I Do Dog Tricks but not online PR

A few days ago, Judy Gombita emailed me a viral link to I Do Dog Tricks.  This is a really clever site where a Yorkshire Terrier dog obeys commands that you submit, such as sit, down, roll over, sneeze, jump, fetch, play dead, spin, vogue, dance, stand, shake, bark, and kiss (which is the best).

Very cute and one to pass on.  Although as it is intended to promote a dog worming product, , I was surprised to note the link from the performing pooch to the company wasn’t reciprocated from the corporate end (as far as I can see).

Then I noticed the maker was – a world-leading animal health company that I’d never heard of, until this morning. 

Merial Animal Health Limited is in the news owing to the current outbreak of foot and mouth disease.  I heard its managing director, David Biland, read a statement on the the this morning.  There is no indication that the company is at fault and its PR strategy of halting production, briefing employees to handle enquiries and stick to known facts was textbook.

But my second surprise of the day was that there is nothing on the regarding the current crisis, simply a series of promotional press releases and a statement:

Please find below recent company press releases. The information contained in these press releases was produced for bona fide agricultural and veterinary journalists.  It is not intended for the general public. 

Clearly the company doesn’t quite understand the value of using its websites to communicate with all audiences – whether they are customers who would like to pass on a cutsy viral video, or anyone wanting to know more about a crisis situation.

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

5 thoughts on “I Do Dog Tricks but not online PR”

  1. Hey Heather,

    ‘Jilli Dog’ is my 5-lb Yorkie featured in the Heartgard interactive game. I was always curious why it was never linked to a promo, but the Heartgard person that i contacted told me that it had wings of it’s own (so to say), and had 2,500,000 hits as of about a yr ago, and still popular. He also said that they often will shelf something, to use later…

    How did you know it was ‘Jilli’ in the game?

    She is my pet, and had entertained friends and fam for several years when she caught the attention of some people who saw her visiting nursing homes and hospitals etc, in her capacity as a ‘Certified Therapy Dog’ and trickster, and it just grew from there. It’s amazing how this tiny pup has taken us around the country, and next year we are doing 2 Eu tours. The trick that put her on the map is her “Jilli Dog Plays Poker”, but now she also does some magic tricks, plays basketball with her brother “Spidey Chihuahua” and much!

    I agree with you about the proper use of PR… With no budget, and not knowing what the heck I was doing, I just used the incredible internet blindly researching, sending emails, pictures, videos etc to anyone I thought would be possibly interested. In the beginning it was more for comraderie in the dog or therapy dog world, then it just turned to requests for interviews, private and corporate performances, TV shows, commercials, movies etc… She does mini-tabletop performances at trade shows and draws as much traffic as those giving free food samples!-) I could NEVER have accomplished the same results with a pen, paper and stamp, or the phone.

    But it’s taken years. I’m sure if I had professional PR people, it would have been faster. But I’ve enjoyed the trip, and Jilli still gets excited whenever any size group forms, she is SURE they want to see a show!!! LOL

    Among other activities and events, we are the guests and special entertainment at this years “National Yorkie Rescue Ball” in Nashville Tenn, in Oct, and will perform next year for the Yorkie contingent at the “International Dog Show Event” in Stockholm, Sweden. Lots of fun, and she is still our wonderful, loving pet, who makes us smile everyday!

    There are video’s of some of her antics on her site http://www.JilliDog.com and she is currently in a Target Stores Commercial, and shot a piece for TV and internet for a fortune 500 co, soon to be released. (she is unnamed in these, and we are considering some sponsor offers)… It’s all fun!-)

    Good luck to you and Best regards, Rick Caran
    rickcaran@hotmail.com (if you respond, please ‘also’ respond to my email) thanks, r

  2. Rick – thanks for picking up on my post, lovely to hear from Jilli’s “agent” and proud owner. I gathered it was Jilli from a Google search and then checked out your website. I like to research things that I am posting about.

    She sounds a real sweetie – the opposite end of the scale from the Newfoundland that I am dog-sitting for my parents until she can go to France in a few weeks time (she’s had to have her rabies jabs). I have two mutts myself – and this new dog is quite a handful. Her only tricks are stealing the cat’s food and opening doors when you want to keep her out of a room. And, unlike Jilli, she isn’t table top size.

    I think you seem to have done a masterful PR job with her – but she is a great natural story. It is a shame that Heartgard couldn’t see the value of doing more with the viral – it obviously does have wings (or legs) but they don’t seem to have capitalised on that much.

    Let me know if I can help promote your European visits in any way – where else are you appearing?

  3. Hey Again Heather!

    Hope that you’re well! I wanted to thank you for the nice support you gave Jilli Dog and me in your blog for the ‘Dogcatemy’ awards, National Pet Trick Contest, run by NSALA! Thanks to support like yours, Jilli Dog won with her new version of ‘Jilli Dog, Greatest Poker Playing Dog’!

    We had a great time getting the award at the ‘Capitale in NYC’, among guests like Richard Belzer, Howard Stern, Beth Ostrosky, Rachael Ray, Gary Dell Abbate, Christina Applegate, and more. Gary Dell Abbate also won an award for a great video where he explained that he “discovered that he WAS a dog person afterall, after rescuing (and falling in love with) his dog.”

    Our Sweden tour is in the planning stages for ’08, and we still have hopes of doing a UK tour also! Best regards, Rick Caran

  4. OH, btw Heather, I am told by Heartgard, that the idodogtricks.com interactive game that Jilli Dog did, now has over 4 million hits! I guess it stays afloat on it’s own because they are getting incredible word of mouth exposure for very little continued outlay? Smart biz, i guess.

    regards, and a Happy New Year! Rick Caran and Jilli Dog

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