The Bull Terrier Club of Metro Detroit was host club for the Bull Terrier Club of America’s 2020 National specialty in Frankenmuth Michigan in October, 2020. This is my local breed specialty club and I’ve been an active member since it was founded in the mid 1980s. We have hosted this event 4 times, but prior to this, the last time was in 1998, when promoting these events was a far different affair. I had been a co-chair the previous three times we hosted the national and had saved many of my notes. It was kind of quaint to find a full copy of one of the promotional packets we had mailed in 1998!
A National Specialty in a Pandemic
Our national’s crowning event is not the national specialty itself, but a non-AKC trophy competition the Silverwood Trophy for Best North American Bred Bull Terrier. The 50th anniversary of this event was in 2019, was an extravagant production with many special touches. It was a hard act to follow. Add in COVID-19 and just putting on a show at all was a challenge!!
In the end, we were very pleased with the results. Overall entries were down only about one-third from the previous year and our local specialty not only drew nearly as many entries as the national, but there were also very few absentees for a show the day after the national. Everyone who seriously thought they had a shot at winning got their dogs there, so the overall quality was excellent. Our social events were well attended, maybe half to 1/3 of a normal year, but given we usually have large contingents of foreign spectators, this was expected.
Event Facebook Page
One of the first things we did was create a Silverwood 2020 Facebook page. A Facebook page, is open to all Facebook visitors, unlike the closed and moderated Facebook group that the national club maintains.
This page had 3 admins from the event core team who were most active on social media, and we also made our webmaster an editor so she could add and respond to posts regarding website updates. Having multiple people ensured that we were able to keep the content updated and send timely responses to messages and posts on the page.
The Facebook page was our primary means of communicating with our audience of Bull Terrier fanciers that were interested in the event. We used Facebook to:
- Announce updates and drive traffic to the website for more information
- Address questions, I monitored questions we saw in Facebook posts or Messenger and created a document to answer frequently asked questions.
- I created posts in response to questions that were asked and to correct information posted elsewhere about the event.
- Announce deadlines and deadline changes.
- Promote Fundraising efforts, including our online auction before the event and a live auction held after our banquet.
- Promote merchandise sales and social event tickets.
- Allow guests to encourage others to attend, we had one former member who moved out of state but was a huge fan of Frankenmuth (event location), and she was helpful in sharing information about things to do in the area and providing contagious enthusiasm.
Scheduling Facebook Posts
There were several times where I knew I had to create a lot of posts over a set period of time, preparing for our online auction, sharing the FAQs to respond to questions about the events, promoting events before they closed, and promoting our live auction items. I was raising a litter born in May and started a new job in June, so I needed to use my time efficiently! Fortunately, Facebook’s Publishing Tools allowed me to create batches of posts when I had time to create them and then schedule them to post on an appropriate schedule.
Facebook Advertising Tactics
I also created Facebook ads and boosted posts on several occasions. I already had created a Bull Terrier centric audience for our local club’s events, targeting people with interests in Bull Terriers, Miniature Bull Terriers, and Bull Terrier rescue in Michigan and adjoining areas. For Silverwood, used the same audience, but changed the geographic restrictions since we were really targeting Bull Terrier lovers from all over the world. I don’t know where they found out about our online auction, but one of the winning bidders lives in Peru!
Other Social (not)
Since Facebook is the most heavily used social platform by dog show people in general and BTCA members in particular, that was where we focused our efforts. If I had more time, or a “social assistant” who was Instagram savvy, I would probably have added that next, as other Bull Terrier clubs and Bull Terrier owners use that platform.
The Bull Terrier Club of America chooses national specialty sites based on applications from local clubs rather than through a central planning process. The event was awarded to us fairly late, only 18 months before Silverwood. This meant our website and in turn sales of our commemorative items and party/banquet tickets also got off to a late start.
We recruited a club member who had some web development experience to be webmaster. She owns a finished champion but was fairly new to dog shows in general and Silverwood in particular. She talked to several previous Silverwood webmasters and decided to go with Wix. which had been used for Silverwood websites in the past, to build our site.
Wix was able to provide an attractive site that accommodated our needs. We did have some hiccups with e-commerce because normally Silverwood websites don’t have to deal with shipping. When you throw in shipping rates for many foreign and domestic locations, this can get very complex. So there was some improvisation needed to deal with the number of orders from people who were not able to attend the event. Using emails and PayPal notes our merchandise chair managed to get everything picked up at or sent out after the event.
Event Email Account
Another thing we did was to set up a Gmail account dedicated to the event, and give all eight members of the host club core team the credentials. The reasons we chose GMail were that it was easy to access online on any type of device, it gave us a Google Drive space where we could share files, and a shared calendaring system. In the end we didn’t use the calendar much, but we did created shared event and staffing schedules in Google Sheets which multiple people could view and update. We used this email as the contact address for the website and Facebook pages, which allowed every member of the core team to respond to questions pertinent to their area of responsibility.
Tips for Promoting a National Specialty
Most people look for information about dog events online, so it is important to get an online presence up early. In the early phases of planning your event, consider the following:
- Select a webmaster and ask them to locate and purchase an appropriate domain name, identify a web development platform, and decide what you need the website to contain and what functionality you need. It is especially important to be clear in your direction if the webmaster is new to creating a national specialty website.
- Create a “contact us” email address and decide who has access to answer questions that come in to that email.
- Select a Social Media lead, and ask them to create a Facebook Page. A page is important because it is open to everyone and will expand the reach of your event. If you have a need for “members only” discussion or content, you may add a Group, but remember someone needs to review and approve members and coordinate content between the two.
- If you are considering streaming any of the AKC licensed events, reach out to AKC early, and find out their requirements. It is likely they will allow you to stream to a closed group for club members, but not an open page.
- Decide who should have access to the business side of the Facebook page/group as admins and editors. Unless you have someone who has a lot of time to monitor posts and messages, it it a good idea to have multiple people in these roles.
- If you have sufficient people to cover them, add a presence on Instagram and/or other social platforms that you know potential exhibitors and spectators use.
- Create a content schedule, include things like when hotel reservations open, online fundraising events, club store open date, deadlines for purchasing event tickets and commemorative merchandise, show entry open and close deadlines. Anything that can be reserved in advance should have relevant dates added to this calendar. This will be a valuable reference for your webmaster and social media team.
- Discuss Facebook advertising and if you want to do it, set a budget and identify what you want to promote, so that your social media lead can plan their ads and post promotions.