How being in a membership community can raise the profile of your pet business
Working on your own is tough and running a business can feel lonely.
Being part of a community such as a group coaching programme or membership can help as you have other people to support you.
They understand what it’s like to be your own boss (like never switching off) and if they’re in the same industry, they get what you do too.
For the last year, I’ve been running a membership programme for pet business owners helping them ‘put themselves out there’ and get publicity.
At first, it was all about traditional media, but it’s grown to cover all kinds of topics around raising the profile of your business.
In this episode I’m going to talk about some of the ways simply being part of a community of like minded people can help you become more visible.
You can listen in on the player link below or carry on reading as a blog post.
What’s the ethos inside the membership?
It’s a community of pet business owners who want to gain a better understand of how to promote their business in a way that doesn’t feel cringe.
All the sessions are taught live, meaning that members get lots of time with me, and they can ask questions and get personalised feedback.
It also means there’s lots of ideas bouncing around and as well as ideas from me, people get them from other members too.
The culture I’ve created is one where we all support and cheerlead one another.
What happens inside of the programme?
The focus is on publicity and I now cover this in two different ways.
The first is Publicity Foundations.
The foundations sessions cover hype we create ourselves – this is our social media, website content, blogs, podcasts, lives and any other marketing materials.
I teach a lot of the classes, and invite experts in. For example, Vicki Jakes came in to cover Google Analytics, and Alison Price from House of Henry to cover marketing materials.
The second is Publicity Spotlight.
This is where you learn how to get published on other people’s platforms. This might be in the Daily Telegraph or in Your Dog magazine.
Or it could be in a local magazine or niche blog that you know a lot of your ideal clients or community enjoy.
If you were a new business, I would recommend you work through the Foundations sessions first, then start the Spotlight sessions in the next round.
There are two live classes a week, one is Foundations and one is Spotlight, and every three weeks there is a break.
We have a monthly member Q and A session.
All the training is stored in a membership portal where you can log on and watch the classes if you can’t make it live.
I teach the sessions live so people get to finish the course – the completion rate for online courses is around 15 per cent.
Being part of a supportive community
This may sound cheesy – you want to know how much money publicity will help you make – but the community element is important too.
Having more people know about what it is you offer WILL help you make money.
Karen Rhodes from Luxury Dog Hampers said she made back her investment tenfold.
But while the focus is being featured in the media, members say that being part of a community has helped them reach more people too.
Whether that’s from sharing content on social media, collaborating on blogs or lives, partnering with guest blogs, it all increases visibility.
Members buy from each other. Rikki Sullivan, the Canine Copywriter, has been commissioned to write blogs to the point where she’s fully booked.
Photographers Nigel Ord Smith, Kerry Jordan and Rowan Williams have been commissioned for shoots from other members.
Kate Taylor from Dotty4Paws has featured ten members on her directory and Jitka Krizova has found speakers for her Style to Rescue event.
Following a guest class from FOMO creator May King Tsang Kerry Jordan and Jeni Morris set up a Twitter chat hour, #PetworkingHour every Tuesday from 6-7pm.
This has helped them connect with thousands of pet businesses all over the world.
Lisette Van Riel from DoggyLottery has had several articles published about her not-for-profit and lots of social media activity from other members sharing the incredible work she’s doing.
And Becky Baker, founder of K9Nation, interviewed experts from the group on her podcast and had members invest in her business.
As the membership is coming to the end of its first year, I carried out a survey into what people had taken from the programme and the impact on their businesses.
Why people join the membership programme
When it came to their reasons for starting the course, the top reason was that people wanted to learn about media coverage but didn’t know where to start at 62 per cent.
Next was that they were concerned they weren’t visible enough at 47 per cent.
A further 43 per cent didn’t feel comfortable promoting their business and 38 per cent said they joined because they wanted to know more about content.
Will being in the programme raise your profile
When asked this question, 42 per cent of respondents said that being in the membership had raise their profile and that this had impacted on sales.
A further 43 per cent said it had raised their profile. Only nine per cent responded with ‘maybe’ when asked if their profile had been raised and one person said they weren’t sure.
How do the different elements of the membership work?
The live calls came out top when members were asked what they found most useful at 67 per cent.
Over half, 52 per cent said support and contacts in the Facebook group, a third said the membership portal where all the material is stored.
Which modules were the most useful?
‘Writing pitches and press releases’ came out top at 81 per cent, followed ‘finding stories in your pet business’ at 52 per cent.
Then it was ‘creating a press kit’ at 48 per cent and ‘What makes a story’ and ‘your pet business message’ were both 43 per cent.
What is the pace of the course like?
The founder members were asked how they found the pace of the course with four options, these being ‘too fast’ ‘too slow’ ‘just right’ and ‘it was good to be able to revisit the sessions.’
Two thirds – 67 per cent – voted for ‘just right’ and the remaining 33 per cent said they found it helpful to revisit the lessons.
How members felt about generating publicity before the course
When it came to publicity before taking part in the programme, the members were given four options.
A fifth said they found the idea of approaching journalists daunting, 28 per cent ‘didn’t think it was possible’ and 43 per cent said they knew a little and wanted to understand more.
One in ten said they ‘felt confident approaching the media but wanted support and accountability.’
How members feel about generating publicity now
Over three quarters – 76 per cent – said they felt confident and said it was good to have feedback on pitches and ideas.
Ten per cent said they felt very confident and had lots of pitches accepted and ten per cent said they didn’t feel ready to pitch an idea yet. Only four per cent were still unsure.
Does the programme meet expectations
Three quarters said the coaching programme exceeded their expectations and a quarter said it was as they had expected it to be.
Feedback included: “There is SO much content, it’s so valuable and you’re a massive help and support to all of your members.”
“Absolutely nothing was missing, Rachel shares all her PR knowledge, she encourages you but you do have to put the work in, she doesn’t do that bit for you! (and nor should she)”
“It was the whole package of being part of the membership; not only learning the tips and techniques but also the added extras bringing in outside teachers to guide us too.”
“It was exactly what I needed to learn how to do my own PR.”
How would you rate the programme out of five?
Ninety per cent gave five out of five and ten per cent gave four out of five.
What was your biggest takeaway?
“That journalists aren’t scared and they actually want to work with enthusiastic people.”
“That you can do your own PR if you learn from an expert and content is key. Networking is so valuable plus having a group of cheerleaders really boosts your confidence when you are in unfamiliar territory.”
“You can get PR for free.”
“Be yourself, media coverage is possible no matter what size of business you are or what you offer.”
“What is possible with the right timing, story angle and support!”
“How amazing and supportive everyone is, the ideas that we bounce off each other, all of your help and support. How to spin on different stories and pitch to different media types, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do the BBC stuff or anything without you and I really appreciate your help with the awareness day.”
“I can’t thank you enough for the invaluable help and support you’ve given to me with Dog-G8. It has helped inspire and motivate me to do far more with promotion; contact influencers; charities and pet industry professionals and for that I am very grateful.”
Thinking of joining the programme?
If you’re interested in joining, the next round starts in May 2021. You can find out more and book a place here.
Or if you’d like to book a 15 minute call to discuss whether being part of the programme is right for you, you can do so here.
Hi, I’m Rachel, a freelance journalist and PR and content consultant and crazy dog lady!
I’ve written so many stories about animals and pet brands that I wrote a book on how pet entrepreneurs can do their own PR.
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