Let’s Work Together: Collaborating with AKC Dog Clubs

five dog paws like hands in a circle

This is a summary of the webinar  presented by AKC Club Development which talked about clubs collaborating, not only with other AKC clubs, but other types of dog and community events and attractions.

Guy Fisher, Manager of AKC Club Development was the lead presenter for this webinar.  Guy started off with some administrative best practices, and then gave examples of the types of events and collaborations that have been used successfully by clubs around the country.  He also shared some innovative ideas for funding, promoting and staffing these events.

Best Practices: Get It In Writing!

AKC memo

Guy started by sharing links to a number of documents (pdf) that clubs will find helpful in navigating their relationships with one another in a multi-club collaboration. AKC has rules about clubs’ priority rights to show locations and event dates, so there needs to be a written understanding of which clubs are doing what, when, and for how long so there’s no confusion.   A group of clubs collaborating is referred to as a cluster, and there are requirements for common event planning and paperwork submission for these events. Each club also has individual responsibility for its own event(s).

Moving Back Home with Multi-Events

Many clubs have moved out of their original territories when venues have changed hands, closed, or significantly increased rental fees. I was affected by this when my club, the Progressive Dog Club of Wayne County was forced to do this when our venue decided to violate our contract and give our reserved dates to a different sporting event.  Performance events occupy less space than an all breed conformation dog show. This means holding a performance only event may allow a club to move back into a smaller venue in their own territory, making it easier to engage with the population they were chartered to serve.

Michigan has at least four dog show weekends that include multiple AKC and non-AKC events, they are all held in large venues and include large all breed dog shows.  At one of these large show clusters, I noticed a flyer for a performance only event hosted by the St Clair Kennel Club.  This “Spring Fling” event which will launch in May, 2019 includes four rally and four obedience trials and a collaboration with the Barn Hunt licensed Scamper Detectives club, which is holding two barn hunt trials.  The event also includes several sanctioned matches and a number of dog sport demonstrations open to all.   They are using the same site as the kennel club uses for its all breed shows, which is in its assigned territory.

Guy emphasized that the AKC is supportive of multi-events. As long as clubs follow AKC guidelines regarding special attractions (pdf), they will do as much as they can to help clubs plan and execute a successful event.

Your Community Can Help

Guy fielded a number of  questions after the presentation.  He shared a number of suggestions, including several ways that clubs can reach out to their local community for help.  This absolutely makes the most sense when you can also hold your event in the area that bears your club’s name. Clubs can also reach out to the communities you’ve adopted because they have hosted your existing events. Some suggestions from the Q&A are listed below:

  • Encourage members to participate in the AKC Mentor program to encourage new people in the sport of purebred dogs.
  • Reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce, they can help both with publicity and connecting your club with community organizations that can assist you
  • Offer family-friendly admission packages and promote them to local parents’ organizations as a family-friendly outings, have someone assigned to greet and guide families who attend the show
  • Personally contact local businesses to suggest ways they can support and promote your show.  Sell space on banners that can be hung around the show site. Approach other clubs about cross-promoting events.
  • The AKC Public Education department has a Girl Scout Patch program that can be marketed to local Girl Scouts, allows members to get badges for participating in a program at the show which encourages safe behavior around dogs as well as learning about dog shows.
  • If you need more manual labor than your club can provide, consider reaching out to your community to see if they can offer your event as an option for people required to perform community service.

Learning by Example

I’ve been looking for examples of multi-events and am reaching out to people  involved with them.  I you belong to a club are interested in hosting one such an event, AKC Club Development is a great  place to start.

The number of performance event options is growing, and hosting these events offers conformation clubs an opportunity to grow an event that can help fund other activities. Since these events are open to all dogs, regardless of background, they offer a common ground for dog lovers of many backgrounds to come together.  Performance can be a gateway to conformation and a way to get people exposed to purebred dog fanciers and conformation events like 4-6 month puppy and sanctioned matches that may be more accessible to newbies than a licensed all breed show.

If you are involved with an AKC dog club that is involved with a multi-sport event, I’d love to talk to you about it!

 

Cleo  Parker

Cleo has been showing Bull Terriers in AKC events and working with dogs and dog clubs since she was a teenager. Her professional career has been spent working in marketing insights and analytics in a variety of industries, including automotive, advertising, and pet specialty retail.

