LR: Welcome to Pure Dog Talk, and today, we are talking to Katie Campbell. She is member of Seattle Kennel Club, and member of The Board of Directors, and a breeder/owner/handler of Basenji’s. And, she’s gonna talk to us today about media, and how your dog club can use your local media, and involve members of the community, and involve people and get them to see the sport. So, welcome Katie, thank you for joining us.
KC: Oh, my pleasure Laura, it’s always great to talk with you.
LR: So, talk to us a little bit about what Seattle Kennel Club’s doing. You’ve got a big show in a big metropolitan area. How do you get people in the door?
KC: Well, it’s a challenge, right? And every dog club has their own challenge when they put on shows. For us it is that, here we are in Seattle, a growing metropolitan, cosmopolitan city that draws people from all over the world, for not only aerospace but also for the tech industry. So, it’s becoming more and more of an edgier cosmopolitan city all the time, and with that we really have to think about what’s trending and how our mission with preserving pure bred dogs and having them as members of our community, with people that live in our community. You know, good folks, good dog folks, and how we’re going to have them choosing pure bred dogs as their companions in their home. So, it’s all about making our sport relevant to this audience that we have here in Seattle, and to build upon that, to foster these relationships. So, we’re looking for ways to do that and I’m happy to share with you what’s been working for Seattle Kennel Club.
LR: And that’s amazing. I think that’s what all of us are hoping to do with our dog shows, right? We want to make people understand why pure bred dogs are the best!
KC: Right! Well, it is and it’s a challenge, right? Because the breed of the day is the rescue, it’s the rescue breed.
KC: PITA and HSUS and their associates have made it truly fashionable to have a rescue dog, and yet you know, here we are, we’re the responsible breeders, not the irresponsible ones, and we’re lost our identity to the general public. And the identity that we’ve allowed to have happened has been slapped on us by the labels of the PITA organizations, the PITA friendly groups, and we’ve allowed them to label us. So, when we know in our hearts we’re really doing the right thing, I mean we’re the ones doing the testing, we’re the ones supporting The American Kennel Club, The Canine Health Foundation and AKC Pet Disaster Relief Trailers. I mean these various things that we do that are really fostering the relationships between people, human beings and their dogs, I mean it’s one of the most simple pleasures, right? A human being, being able to own a dog that they keep in their home with this unconditional love. I mean what’s more fundamentally important and worth preserving then that?
LR: Ya, that’s amazing and I love that. So, tell me exactly or with some great ideas for other clubs to follow, what’s Seattle Kennel Club been up to? What are you guys working on this year?
KC: Ok, what we’ve been doing in the last several years due to the territory policies, we have to stay within the confines of Seattle proper. That’s our territory and there’s not very many venues for us to be at. Not too many of them that are dog friendly to the extent that they’ll allow us to put on a dog show, with you know the track that’s going in and out of it, and the various things that we all require for the safety and general experience of our exhibitors and our dogs there. So, it’s very, very expensive. We’ve been at the CenturyLink Event Center for many years now and it doesn’t get any cheaper to be there. Union wages and various other type of things put extraordinary costs upon us that keep driving the price of the show up, and without gate, we could never make it. There’s just no possible way that we can charge to our exhibitors what it costs us to be there. So, we’ve had to foster or supplement, you know bridge that gap for us, by making the dog show relevant, worthwhile and entertaining for the public to come and attend, and be willing to pay money and come in the door. So, the types of things many of you who have had the opportunity to come to our shows and be able to see, we’re really proud to have a “meet the breeds.” I’m sure you’re familiar with that format, we have that in a booth-by-booth organization type, that you know, when you will have The Evergreen Basenji Club set up their booth, and you know have all of those things. Your listeners know what I’m talking about with that. So, and those are really super great to be able to promote to the public, because that’s an opportunity for them to go through sort of a shopping mall of not being able to purchase any dogs of course, but to have the education to be able to see them up front and ask all the tough questions.
LR: Right. And I think people, we love the meet the breeds because people have the opportunity to interact with breeders, to interact with the dogs that they don’t always get at a regular dog show. And it has sort of come to replace the benched show feel, where the public was able to do that more readily.
