So while other publications may have waned their Pit Bull Awareness-themed articles in favor of holiday-themed pieces, I’m here to extend the Pit Bull awareness love!
As you’ve probably noticed, the KOTAW brand doesn’t exactly color within the lines or adhere to boxed in time frames or ideals, so here I am being a rebel and writing about pitties in December. Hark!
(Actually that’s kind of holiday themed! “Hark the herald pitties ROO!” )
Everyone knows that pitties have their special RAH-RAH-ROO language, right?! If you don’t, memorize that adorable fact at once! I promise you won’t be sorry!
Pit Bulls & Personal Branding, Passion & Social Good
Ever since my mom, sister and I started KOTAW Content Marketing together two and a half years ago, I have played an active role in our KOTAW mission to rebrand Pit Bulls as the sweet and loving dogs they are.
As KOTAW’s Executive Brand Journalist and Creative Projects Director, I work behind-the-scenes as a writer and promotional event planner, taking on brand storytelling campaigns that inspire me because they’re rooted in social good. I get particularly passionate about projects that have to do with animals, whether it’s working on KOTAW’s Pit Bulls & Personal Branding passion project, or lending my expertise to other brands that have a goal of helping animals.
And when those two priorities combine? It’s more than KOTAWesome — it’s a dream come true.
A Pro Bono Pit Bull Project
This past summer, a high school student wrote to KOTAW asking us if we could offer her advice on a PR project she was doing for her school’s extra-curricular DECA program, telling us that if her project is a success, it could be presented on a national level.
“To rebrand the Pit Bull’s image.”
I can’t tell you what this girl’s note meant to the KOTAW Girl Gang!
First, that she so easily found KOTAW Content Marketing by Googling “rebranding pit bulls.”
And second, that a high school student wants to make it a career goal to help end the discrimination against Pits.
It wasn’t just Ivy, KOTAW Content Marketing’s Pit Bull Brand Ambassador, who was wiggling her pittie hips in joy and cheering with her signature RAH-RAH-ROO (her happy pittie language!) My sister Kelsey and I were wiggling our hips along with her (this makes Ivy very, VERY pittie happy!) and our Poodle Doodle LuLu was doing HER signature Poodle Doodle Tap Dance (which she would like all you KOTAW readers to know is VERY Poodle Doodle impressive!)
Among shouts of “Ivy is changing the world and helping pitties everywhere” and “This high school student is going to make the world a better place!” my mom asked me if I wanted to be in charge of helping this girl with her project, as a pro bono KOTAW good deed.
My answer was a wiggle-induced YES!
I immediately asked to see a picture of the high school girl’s Pit Bull, Stella, AWWWW’ed and AWWWWW’ed over how cute she was, and began a document entitled “Pittie Project Stella.”
Telling Your Brand Story Using the Pit Bull Model!
So what was my advice on how to rebrand Pit Bulls? And how can my advice be applied to branding YOUR business or product as the most compelling in its class?
It all comes down to brand storytelling.
My advice in this particular blog is Pit Bull-themed.
But if you substitute “Pit Bull” for YOUR brand, you will be gifted with some very important pro bono brand storytelling advice, just like the high school student I helped with “Pittie Project Stella!”
So let’s begin!
At KOTAW Content Marketing, our storytelling is always POSITIVE. (And as a general brand storytelling rule, positive is a good way to go, whether branding pitties or branding whatever it is you happen to be passionate about.)
A lot of Pit Bull advocates post unconscionable tales of Pit Bull dog fights and gruesome pictures of the devastation from these fights.
We stay away from that.
We make sure that as part of our brand, people know that if they look at any of our social media accounts or read any of our Pit Bulls & Personal Branding blogs, they won’t have to shield their eyes.
Here are three ways you can use storytelling in a positive way to let people know how sweet and silly and loving Pitties are — or how KOTAWesome you and your business are!
1. Social Media:
Social media is an indispensable platform for telling your brand story.
So how does KOTAW use storytelling on social media to let the world know how loving and sensitive and funny and empathetic and misunderstood Pit Bulls are?
We use social media to post cute pictures and cute stories about our pittie-pie Brand Ambassador Ivy.
We post pictures of Ivy cuddling with our cat Doosis and write about how Ivy was the one who insisted we adopt her.
We post pictures of Ivy surrounded by kittens and tell stories about the stray cats in our neighborhood that Ivy helped nurse.
We post pictures of Ivy cuddling with our Poodle Doodle LuLu and talk about how Ivy’s heart is so big she convinced us to rescue LuLu at 11 years old.
We post pictures of Ivy with children and talk about a neighbor of ours who lowered her newborn baby to Ivy’s level so Ivy could kiss his head. When someone is so kind and trusting like that of Ivy, we write about it in our Facebook or Google Plus posts because of how rare and beautiful it is, though it SHOULD be the norm.
How Do We Measure Our Social Media Storytelling Success?
Practically every day, someone tags us in an adorable picture of a Pit Bull or sends us a story about a Pit Bull making someone’s life better.
