how a cute dog meme helps scoop up a sticky comms problem

It's a tricky problem and something that people regularly complain about. Dog poo. But how do you communicate it? With an internet meme. A pic with a message that's easily sharable.

by Helen Reynolds

One person's dog poo is another person's gold.  When a few weeks ago I was asked to think of something for social media to encourage dog owners to stop leaving their dog's poo around I knew we had a great opportunity to get people talking.

Nobody likes stepping in a dog poo.  A few weeks ago I was on a date and I stood in the same poo outside my house twice. Embarrassing! 

So this weekend we've been trying to make people smile and make dog owners think about their responsibilities by sharing pictures of dogs (kindly offered by my friends on Facebook) with funny captions I added with an app on my phone. We tried to have fun with the story on our website too and our local paper and BBC Radio Wales carried the story.

Creating a meme

I love Mark Schaefer’s formula for creating good content: RITE: relevant, interesting, timely, interesting. We tried to bring these qualities into the campaign.

Cute pictures of pets work well with people online: a funny or sweet photo can bring a quick, short smile to our faces. Increasingly we consume things on mobile phones and we want bitesized information or we want to be swiftly entertained. 

We were inspired by our neighbours in Torfaen who had great success with their lovely gritting campaign. It's good to have a little Christmas fun.

As a council we want to be approachable and relevant to people's lives so hopefully people will respond well to this mini-campaign. 

Over the weekend of sharing the pictures we've tracked just over 200 tweets and we’ve had about 300 Facebook likes, comments and shares on our page.  We also posted the images in local Facebook groups and on Pages like the Keep Wales Tidy Facebook page. 

I'm pleased to say the majority of local dog owners are very responsible and support our efforts - and they seem to like the dogs featured.

Trust

I’ve been thinking a lot about Edelman Trust Barometer recently and what some of the fascinating insights in the report mean for modern PR. 

Alan Vandermolen says:

“ Trusted enterprises can drive the agenda of their organizations in explicit partnerships with stakeholders, leading to increased value for employees, customers, suppliers, communities, investors and, ideally, society.”

I hope that these kind of campaigns that show a bit of personality and creating content designed to entertain as well as inform will show council staff are fun and normal people too.   

Dog poo is a subject we can all relate to one way or another which means we can connect on an issue that annoys us all. 

In a small way that connection increases trust in the council and makes people more likely to talk to us about the harder subjects that affect lives in the county too.

Perhaps talking poo is actually good for society!

Helen Reynolds is social media manager at Monmouthshire County Council.

Picture credit.