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How PR turned Petpreneur Julie Maxted landed 12 pieces of coverage

by | September 17, 2020

When Julie Maxted launched her Dog G8 product last year she knew that in order for it to be successful she needed media coverage.

Aged 17, she’d worked in London for a PR agency, so she already knew about the importance of having publicity.

But having been out of the game for nearly 20 years after her move to the pet industry she needed more confidence and a refresh.

Julie joined the Publicity for Pet Businesses online course in February 2020 and the membership that followed.

Since then, Julie has gone on to win 12 pieces of coverage in just 6 months, including Women’s Own, Your Dog, The Sun on Sunday and the Daily Mail.

In this episode Julie shares how she did it, her background in PR and how she applied what she learned in the 1980s to nurture and grow her visibility today.

Listen in to her interview on the player link below or read as a blog post:

Julie started out as a PR in the 1970s and 1980s before setting up her pet care business, Pets, Homes and Gardens.

Julie now runs a franchise business with 25 franchisees all over the country caring for animals.

She’d had plenty of press coverage but when she came to launch a product, Dog-G8, she wanted to learn more about how to reach as many people as possible.

Julie explained: “I started a pet sitting business in 2002 and luckily my PR skills helped me then.

 “Then in 2009 we franchised the business to Pets Homes and Gardens, we found that people wanted their pets looking after and their homes and gardens.

 “It was last September when we launched Dog G8 and it was totally different launching a new product so we wanted to get it right.”

It was having to find various different pet sitters for her animals when she went on holiday that gave Julie the lightbulb moment in launching her first pet business 18 years ago.

She explained: “We had lots of pets when the children were small and we had to put the pets in lots of different places when we went on holiday.

“That was my lightbulb moment I thought to myself if only someone could come to the house and look after all the pets together.

“We had two cats, a rabbit, a guinea pig, a tortoise and a hamster and that’s how Pets, Homes and Gardens started.”

And it was when sitters shared their worries about dogs escaping that led to her and her husband Peter to develop the Dog G8.

Dog-G8 is a concertina style gate that fits to doors meaning the owner can open the door for deliveries without worrying about their pet escaping.

It can be used on caravans too, and as a room divider or gate to prevent dogs going upstairs.

Dog-G8 - a gate that stops dogs escaping when the front door opens

How the Dog-G8 works. Image credit: Sophie West

Julie said: “Lots of our franchisees were looking after dogs, when you open a front door there’s always that worry of a dog running out.

“We looked on the market but nothing was substantial enough. So my husband Peter developed the Dog G8 over two years with a company in Peterborough.”

After launching last September, Julie faced the highs and lows that every business comes across when trying to raise awareness of a product.

She said: “Our biggest worry was how we were going to get it out to other people and on the market.

“We did a soft launch on our website, social media, and then we went to the National Pet Show last November and that really helped. We had a lot of good responses.

“We felt really confident then that our product was going to be a success.”

Following the positive feedback from the shows, Julie knew it was time to start thinking about PR.

She didn’t feel confident in doing it herself so looked at PR companies but were faced with expensive rates from £750 to £3000 a month.

She said: “I felt my PR skills were a little bit rusty but to outsource, the rates were extortionate so I decided to learn myself through the programme.

“Having the lessons and the support of the group helped me so much, because everything has changed so rapidly in the past 10 years.”

As Julie learnt more about publicity, she gained more and more coverage for Dog G8, including featuring in the Daily Mail.

She said: “In six weeks I had six pieces of coverage including The Daily Mail, Your Dog, Edition Dog and the Sun from following steps and guidance.

“I felt confident approaching journalists personally and continue to do so.”

She was also featured in a national newspaper competition, which pushed brand awareness even further.

Learn more: How competitions can help raise awareness of your pet business.

Julie says she puts down her PR success to a combination of what she learned in the 1980s and what we covered almost 40 years on.

But the main thing that still works through the decades is nurturing, relationship building and coming up with angles.

She added: “The membership really helped me. I’d say to anyone to take it but if they aren’t ready then try to contact your local newspapers, network locally, try to collaborate with local companies.

“I do think if you want national coverage you need to work with a PR or do a course where you get the right guidance and support so you can do it on your own.”

Links mentioned in this post:

Julie’s Dog Gate website: www.dog-g8.com

Using competitions to get coverage: Competition blog post

Learn more about The Publicity for Pet Businesses membership: How the membership works

Join the Publicity for Pet Businesses membership programme: Membership Programme sign up

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