KC: Exactly, right. And I can’t speak for every club, but a lot of times the people who come and staff those are the people who own the companion dogs that are members of our club, not the exhibitors. And, when they come, really the public plugs-in with those folks the best because we have to remember as dog club members, even though we’re really passionate about showing and we’re always looking for show homes for our terrific puppies, you know the fact of the matter is that we’re trying to reach out and connect with these people to have them appreciate the hard work we do as breeders of doing the right thing to preserve these breeds. And the breed booth gives the opportunity for them to get a taste about the history that comes with it. I mean, owning a pure bred dog is the opportunity to own a piece of cultural history, and that’s really special. We know how special that is, and people don’t know what that is until you have the opportunity to have that venue, so I think that that’s an important way that we can share that with the meet the breeds there. And, most people are just looking for a companion. The 1st step is to turn people into getting a pure bred dog and enjoy the beauty and the responsibility and support that they get from a responsible, good breeder, that’s the 1st step. Maybe that dog turns into a show dog and maybe you’ll get the opportunity to show it, but what’s really more important is that we win those people by having that pure bred dog in their home.
LR: And appreciating the value of a dog that comes from a responsible preservation breeder.
KC: Absolutely. So, I think sometimes as people who steer a dog show, we lose sight that that’s a fundamental crux of what’s important, of putting on a dog show. We’ve all seen our numbers going down and maybe getting flat. I think things are getting a little better as we’ve come out of the recession across the county. But, if we just keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’ll continue to die as clubs, and putting on dog shows and all that. I mean, the fact is if clubs simply look at, by publicizing a dog show, if the best that they can do is say, hey we’re going to annualize our weekend, everyone knows we have our shows this particular weekend. And then, count on the superintendent to send out the premium lists and that’s it, that’s all that you do, I guarantee everybody’s numbers’ going to keep going down. You have to do something else, and you have to inspire the next generation of dog show people to want to come along. And that’s found in the public, and your own communities have to find a way to connect with those people to make our dog shows and our sport, and The American Kennel Club relevant to them. That’s your challenge as the show committee.
LR: And, that is amazing. I think it’s so accurate and I think Seattle Kennel Club has historically done a really great job with that. So, with the meet the breeds booth, then they also have pretty packed agility competition that I remember watching.
KC: Oh ya, right! The agility, it’s been pretty popular over the years and it’s particularly exciting for people to watch as a sport. And it brings people in, people like to see it and it causes excitement, and that’s what’s entertaining about a dog show. It’s that excitement, and there’s a lot of great, positive vibe that goes on at the agility ring, the agility folks, they’ve got a great culture within themselves. It’s supportive, it’s very upbeat which is great. Some confirmation people could take note as you know.
LR: I totally agree with you! You’re right.
KC: I know. That’s kind of a whole other conversation, but if we can’t keep good sportsmanship front and forward in our dog shows, that’s gonna hurt to. People see it, people see it with their families and they just don’t want to be part of snarkiness, right? So, we need to be able to make good sportsmanship the norm again, and make sure that poor sportsmanship is not rewarded.
LR: Absolutely dead on. It’s a valid point Katie, and I think unfortunately we miss that, and it speaks a lot to the draw of agility and some of the other performance aspects of pure bred dogs. Because, that’s where people find fun, so that’s where they’re gonna go.
