’s message of inclusivity of all purebred dogs to instantly undo thirty years worth of subliminal messaging, advertising and marketing, and not especially when I have cheese in my refrigerator older than National Purebred Dog Day.
Does this depress me? Not in the least, nor should it dampen the enthusiasm of those anxious to turn this ship around because on May 1, there were some very encouraging scenarios playing out on social media right in front of our eyes
Regular readers know that I sometimes go backwards to make a point, so bear with me as I do this once again.
I no longer remember the name of the study that looked at highly successful college graduates, but I do recall its finding: Researchers found that it isn’t always the smartest people who succeed in college, but those who are willing to work the hardest. Very often, exceptionally bright students “coast” through high school with great grades only to struggle in college where they discover that they actually have to study and work hard to get the grades they got in high school and perform at least as well as their peers. These peers, who were perhaps more intellectually average, had to work hard in high school and got really good at it. Finding themselves as “average” comes as a real shock to former high school standouts.
I was reminded of this study as I watched Twitter on May 1. When faced with an onslaught of jubilant purebred dog owners, the AR and ADs (shorthand for “adopt-don’t-shop”) proponents struck me as a little surprised at what they found on Twitter. Perhaps because they haven’t had to cope with being irrelevant for some thirty years, they whined and complained and got ugly, but because they were unable to engage us, they were left to whine and complain only with each other.
I saw a similar reaction earlier this year during what had to be a dark time for PETA. In short order:
- The Virginia Senate passed a bill aimed at preventing PETA from killing dogs and cats at their headquarters in Norfolk;
- An ex-PETA-operative-turned-whistleblower wrote a scathing account of PETA’s culture of death;
- A “rebuttal” video slamming PETA for their absurd attempt to remove from the Internet the video of a cat being “shocked” with animated electricity went viral and made PETA look foolish, but on someone else’s terms.
For a entire week, several of us on Twitter made the most of their “black week” by tweeting and retweeting the details and links to the stories. The reaction of the animal rights zealots to our tweets?
Crickets. Finding it difficult to defend the indefensible, they had nothing to say.
Despite that difficult time, I expected PETA and ADs zealots to be out in force on Twitter on May 1, a platform where their comments couldn’t be deleted, and sure enough, they were there. It wasn’t, however, what they did that caught my complete attention. It was what we didn’t do.
We refused to get “sucked” into the Animal Rights vortex of negativity. We ignored them, and that revealed an important shift in our attitude. We were unwilling to play defense to their false accusations, and instead went on the offense by posting photographs of happy, sound purebred dogs along with our messages of celebration and pride.
This was huge.
At every turn, we preempted their message with ones of our own. Hearing that there were plans to suggest that Colorado, the state that legalized marijuana, couldn’t possibly have been thinking clearly when it passed the resolution recognizing National Purebred Dog Day, we beat them to it, but on our terms:
When “they” complained that there was no shelter or mutt day, we set the record straight within minutes:
We reminded them that purebred dogs are not just for show, but have a purpose:
When they talked about rescue, we reminded them that we’ve been doing it for a long time:
When they mentioned diversity, we had an answer there, too:
The public needs reminding that there is more at stake in this conversation about responsible dog ownership:
Inherent in these tweets is a message aimed at reaching hearts and minds because despite restrictive legislation, what we’ve really been fighting is a cultural attitude hostile to purebred dog ownership and ethical breeding.
Today’s rescue movement started with good intentions and an awareness of a profound need to help animals at imminent risk, but increasingly, some elements within the effort have grown to be more about money and control. Like most political machines, it needed an enemy, and we were it.
The more we railed against lies and deception, the guiltier we looked. By sticking to our message on May 1 and ignoring the opposition, we took an enormous step forward by essentially saying, “Don’t bother us, kid,“ (you’re too inconsequential to matter).
What we did on May 1 was variation of the religious quip: “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.” We “preached” our “gospel” by posting photographs of sound, happy purebred dogs. We used hashtags to tap each other on the shoulder as if to say, “I’m with you. You’re not alone. We’re solid.”
As far as I can tell, our strength, our unity and our joyfulness seemed to befuddle an opposition unfamiliar with being ignored. For all their chest thumping, they had only each other with which to do it, and it had to feel like clapping with one hand while expecting to make noise. Thinking they could preempt our day by using our hashtags on their hateful messages, they instead helped #nationalpurebreddogday and #purebreddogs “trend.”
And speaking of trending, let’s look at the numbers:
- On May 1, 2014, National Purebred Dog Day had 17, 100 page fans. On the same date exactly one year later, (some ten days ago) we had 40,427 page fans.
In under 36 hours on May 1, 2015, National Purebred Dog Day added 1,300 new Facebook fans. If this were Oreo Cookie’s Facebook page with 39, 999, 897 total page likes, this number probably wouldn’t register on their radar, but proportionately speaking, this is a respectable number. To put it in different terms, the number of new people who liked National Purebred Dog Day’s page grew by 690.0%.
