How to avoid blaming public for animal challenges - Ep56

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GUEST: Christie Keith is a communications and media consultant with an exclusive focus on animal welfare and veterinary medicine. Her current and recent clients include The Shelter Pet Project, the first public service campaign promoting an animal welfare cause in the Ad Council's 60-year history; Dr. Marty Becker, author and veterinarian; Maddie's Fund; Million Cat Challenge; Dr. Patty Khuly, veterinarian and author; and Vetstreet.com. As a writer and editor, Christie's work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle/SFGate.com, Bark Magazine, and the nationally syndicated newspaper feature "Pet Connection." She has been a speaker at a number of animal sheltering conferences such as the HSUS Animal Care Expo, Best Friends’ No More Homeless Pets, and the National No-Kill Conference. MAIN QUESTION: How can animal organizations avoid blaming the public in their messaging when talking about the challenges they face? TAKEAWAYS:
  • Your organization relies upon your community to make donations to support your work, to adopt animals, and volunteer. If we inadvertently blame the community for animal surrenders, we poison that well and hurt our own ability to be successful.
  • In the past, shelters and rescue groups fell into a pattern of blaming irresponsible pet owners, backyard breeders, and an indifferent public for the problems we were facing. These were real feelings and understandable, but this approach turned out to be undermining our own success. It is important to avoid falling into these old patterns.
  • When creating communications aimed at the public, figure out who the audience is and what you want them to do. This will guide your language.
  • Avoid using words like “dumping” or “abandoning” pets. People are turning to you for help with an animal they got from you – that’s what we want them to do. Give support instead of judgment.
  • Invite members of the public to be heroes by becoming a foster caregiver, adopting a pet or donating to help pets in need. Share how rewarding it is to foster or adopt.
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