Expanding on my theme of promoting AKC all breed clubs through websites, I found a 2015 post in the Canine Chronicle written by then AKC Public Relations Director, Stephanie Smith. In it, she talks to Dr. Alan Dorfman, a show chair associated with one of the Michigan dog show cluster websites I mentioned in my review of the AKC club website webinar. The Michigan Winter Dog Classic includes the Oakland County and Livonia kennel clubs which hold four of the largest all-breed conformation shows in the state. Their January show weekend includes rally, agility and obedience trials and they share space with a changing cast of other dog events, including the AKC’s My Dog Can Do That program open to the general public, which the public loves, but which can be controversial among competitors. Dr. Dorfman went into more detail about how they changed the positioning of the event from dog shows to a family event when they added the My Dog Can Do That activity in another Canine Chronicle article.
The cluster’s secrets to success include being open to new ideas and balancing the needs of both exhibitors and spectators to make it an enjoyable and memorable event for all. The event also has procured sponsorships with local media and a dog food manufacturer and engages in multiple advertising and public relations tactics to focus attention on the event in the month leading up to the shows. Click here to download the AKC’s guide for promoting dog clubs, which provides public relations fundamentals and templates. NOTE: The link to this document is broken in the Canine Chronicle article.
It is clear from my perspective as a potential exhibitor that the cluster website is targeted at the general public rather than the exhibitors or the event-giving clubs. There are at least 9 different clubs involved in the cluster, and none of them are mentioned by name on the cluster website, only links to outside sites that host information about entering. The only service providers of interest to exhibitors that are mentioned by name are the veterinarians and clinics involved in the health clinics. This is consistent with the cluster’s focus on presenting as a family event rather than a series of dog shows and trials, and looking at the gate vs entries figures presented in the Canine Chronicle articles, this strategy is paying off, as total attendance is more than a 3X multiple of total entries quoted in the article.