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Advocacy for pets and vets is more than a marketing task

by Diane Martin | May 31, 2019

Reams of research have told us for years that consumers, especially Millennials, expect brands to have purpose beyond the sales and delivery of products and services. They expect brands to support issues that are important to them – everything from pet adoption and spay-neuter programs to pet insurance and pet adoption time-off benefits in the workplace. We also see the same expectations in B2B circles, where professionals like veterinarians, vet techs and dog groomers want brands to advocate for their industries too. 

Whether consumers or pet care professionals, one thing is certain: They won’t be fooled with a few warm-and-fuzzy marketing messages.

In this age of demands for transparency and authenticity, it’s not enough to communicate your new purpose and assign a team to deliver on it. To have credibility and not be outed, brands must live the purpose from the inside out.

We all know the drill when brands awaken to this new world, in which the basis for the brand relationship transcends the commercial transaction to corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Pronouncements of commitment to an issue are made.

  • Resources are allocated, and task forces are formed to tackle the issues that the brand should support.
  • PR agencies are engaged.
  • Themes are created, along with websites, social media handles and trade show graphics.
  • Manifestos are crafted, speeches are prepared, and press releases are drafted.
  • Posters appear in common areas of the office, and a blurb is included in the company newsletter.

Check the box. We’re done. Now, let’s get back to business. Right? Wrong.

The most successful and enduring advocacy or CSR programs go broad and deep in the organization.  They’re more than a tactic in the marketing or corporate communications arsenal.

As you’re preparing or updating your advocacy or CSR program, consider these actions to ensure your plans and implementation are both genuine and credible to the core.

8 Essential Steps to Credible Advocacy for Pets and Vets

1. Ensure that the C-Suite internalizes and will evangelize the issue and the brand’s position on it. If they don’t take it seriously, why should the rest of the organization do so? And won’t customers figure it out eventually?

2. Educate your entire organization – shareholders and stakeholders – on why the issue is important, how it impacts your customers, your business and the larger world.

3. Delineate the desired behavior and language that is expected of the entire organization, to ensure your actions reflect your intentions at all touchpoints. And accept that, in some cases, the best employees can give is a position of neutrality.

4. Encourage all stakeholders to openly exchange information and opinions on the issue through internal communications channels, such as Slack, in addition to what your task force pushes out.

5. Invite employees’ families to be a voice for the issue, or at least share the facts around the issue and where your brand stands on it.

6. Recognize and reward those who volunteer to support and champion the issue.

7. Report your progress on achieving goals, solicit questions and seek feedback.

8. Monitor internal and external conversations, and be prepared to adapt your initiative – sometimes issues morph as new developments or voices emerge.

As brands – even long-established brands – face heightened cynicism and expectations of purpose and transparency at the store, in the clinic or on pet-related websites, organizations cannot afford to be cursory or superficial in their CSR efforts. By educating and engaging the entire organization, advocacy for issues that are important to pet owners and veterinarians becomes easier. A broad and deep strategy also enables authenticity, makes a direct impact and is ultimately more rewarding for any brand.

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