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AKC Helps Dog Clubs Find Their Social Media Voice

illustration using social media terminology

I recently viewed the AKC’s webinar on “Finding Your Social Media Voice” which featured Brandi Hunter, the AKC’s Vice President of Public Relations and Communications. Ms. Hunter is clearly fluent in and enthusiastic about social media and covered a large amount of information in the hour scheduled.  I think I’ve got a fairly good grasp of the topic, and still felt like I was drinking from a fire hose of information. I am going to provide a broad overview of the webinar in this post, and plan to come back to it to cover more of the tactical details. I hope AKC Education will bring Brandi back to share more of her knowledge of this topic in future webinars.

SOCIAL IS BIG

Brandi shared that over 3.3 billion people use social media and the average person has almost 6 social media accounts. More than 4 out of 5 of small to medium size businesses use social media. She feels all dog clubs can benefit from using social media to reach out to their members, potential members, exhibitors, and the dog-loving public.

SEVEN SOCIAL TIPS FOR DOG CLUBS

  1. Start with one social media platform that best fits your content and abilities, but please create a social presence!  Social media is an important outreach tool, especially for younger audiences.
  2. Assign no more than one or two people to be the primary voice of the club so you have a consistent voice and tone
  3. Always be on the outlook for things your club can share with other dog lovers
  4. Social media is all about engagement, more important than the number of people who see or like your pages are the number of people who post and share your content.  Give them a reason to comment on your posts and encourage their interaction by asking for shares, comments, pictures, and videos.
  5. Post consistently, this can be one of the most difficult things for dog clubs who have one big event a year.  Share what your club and members are involved with throughout the year, not just leading up to or on your event weekend.
  6. Share relevant content from other places, the AKC has multiple social media accounts and plenty of content worth sharing.
  7. Make sure multiple people have admin access to the club’s social media, using a club email address as one of the admin accounts, for example, “social@myAKCclub.org” is a good idea to make sure someone from the club can always get access to the account.

THE SOCIAL BIG THREE

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are the three most popular social platforms.  Each can be used to promote clubs and their events, and each has strengths aligned better with some uses than others.

Facebook LogoFACEBOOK

Sixty-eight percent of all adults in the USA have Facebook accounts, and it is the second most popular place to watch videos (after YouTube). Half of all Americans who don’t have Facebook accounts live with someone who does.

Facebook is the most versatile of the three platforms. It allows the use of videos, images and longer content than either Twitter or Instagram. You can create event pages, public and private groups and can live stream events through Facebook. Each of these tools can serve clubs to help build community and share news about their club and its activities. Creating a page for a specific event makes it easy to promote and also share content unique to that event.    Facebook is second only to YouTube in video views.   Clubs are encouraged to live stream events on Facebook as long as they are not duplicating a live stream that AKC is already doing.

Some of AKC’s Facebook Pages:  American Kennel Club, AKC Gazette, Canine Good Citizen, Family Dog, AKC Reunite, AKC Club Development, AKC Scentwork, AKC Sports

instagram logoINSTAGRAM

There are roughly 1 Billion monthly users on Instagram. Instagram is very visual, it is a great medium for promoting events and sharing short videos, but not links or long text. Instagram is owned by Facebook and has the youngest audience of the three social platforms discussed in the webinar. Brandi emphasized that Instagram users LOVE dogs and dog-related content.

The heaviest Instagram users are susceptible to Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO.) Sharing photos and videos of dogs and interesting events might trigger enough FOMO to get Instagrammers to check out your club and events. Brandi suggested that behind the scenes videos, for example, dogs being groomed, vendor spotlights, and juniors profiles were all great Instagram features.

Key to using Instagram is adding hashtags, which are keywords preceded by a # symbol.  Using 9-12 hashtags on your post is a good strategy, take some time to identify hashtags that are relevant to your club and events.  For starters, #dogsofinstagram, #dogs, and #puppies are relevant hashtags many people are following.

Some AKC Instagram accounts:  American Kennel Club, Museum of the DogAKC Sports, AKC.TV

twitter logoTWITTER

Twitter has 1.3 Billion accounts, but only 326 Million users, it has the lowest proportion of active users of all 3 platforms.  To use it effectively, you need to be one of those engaged accounts, a recommended posting frequency is 5 times a day; the volume of tweets moving through any given users feed is so high you need high frequency to get noticed.

This platform moves very fast and presents everything in chronological order, which can make it difficult to track and find tweets. It limits the length of messages to 280 characters and is not as easy to use for photos and video as Facebook and Instagram.   Twitter can be used effectively for customer service or event updates, where real-time information is important.

Some AKC Twitter accounts:  American Kennel Club, AKC Club Development, AKC Museum of the Dog, K9 Health Foundation

READY, SET, SHARE!

