Monday, 14 January 2013

5 Reasons Why Dogs Are Natural PR Professionals

If your messaging is unclear or inconsistent, this is
exactly how your PR publics will hear it.
I'm a dog person. Anyone who knows me personally knows this, as does anyone who read my post from last August about dogs and social media. I love my two dogs and over the years have developed a complex relationship with them that sometimes spills over into my professional life. On occasion when writing key messages or speaking notes, I've actually read sections out loud to them, figuring that any messaging short and concise enough to hold a dog's attention is guaranteed to work on human beings. And no, I don't cheat by putting treats in my pocket.

I first became a dog person round about the same time I became a PR person. And the further I've entrenched myself as both a PR pro and a dog parent, the more similarities between the two I've uncovered. Dogs as a species are remarkably well suited to the domain of public relations. Were it not for the fact that they are unable to read, write and speak in human language, they would probably replace us - if only for the fact that they'd happily work for food, walk breaks and raw affection.

I've never owned a cat (I'm allergic) and never purported to understand them as a species, but I've long suspected them, by contrast, of being natural lawyers. Their inscrutability, agility and uncanny ability to find all of life's loopholes (as well as their penchant for appearing out of nowhere and demanding payment) all strike me as lawyerly characteristics. Dogs, by contrast, would make terrible lawyers (Ever see a dog try to obfuscate obvious truths like missing treats or a capsized garbage can?) but fantastic PR practitioners. Here is my rationale.

1) They're natural networkers.

Ever been to PR schmooze and booze event? How about an off-leash dog park? Apart from the requisite butt-sniffing (at the dog park that is) it's sometimes hard to tell the difference. Let a bunch of PR people in a room together with appetizers and alcohol and you're guaranteed to have a party full of lively discussions, a bit of playful one-upmanship, discussions on new digital 'toys' and brand new connections.

2) They respond well to new challenges.

I've never met a PR person who didn't get fired up by a new communications tool, a new problem to solve, a new approach to communications etc. Likewise, a happy dog is a mentally and physically busy dog who's taken to agility courses, taken on new trails and given interesting puzzles to solve.

3) They grasp the importance of key messages.

Give a dog a complex set of instructions or mixed messages and you'll have yourself a confused and frustrated animal. Give a dog clear, preferably monosyllabic instructions and they learn fast. Likewise, dogs are adept at crafting key messages of their own. Anyone who gets to know a dog comes to understand the different arfs, woofs and yelps and what they mean. Sometimes key messages are non-verbal. A pee stain on the welcome mat is clearly a dog who couldn't hold it in. A strategically placed turd in the middle of the living room rug or in your shoe is something else entirely - a canine middle finger.

4) They keep you in the loop.

A good public relations consultant will keep you regularly updated on a project's progress. This is precisely why you would never want a cat in charge of a major PR initiative, as your consultant would be liable to disappear for weeks on end with no explanation. Suffice it to say this would be a non-issue with a dog at the helm. You can pretty much always count on a dog to remind you of feeding time, walk time, going outside to pee time, play time and the very fact of its existence on a regular basis. And when a dog achieves a new breakthrough in life, it will waste no time enthusiastically demonstrating it to you.

5) Two words: reputation management.

A well-trained PR person is very much like a well-trained dog when it comes to taking responsibility for screw-ups. The well-trained dog will acknowledge the fact that it was indeed them who got into the kitchen garbage can, cue guilty dog expression, slink out of the kitchen in shame...and then nudge at your hand with their wet nose once they sense that your rage has subsided somewhat. That's the canine equivalent of reputation management, namely acknowledge the situation, assume responsibility for it and then continuously work towards making amends with your publics.


  1. Aw! Very clever and cute. And possibly fighting words, for cat lovers.

  2. Not at all. I'm merely suggesting that dogs and cats are perhaps better suited to different professions. Mind you cat people are a sensitive bunch, so I'm prepared for the brickbats on this one.