Pretty darn respectable, right?
- In 2014, National Purebred Dog Day had a “reach” of 88,500. One year later in 2015, we nearly doubled it with a reach of 152, 449 impressions. For anyone who’s wondering, “reach’ is the number of people who got a look at a National Purebred Dog Day post whether they were “friends” of NPDD’s page or not (in Facebook Speak, this is called an “impression);
- The number of visits to NPDD’s page on May 1, 2015 went up by 87.63%
- The photograph of the “May Pole Bloodhounds” you saw earlier? That picture by itself had over 17,000 views;
- The total reach for the week (which, let’s face it, came down to one special day) grew by 38.5% while the people who were engaged with NPDD went up by 18.8%,
It gets better.
When Westminster Kennel Club posted the following on their Facebook page on May 1……………………….
…………………the post was shared over 1,350 times. Over one thousand times.
It gets better.
Chris Walker at the AKC was kind enough to share its internal numbers with me.
- On the AKC’s Facebook page, 1.2 million people were reached and the AKC garnered 1.8 million impressions;
- The AKC reached 150K and garnered 350 impressions on Instagram;
- The AKC’s total on social media owned channels? 1.6 million users were reached with 4.45 million impressions.
I hope the AKC doesn’t mind me lifting a direct quote made internally by their social media team, but it’s too good not to share with those of you who’ve been with this effort from the beginning. They said: “This is an incredible result for one single day.”
But wait, it still gets better.
The AKC also reported about their effort on Twitter. The numbers speak for themselves:
- 240K Reached;
- Over 2.3M Impressions;
- 701 retweets;
- 72 replies;
- 239,869 accounts reached.
National Purebred Dog Day was covered by Canine Chronicle, Dogster, Dog News, World News, Best in Show Daily, DailyMe, Cracks in the Fence, Regator, Viral News 365, The Virginia Federation of Dog Clubs, Simply Piper, Lisa Unleashed, Doctor Barkman and MyBrownNewfs (all online presences with big followings) as well as the AKC and Woofipedia which were hugely supportive of National Purebred Dog Day. Those are just the ones I know about.
In 2014, we had a good beginning because our murmurings were heard. This year, we roared, and as good as 2015 was, 2016 needs to be the year we step up our game and move beyond the Internet. Why? Because of Steve.
I alluded earlier that we are fighting to regain the hearts and minds of the public, people like Steve. For all the press releases that were sent, however, many media outlets won’t cover an event unless there’s an “event” worthy of boots-on-the-ground videographers and their cameras. I have a few ideas, and always welcome more, but until those get fleshed out, I’d like to hear your observations of May 1.
I can’t conclude without thanking Chris Walker and the AKC’s Social Media Team, as well as Lauren and the Glow Team at Westminster for helping promote National Purebred Dog Day. With their enormous Internet audience, they gave NPDD greater exposure. An enormous debt of appreciation also goes to the fine writers, Lisa Peterson, Jennifer Costello, Caroline Coile, and Jane Brackman who wrote about the day on their very popular sites. Evidence of their influence was all over Facebook and Twitter.
David Frei and Jack Grassa brought their sense of merriment to their judging duties for the various fun photo challenges that were run on National Purebred Dog Day, and I’m especially grateful to them because I know how busy they are. They helped select photos for which I was able to give prizes donated by people who believe in National Purebred Dog Day. Please support these business: B-Air Dryer, Smart Candy Shopper, Black Dog Coffee Traders, StellarMule, Raw Dog Leather, PetEmpawrium, Lindsay of Not To Standard, Collie Expressions, and Pat Ross Mere and Chris Border Terriers and Havanese. We had a great deal of fun looking at the pictures you all took, and I’m told you had fun, too.
As you get on with the rest of 2015, throw your “I (heart) Purebred Dog sign in the car because you never know when the opportunity arises to take a fabulous picture. Perhaps you’ll go to an event where a celebrity will be willing to pose with the sign. Perhaps you’ll find a cool setting for the sign. The work begins now.
And finally, a word to you. If you posted a picture or comment that included NPDD’s hashtags, if you wrote a tweet or retweeted someone else’s, if you shared someone’s else’s photo or post on Facebook, Instagram, YikYak or Pinterest, and if you changed your avatar so that Facebook and Twitter looked like the screen shot above, May 1 was all you, it really was. Trending on Twitter didn’t happen because we wanted it to, it happened because you showed up. Sitting at my kitchen counter (or sometimes on the couch), I could literally feel your energy and see how much you put into the day. Please know that it was noticed. Please know that it was appreciated. Please know that it mattered and that you made a difference. And to think that we’re just getting started.