If you’ve worked in local government communications for long enough you’ve probably been asked for help in preventing dog fouling at some point. Yes, some dog owners still allow it. Here’s how one council approached it and what they learned along the way.
By Gill Gwatkin
Here is a story of a campaign that – in the ‘old’ days – would have been a press release, a press launch, a number of posters – and if we were lucky, one or two pieces in the local press.
But thanks to a new emphasis on content, not just ‘news,’ we’re reaching far more people than that. Plus, it has provided a ‘best practice’ blueprint for new ways of working across disciplines, with communities – and sometimes out of our comfort zones as press and marketing officers.
It’s a ‘tale’ (sorry!) of a dog fouling campaign that needed to capture the public’s attention before a major change in enforcement activity.
We wanted to share some of the new things we’ve learned with you….
1. A good video really does make a difference
Here is ours here. Within hours of us sharing it, it was being liked, shared and commented on via social media. People loved it and are behind the campaign. Not only does it drive home the message that people will be fined if they don’t clear up after their dog, it’s funny too.
2. Your best ambassadors are the community
We know people are fed up with dog mess but they often blame dog owners and the council. We enlisted the support of ‘doggy’ groups, litter campaigners and a local kids’ football team. They are the campaign’s biggest champions and are sharing the video widely and enthusiastically.
3. See everything as potential content
Not just the video, the photography, and the press release….we have been and will be sharing individual posters from the campaign, (there is a suite of six, eyecatching, cartoon posters), photos of the canines that appeared in the campaign, (the cuter the better!), numbers of people fined, photos that the public are sharing with us. This doesn’t mean using content indiscriminately, but there is nothing like an engaging image or post to get people thinking and sharing.
4. The ultimate aim is to inform residents
What are you doing, why are you doing it, how can dog owners avoid being fined, where can they dispose of dog mess, if they don’t comply, what can they expect? As well as engaging images and content, you need to supply the hard facts that people need to make the change in behaviour that we need – and they have to be given in clear, concise and plain English.
5. Don’t expect people to share – you need to take the lead
People didn’t just decide to start sharing the video, you need to email, tweet, gently coerce, and ask them to. On the day of the launch, we contacted all the contacts we knew from the media, social media, blogs, websites, and asked them to share. Within the first few hours, most of them did with the result we had it on print and broadcast media websites, local environmental blogs and of course social media. We’ll do the same for them too.
Have fun with the campaign and don’t be afraid of public debate
Many people wanted to know why we hadn’t done this before, or when the enforcement team would be visiting their area. As Wirral Council, we are happy to engage with them and give them the answers they need (if we can). Some people just wanted to know who did the voice over on the video, and how we manufactured such realistic looking dog mess for the filming – we don’t’ mind what we’re asked, we’re just happy that it’s providing a talking point.
For further info, the campaign was managed by Laura Furlong of Wirral Council’s Marketing Team, and filmed by Mills Media, with full input from the council’s marketing and communications division. For further info, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
Gill Gwatkin is press office manager at Wirral Council
image via Wirral Council