KC: Right. And it’s got to be fun. I mean, there’s a lot of us, myself included, I mean I’ll keep doing this as long as it’s fun, I want it to be fun, right? And we want other people to have fun, so we need to create a fun environment and part of that at a dog show, for us with Seattle Kennel Club, we need to have them not only come in the door, but be willing to pay to come into the door. We need to really have this great venue of so many things to see that we love it to be almost overwhelming, that’s it’s just that exciting. So yes, agility is another feature that we’ve had. We’ve also had, in addition to the breed booth upstairs, we’ve had that classic meet the breeds also, that American Kennel Club has been introducing us to, where just a few breeds are selected and we have them sort of in a mock ring. Where people can walk in and there’s many of them on the table and people talk about the breed a little more casually, but you’ve got multiple representatives live and in-person for people to connect with. We like to do those for breeds that are new, and or that are often misinterpreted by the public so they have the opportunity to show themselves that way. That’s been popular. We also have a demonstration ring where we bring in all kinds of types of activities that are indeed very entertaining, and prove the worthiness of what dogs can do to serve the public, and well as being companions. We’ve had bomb sniffing type dogs come in and demonstrate what they’re able to do with their nose work, which has been terrific. We’ve also had dogs come in and demonstrate various types of functional work that they can do. Like, Utopia has come in and they demonstrate how they can herd, with you know bringing in duck, fowl, whatever, and showing how they can pull those in together. And that opens the door for great conversation to talk about instinct with particular dogs, and how those can work for your family, or not work for your family when you’re looking to acquire a dog. Also, we’ve had fun things that are entertaining, you know the whole dancing with your dog’s deal you know creates, have been very, wildly popular. This year we’re adding a new demonstration of fly ball. To be able to show that, we have some members of Seattle Kennel Club that have been very successful in fly ball, so we’ll be having a demonstration there which is great. Those types of things are really attractive to the public. Barn hunt is another sport, but we’re not able to do barn hunt this year at Seattle Kennel Club. Fire Marshall’s regulations says that we have to have their course written when you know, they’re looking to find the rat in a tubes, but there’s been other venues that have been very successful with barn hunt at the show, and that can also be interesting for other clubs that are able to do that. Like, if you’re working on fairgrounds rather than a metropolitan building. Those are the types of things that, when you augment that with your rally-o rings, you’ve got you agility ring, you have your meet the breeds, and you’ve got your breed booth, and we solicit vendors to be able to come and encourage that shopping.
LR: You have amazing, amazing vendors there. That is one of the things about The Seattle Kennel Club shows, you have some of the best vendors I’ve seen, except for maybe Chicago International, you have got the best vendor line-up I’ve seen.
KC: Oh thank you Laura. We work hard at you know, cultivating those and just finding people throughout the year that we think might be interesting, and you know turning them on to Seattle Kennel Club as a place where they can reach that kind of gate. Then we also have our show tours which was one of my earlier responsibilities when I came to Seattle Kennel Club, to spearhead those, where we have people to book ahead and for certain time slots, and we give them a tour of the dog show because they don’t know how it works. So, we take groups around and take them all over and show them the grooming area, and kind of give them tips about etiquette, so that those who are getting ready to play the game, you know they don’t get interrupted before they go in. And we teach them how a catalog works and the basic game of elimination with the dog show. You know, the overviews of agility and the overviews of rally-o, and we take them all over the whole facility and give them a tour, and they come out super energized. I mean the change in people of maybe, that somebody dragged them into this, it’s amazing how people come out. They are super turned-on by everything that Seattle Kennel Club is doing, and many of them really turn their heads around with their opinion about what dog clubs are, and how important we are to the community. Or, how we can be important to the community.
LR: Right. And so, talk to us then about the relationship you guys have developed with the local media that sort-of enables, or encourages all of this to be so successful.
KC: Sure. Well the American Kennel Club has opportunities for any club to reach out to them for information of how to build your media, and to build your impact with your community. We at Seattle Kennel Club have certainly milked that, I’ve reached out to them a number of times and I have been very, very happy with the support that I’ve had from The American Kennel Club, they have never let me down. They have media professionals that are there specifically to help us with stuff that’s media oriented, and they have been nothing short of terrific. If you’re looking for media work and you’re not reaching out to them, then you’re letting go of a terrific resource, it’s just there for the asking. Secondly, we would not be where we are currently without the help of Ranny Green. Ranny Green is not a member of Seattle Kennel Club, but he’s been a longtime friend of The Seattle Kennel Club. And many of you will know Ranny as an award-winning journalist who wrote for The Seattle Times, wrote the pet column for many years, and has won numerous award for his writings referring to dogs, and wrote our Seattle Kennel Club stories which have now been picked up by The American Kennel Club, so he’s writing stories for them. Ranny knows people in all the nooks and cranny’s in journalism.
LR: That helps, that helps a lot.
