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This Just In: You, Too, Can Be A Headliner

What do people in your community really know about your organization and its services? If you haven’t stopped to ask lately, maybe now’s the time to find out. The answers may surprise you. Several years ago, a focus group commissioned by The HSUS yielded some surprising answers of its own when moderators asked participants why they’d purchased dogs from pet stores rather than adopting from their local shelters. Was it because they’d had their hearts set on a young puppy? Had they wanted to find a dog they could breed?

Far from it. Focus group participants by and large said they’d avoided shelters because the dogs there were abused, sick, and injured. Some even claimed their local shelters had perpetuated that myth. Said one participant: “It’s in every piece of mail that I receive and every newspaper report I read about my local shelter.”

A poll conducted by The HSUS four years ago provided further insight into public opinion on the subject. The good news? The vast majority of Americans felt positively about their local shelters. The bad news? They had no idea what their shelters did aside from housing homeless animals.

Public relations may seem like luxuries that only large, well-funded organizations can afford. But outreach is a must for every organization that seeks to end animal abuse, find a home for every adoptable animal, and reduce relinquishments that could have been prevented.

Getting media attention can be a challenge in a world of 24-hour cable networks and Internet news sites that rely on breaking stories from around the globe as their lifeblood. But most people, including reporters, also crave stories with happy endings or pieces that inform and inspire. And any reporter, editor, or producer worth her weight in newsprint or videotape will tell you nothing works better than animal magnetism for encouraging readers to tune in and turn on.

This issue of Animal Sheltering examines the basics of establishing a positive rapport with local media, one of the greatest and least expensive avenues for reaching your community. Follow our advice, and you’ll make negative perceptions about shelter animals what they should be: a thing of the past.

Martha C. Armstrong
HSUS Vice President for
Companion Animals and Equine Protection

 

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