I’ve said this before, but I strongly encourage dog clubs to use social media to connect with their members, potential members, and the dog-loving public. The tools AKC mentioned in the webinar are all free to set up. Identify someone with the time and computer skills to set the accounts up, then work to find and collect content to share.  There is no doubt in my mind club members have lots of cute dog photos, pictures of club gatherings and other dog-related events stored on their phones and home computers, they just need to share the image files.

One way to make photo and video sharing easy would be to set up an account at an online photo sharing site like Google Photos. From there, members can share photos from their phones and computers so that your social media team can access and share them in club accounts.

I would love to see some club social links in the comments!

Cleo  Parker

Cleo has been showing Bull Terriers in AKC events and working with dogs and dog clubs since she was a teenager. Her professional career has been spent working in marketing insights and analytics in a variety of industries, including automotive, advertising, and pet specialty retail.

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Building Better Websites for AKC Dog Clubs

Pug dog with laptop

The American Kennel Club launched a series of educational webinars earlier this year aimed at dog fanciers and clubs and I have been watching them with great interest.  I understand much of this content has been shared with the AKC delegate body, but I can’t say I had heard about these educational programs through my AKC member club delegate.  The last webinar for 2018 covered best practices in club websites.   The webinar covered the fundamentals of good website design,  including

  • Set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely, i.e. SMART goals
  • Identify the audiences that you are trying to reach
  • Identify actions you want people to take on your website
  • Design for mobile usage
  • Have a content strategy
  • Ask for visitor feedback via surveys, forms, or email
  • Use web analytics to track activity on your site, and also collect other relevant metrics, like event entries or membership applications to measure the site’s effectiveness
  • Integrate social media sharing tools so visitors can share your content

The presenter strongly recommended using a Content Management System (CMS) and mentioned WordPress by name, as one of the complaints that AKC hears from clubs is that their sites are difficult to update and CMS frameworks make this much easier.   He also recommended that as clubs analyze where they are vs where they want to be, that they focus on optimizing the impact of change vs the effort to implement it and focus on areas that should yield maximum impact for the least effort.

Two national breed club websites were held out as good examples, the Golden Retriever Club of America and the American Shetland Sheepdog Association.  Both are WordPress sites, the GRCA site has multiple call to action buttons on the home page to attract attention and provide measurable actions, and also has Google Analytics installed as well as social sharing on Instagram and Facebook.  I would have liked to see some good examples from all breed clubs and clusters as well as local specialty and training clubs, but this webinar was a good start with an emphasis on fundamentals.

Out of curiosity, I decided to take a tour of all-breed AKC dog club websites, and to keep the task manageable, focused on clubs based in Michigan.  The AKC lists 24 licensed all breed dog clubs in the state and of those, 7 have an active website and 9 are represented by a site covering a cluster (multiple show giving clubs holding events on the same weekend).  A couple of the clubs have both a club site and are included in a cluster site.  It looks like 6 Michigan AKC all-breed dog clubs have abandoned websites, and 5 have no dedicated club website, dead or alive, that I could find.  A number of clubs, including some with no other online presence, have a Facebook page.  I’ll go into more depth about the use of Facebook by dog clubs after the AKC webinar on that topic scheduled for March 13, 2019. I could find only one all breed club in Michigan that had no dedicated website presence at all, but it is listed as being part of a dog show weekend by the all breed club that shares its show weekend on that club’s website.

The websites vary greatly in quality and the technology used to create them.  There are several modern looking websites created in WordPress (both .com and .org), some created in low cost website building tools like yoursite.com and weebly.com and then a few created in vintage web building tools including FrontPage and Dreamweaver.  I found two sites created by companies that appear to specialize in the “dog club/dog breeder” space.

A difficult truth is that a significant proportion of active AKC dog club members and volunteers are Baby Boomers and dog clubs are struggling to staff and execute profitable events, which often means websites receive limited support and funding. The paradox is that younger generations, who love dogs and are interested in doing things with them, are looking for dogs, dog services, and dog activities online, but many clubs are not able to connect with this new audience through effective use of online tools.

To address this disconnect, the AKC will be offering webinars on social media strategy, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in 2019. I have had success using Instagram and Facebook to promote the Bull Terrier Club of Metro Detroit, attracting new people to our events who then decided to join the club.   Several of these new members mentioned they had no idea there was such a thing as a local breed club and they were excited to find like minded dog owners; an online presence can be a valuable tool for clubs looking to expand their reach.

