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Strategic Storytelling: Follow These Expert Tips to Get Publicity for Your Pet Business

By Mary Tan//April 30, 2024//

Strategic Storytelling: Follow These Expert Tips to Get Publicity for Your Pet Business

By: Mary Tan//April 30, 2024//

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You work all day dealing with the challenges of your business, including supply chain issues, a customer service incident or an employee that didn’t show up for work. On top of that, you’re under intense pressure to boost sales and you barely have any kind of a marketing budget. Sound familiar?


As a pet public relations expert, I want to tell you that you can do PR by yourself. I’m a firm believer that if you believe in yourself and your business, you can get the publicity you want. It takes grit and tenacity, and no one will promote your business better than yourself.


When it comes to PR, I focused on “earned media,” which means media you don’t pay for and where you don’t control the content or when it’s published. PR is earned media, which can build your reputation. There’s nothing more flattering for businesses and companies to get credibility when a trusted journalist or influencer gives you glowing praise. What are some things you can do to spark buzz?


Know your audience

First, you need to understand the media you are pitching or sending a press release to. Right now, you’re reading Pet Age, and the focus of this magazine is to let you know the cool new things happening in the pet industry, whether it’s new products or trends in manufacturing. It’s a business trade publication aimed at the pet industry so Pet Age wants to know the latest and greatest for the furried, finned and feathered. General business publications can also be interested in new products and pet business development.


Find real people

But send that same pitch or press release to the mainstream media and most of the time they’ll just delete it. I know that because I did that all the time as a former local broadcast television journalist in cities all over the United States. I would get dozens of pitches emailed to me every day. Most of them I would delete immediately. I didn’t want a sales pitch about a new dog bone or pet food on the market. What I did want, was the story behind the new product or store. Was the founder of the company a heroic veteran in Afghanistan? Is your product made by local people with special needs? Do your employees foster the pets of domestic violence victims in transitional housing? Pitch stories about “people” not products when it comes to mainstream media outlets. Granted, there are exceptions.


Turn lemons into lemonade

Unfortunately, in the world we live in, bad thing happen. Bad things attract attention. The media loves crime stories. Data shows that’s what people watch. In 2022, someone stole the 20-year-old trailer of Purrniture, a small cat furniture company and store that I work with in Minnesota. While worth very little, the trailer was important to the owner, as it was how he has delivered his cat furniture to area pet stores since 1991. The business is rather unique, and the owner is a bit eccentric, so on a whim I emailed the local media and told them about the devastating crime. Within a half an hour three media crews were at the store. Later, much to my surprise, the news stations told me the stolen trailer was the most read story of the day. The stories generated a GoFundMe page, instigated by one of the local television stations, to help him get a new one. While this was not a great day for the business, the amount of sympathy was overwhelming and the sales over the next few weeks sparked his best year of sales ever. He reached new customers that had no idea his business even existed.


News outlets have credibility

It’s been shown that most people still trust their local news organizations. If you’re a pet store, don’t forget your small community and neighborhood newspapers. Many of them are still widely read, as it’s the only place to get news of your town, village or city. Remember the Chinese spy balloon story over Montana that made international news? That was first reported by a small community newspaper. It spread like wildfire when the newspaper put it on social media.

Of course, when it comes to PR, there are never any guarantees. You can put out dozens of pitches and never get a hit. Many of us in the PR profession get rejected pitches all the time, it’s just part of the job. So don’t ever give up, because eventually you’ll hit a news person who is going through a slow news day and your pitch came at the perfect time. With strategic storytelling, you can do it.


Mary Tan is the chief storyteller of Whisker Media, a Minnesota public relations agency focused solely on the pet industry. A former broadcast journalist and cat advocate who fosters dozens of kittens in between writing press releases, she recently launched her new blog, the Whisker Report.