KC: It’s huge, it’s huge to be able to have someone that has those kinds of connections, and know how to be able to open doors. Randy’s been fantastic, we pay him a nominal fee each year to help us with that. And we pledge to him that he doesn’t do it all, we have to have club members like myself, work with him diligently with what he can roll into motion. But, he’s fantastic, I’d encourage any club to get a hold of Ranny Green and see what he can do for them.
LR: Give me a concrete example, give me something specific that you guys are working on, say for this year.
KC: Ok, so this year we have a media budget, and in the media budget as a line item with per show, and with that we go and purchase radio time. So, we purchase on-air segments that come in packages called a Media Buy with Radio, and with that, if you negotiate well with your Media Buy, then you usually can get an interview with that same radio station with some kind of talk show that they have, so you’ll have the opportunity to have something similar to what you and I are doing here, that goes on the air. To buy drive-time is worthwhile on radio, and it’s a lot less expensive that what you might think. It’s of course very dependent on what your market is, so there’s no sense in me quoting numbers here, but you know it’s worth looking into anybody doing it. You’d be so surprised what kind of a kick you can get out off of radio time, it’s worth the buy. We do of course have something to kind of stick in front of that, it’s a press release. You need to know how to put together a press release, AKC can help you with that, Ranny always helps with ours as well, it just has a basic overview. You want to have that in the media’s hands comfortably, three months head of the show so that they can on their calendar. And then also the press release, then you can tap it, Ranny can help tap into TV aspects, you know he knows the people in most markets that are involved in local television so that you can get your foot in the door. The little local, I mean you know from a metropolitan market to another metropolitan market, those usual, you know morning of afternoon talk shows where they talk about various things that are happening, you know Evening Magazine, that type of thing. You have to have a story though. You can’t just say “hey, the dog show is on at the Fairgrounds this weekend.” You have to have something that’s new and exciting, so that’s always what TV is looking for, is an angle we affectionately call it the media hook. You know, what is it that news worthy about your show. Here again, that’s about making what’s relevant and newsworthy about your show. Why should anybody come to your show? You know, you have to let them know what’s happening and why they should come as the public. And, journalists want to make sure that there’s always something new, it can’t just be pure promotion so you have to come up with something. There’s lots of new activities that AKC is putting through the pike, which allows us to tap into, not every club does everything. But you know the peewee, and that’s wildly popular. I mean, if you’re a listener to this podcast and you haven’t seen peewee, man.
LR: You’re talking about Peewee handling.
KC: Yes, I am, right. It can be a game changer at a dog show with how it connects with the community, they love it.
LR: Right. Very adorable for children from, I’m trying to remember, is it six to eight? It’s for pre-Junior handler age.
KC: Pre-Junior handler age. Where the parent is also present in the ring and helping them when necessary, to boost the dog onto the table when necessary, which of course adds to the adorableness of it all. And it really encourages these pre-Junior handler age to be involved in the sport, and just to have that connection with their dog. So, in order to have television, you have to have something that’s new and relevant. We traditionally reach out to whatever the new breeds are that AKC has been accepting this year. This year we have the Pumi which is going to photograph fantastically.
LR: Ridiculously cute!
KC: Ridiculously cute!
LR: American Hairless.
KC: American Hairless. Whatever’s new in the year that you can get an entry at your show. Of course, you don’t want to feature something on TV and then not have an entry. So that’s part of what my job is with media, is to figure out what breeds are new, and then to reach out to those parent clubs to find out, do you have anybody exhibiting that? Or do I know them at dog shows and find them myself, and say hey, what can you do about building an entry at this show so that we can feature you on TV before the show. Of course, if there’s new sports and things, that’s why I was saying I would love to have barn hunt this year, I think barn hunt is just catching on like wildfire. Barn hunt titles can be attached to an American Kennel Club registration on the dog so the title sticks, so it dove tails perfectly into a show and it’s exciting to watch. And its various other activities, you know you have to have something, National owner handler series, something that makes it newsworthy to have the media come, because they won’t just come by you saying, “we’re having a dog show, please come.” That’s generally not enough. And if you don’t something otherwise, you can leave yourself to be inappropriately mocked a little bit, so I really want to caution people that they really put the best person you can forward in your club that’s going to be able to work gracefully with the media, and help keep it real and relevant to the public, that’s just super critical, I can’t emphasize that enough.