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Promoting Michigan Dog Events, Products, and Services

The Michigan Canine Resource Guide is a unique publication targeted to dog owners in Michigan.   Beth Mitchell launched this guide to dog-related events, products, and services in Michigan in 2015 and it has steadily grown as more organizations and advertisers contribute.

Beth was inspired by the Arizona Equine Resource Guide,  published by her sister who is active in equine events in that state.  Beth didn’t have a horse, but she does have a dog, and she had spent a lot of time and energy finding the best resources to train her dog and resolve some behavior issues.  She thought there had to be other people looking for a central repository of information on dog events and dog-related services, so the Michigan Canine Resource Guide was born.

Beth started gathering content for the publication in 2014, creating a dog-themed cover and using her sister’s equine guide as an example of the type of content (with horses) that would be featured.  She had booths at dog shows and dog expos around the state and asked people she met at those events how they publicized their events, then explained how the Guide could expand their audience.  She also asked for referrals to other types of events and host organizations she should include.  She solicited ads from other event vendors and asked for referrals to canine professionals, retailers, and manufacturers to find other potential advertisers.  Many lunch hours on her day job included ad sales calls!  Event-giving clubs and organizations are encouraged to contribute dog events for the calendar to help make the publication as complete as possible; there is no charge for the listing.  Advertisers not only appear in the publication, their events are promoted through weekly emails, they are listed in an online directory, and they contribute articles and blog posts that appear in the publication, on the website, or both. Beth retains a creative director who produces ads and other content as needed and has several part-time ad salespeople recruited from the dog community.

The publication is still promoted through booths at select dog events, and every year Beth attends new events to reach a wider audience.  The guides are distributed free at dog events, participating businesses, and pet specialty retailers.  The guide can be viewed interactively online or downloaded in pdf format from the Michigan Canine Resource Guide website.   In addition to the guide itself, the Michigan Canine Resource Guide has an online calendar of events on their website, a directory listing for all advertisers,  and blog posts on a variety of canine topics.  The Guide also has a Facebook page as well as Instagram and Twitter (@MiDogGuide) accounts. It stays in contact with dog enthusiasts through an opt-in weekly newsletter and advertisers also have an option to send sponsored emails to subscribers.  As the publication has grown, Beth has upgraded her marketing tools and currently uses WordPress for the website and MailChimp to manage her email subscription list.

The Michigan Canine Resource Guide has grown steadily in event listings, advertisers, and circulation since its launch.  Beth’s goal is to provide all Michigan dog owners with the resource they need to find local businesses, services, and events that will enable them and their dogs to live a healthy, happy life together. The biggest challenge is getting ALL the dog clubs in the state to contribute information about their events in a timely manner, so the event calendar is as comprehensive as possible.  Beth hopes that as the Guide becomes more and more of a “must have” for Michigan dog lovers, every canine organization or business will feel it’s an important element in their promotional plan.

 

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Bedhead line extension: Pethead

Pethead logo
Pethead logo

I recently came across an article discussing Pethead grooming products in Pet Product News International magazine. Pethead is licensed to Skaffles LLC by Bedhead, which is an edgy brand of human hair products which features packaging with unusual shapes, colors and fonts.  This is the first time I’ve seen any human hair care or personal care brand extended into the pet space.  Like the Bedhead brand,  Pethead products are positioned at a premium price point, with shampoos at $18 on Amazon.com According to the article, this is also Skaffles’ first foray into pet products, the company previously specialized in trendy accessories targeted at teenage girls.   The Pethead brand also includes accessories for dogs.  Skaffles plans to further extend its pet products into grooming items for cats and American Kennel Club (AKC)  licensed merchandise.  This product line again confirms the humanization of pets trend and marks a breakthrough in crossover branding, which I’ve previously only seen in pet toys and clothing.  I’m eager to see what pops up next!

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Motel 6 offers discounts to AKC dog owners

The AKC announced today a promotion with Motel 6 which offers a 10% discount off stays at Motel 6 and Studio 6 motels. The official rules state that this is limited to one pet per room, which is the standard policy for Motel 6.  I think it is actually one “small” pet, which my friend Lisa and I joked about incessantly the time we stayed at a Motel 6 on the way back from our national specialty in St Louis with 3 Bull Terriers ranging in size from 50 to 70 pounds.  If they enforce the number of pets this isn’t going to be a great policy for people travelling to dog shows as they often take more than one, but it’s good to see a motel chain taking a pro-dog position by reducing rather than raising rates for people travelling with their dogs.

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