LR: That’s great. Just having whoever is in charge, if that’s not necessarily the best spokesperson, isn’t gonna get you where you want to go.
KC: Right, right. It needs to be somebody that has that ease with gift of gab, shall I say, without over-sharing, right? You have to have a filter, let’s be honest, right? You gotta have a filter.
LR: Absolutely, you gotta have a filter!
KC: And, be able to respond on the fly, because some of these journalists are gonna ask a hard question, and if you’re going live, you have to have someone who can really do that. Knows what their message is and is going to stay true.
LR: I know you’ve done some of these. What was the worst question a journalist ever asked you? Can you give me one off the top of your head?
KC: Well of course the burning one that always comes out, and you know I’ve gotten to the point where I always have something in the can, is: well why should somebody get a pure bred dog instead of a rescue? I mean, a rescue needs a home, right?
LR: And your answer is?
KC: When you acquire a dog, you also acquire the guidance of the person, the responsible breeder who bred it. And if there is no responsible breeder behind it, then you don’t get that value. There’s also that every dog needs a home, pure bred or not, they all need homes. And if you have a busy life and if you are the type of person who appreciates expertise, and if you are a researching type of person that really is looking for the best fit for your home and your lifestyle because your resources or your time is limited, it’s much better to be dealing with experts than it is with something that has nothing behind it, by definition.
LR: Ya, that’s a great one. And I think too, one of the things that I always talk about is pure bred rescue.
LR: If the person feels strongly that they want to do that as the way of choosing their dog, I think that’s spectacular, and every single parent has a National Club Rescue. And these are dogs that are pure bred that you know enough at least about what the breed and the breed traits are, and you can then have a pure bred dog that you’re also meeting that need of wanting to do a good thing and find a dog a home.
KC: Right. And then of course, I mean it depends how you want to coin it, but there’s also those golden nugget opportunities of building a relationship with a breeder and being patient for when they are ready to retire a show dog. Or, when a responsible breeder keeps maybe two and runs them on from the same litter and waits until they’re six months or a year to decide which they keep, and then the other one’s available to a companion home. Those are amazing!
LR: Ya, exactly. Or, a responsible breeder that takes back their dog like they’ve said they will do, and it doesn’t wind up in rescue, but it still needs to be placed in a new companion home.
KC: Absolutely. Another thing that we offer at The Seattle Kennel Club shows that I know is immensely valuable, is we have this front table desk where we have people inside and outside of the table that greet people as they come in the door. And we point out where people can see their various activities, we have a welcome packet, or we have what we call a spectator’s handbook that we have printed for us that includes the judging program an overview of how dogs work, list some of our vendors. That’s part of the vendor package that when they sign on with us, they can get space in this take-away piece that they take home with them, so that works out with the vendors. So, anyway to have someone that will answer questions just up front for just members of the public, and that’s approachable. I sometimes see these tables and clubs will say, oh hey, well we do that, so & so sits at that desk and nothing ever happens. Well, where do you put that table? Do you put that table way back, deep into your show-site, like you know, near your superintendent where the members of the public can’t find that table? I mean that table needs to be close to where it is. I think it works best when you think of it more as someone who is more like a Walmart greeter. People are walking in out of the parking lot, you know, say hi.
LR: I talk about Walmart greeters all the time, yep!
KC: Ya! So, it’s like greeting people when they come in. Most of us, we know each other, dog show folk. If we don’t know each other by name, we know, you know, oh that’s Laura, you know got the German Wire Hair Pointers, you know Laura. But then people who just come in off the street, they have neon on their foreheads, we can all pick them out for the most part. Those are the people that we really need to reach out to, and welcome them for coming, and if they’ve got something in their hand and they look like they’re kind of staggering around, it’s like, can I help you find something? To have those people that are there to greet, to make all the difference, whether people feel like they just visited our show and had no involvement, or that they felt welcome and received and that they felt connected.