Because we have established ourselves as a brand that loves Pit Bulls by sharing fun and silly and sweet pictures and anecdotes about our pittie-pie Ivy, people think of us and automatically think “Pit Bulls!” So if they come across any cute Pit Bull story or picture, they feel compelled to share it with us!
When people are connecting their daily experiences with you and your brand, that’s how you know your brand’s story is making an impact!
Our Biggest Social Media Success Stories Have to Do with Changing People’s Minds About Pit Bulls Through our Brand Storytelling Efforts
Digital marketer Carol Lynn Rivera of Web.Search.Social has stated: “Before Katherine (AKA my mom!) I did not love pit bulls – but now I can’t resist.”
Carol Lynn was a professed “cat person” (as obsessed with Hello Kitty as my mom and sister and I are) before falling in love with Ivy because of the posts, pictures and stories we shared about her across all our social platforms.
When my mom was interviewed by Carol Lynn and her husband, Ralph Rivera, for Web.Search.Social’s podcast, Carol Lynn talked about how she had always thought negatively about Pit Bulls until our pictures and tales of Ivy changed her mind so completely that she called my mom’s podcast episode “Pit Bulls, Pie and Storytelling for Business.” And she featured a picture of my mom with Ivy in the promo for the podcast!
(FYI: Pie is another part of the KOTAW brand, mostly just because my mom and sister and I really love baking — and eating! — pie together! And also because we’ve posted pictures of our Ivy-pie discovering a pumpkin pie left outside our door by a neighbor on Thanksgiving… All of a sudden we saw Ivy opening a Marie Callender’s box and carrying it all around the yard in glee, RAH-RAH-ROO-ing to us that a “pie fairy” delivered it to her! Needless to say, that was a very popular post!)
And then there’s storyteller and writer Krithika Rangarajan, who wrote a beautiful article about how she was deathly afraid of ALL dogs until reading our stories about Ivy and seeing all her sweet pictures on social media. She benevolently credits KOTAW with inspiring her to adopt her dog Oreo a little over a year ago (when just SEEING a dog used to make her cry hysterically) and she is now fostering dogs as well!)
Krithika has benevolently fostered two dogs so far — Daphne, described by Krithika as a “gentle lady with a childlike curiosity” and Arlo, the most recent foster to leave Krithika’s loving home for his new happy forever home: “Like the most beautiful tornado, he has left a wake of broken hearts, fun memories and PURRING souls…. But I did the right thing by letting you go – you deserve an even more special home where you are treated like royalty, loved like family and cherished for being the UNIQUELY ADORABLE YOU!”
And then Krithika adds a cherry on top by thanking my mom once again: “Thanks to Katherine for showing me – through your words and your actions – the beautiful facets of our furry friends.”
Krithika even talks about wanting to adopt a Pit Bull one day to be friends with Oreo!
When once upon a time — actually only a few years ago on a trip with her husband — Krithika “spotted a leashed dog that was wagging its tail furiously and trotting towards us. Instantly, I grabbed my husband in a death grip and began choking back tears.”
To think that Ivy and KOTAW played such an important role in Krithika getting over her fear of dogs and her adopting one and fostering two (so far!!) is remarkable.
She more than deserves the trophy my mom nominated her for (and that she won!) for “Excellence in Pet Adoption Advocacy.”
But before I gush about Krithika forever, let me switch gears a bit and share one of my absolute favorite Pit Bull-related notes sent to KOTAW (and there are countless notes and posts to choose from!) This one came to my mom on Twitter from the KOTAWesome Gomee Girl:
Hi @KatherineKotaw! Stuck in traffic, BIG man next 2 me w/ #Pitbull sticker on car, I shouted Love a Pittie,huge smile from him & a thumbs up!
That one stays in the KOTAW scrapbook forever!
Relevant Hashtags and Connecting with the Right People
Before crafting a social media post, research relevant hashtags and pick your favorites. For instance, when posting pictures and stories about Pit Bulls on social media, the KOTAW Girl Gang is very fond of #pittielove #pittiesrock #StandUpForPits and #pitties. The hashtags #pibbles and #notabully are some other popular Pit Bull love hashtags. (FYI: The rules and relevancy of hashtags vary from platform to platform, so do your research and make sure it’s up to date!)
Using hashtags relevant to YOUR business or brand you can find other people who share your passion. Connect with these people, read the articles they share, and strike up conversations with them. Be generous and share other people’s posts. Do research and share positive articles relating your brand, cause or business — and become the person who shares the most relevant, poignant (or adorable!) posts.
Here are some of KOTAW’s favorite Pit Bull advocates:
- Sophie Gamand: She created the Pit Bull Flower Power project. She does a fantastic job of rebranding Pit Bulls by taking photographs of Pit Bulls awaiting adoption in shelters wearing flower crowns.
- Rebecca Corry: President of Stand Up For Pits and creator of the #StandUpForPits hashtag. She rescued a pittie named Angel and she does standup comedy with proceeds going to help Pit Bulls (or, as she affectionately calls them, “Velvet Hippos”). She also did a Pit Bull march on Washington and sells merchandise with proceeds going to help pits.
- Lola the Pitty: Sarah Lukemire has two pitties, Lola the Pitty and Rio, and through her “Lola the Pitty” brand, she blogs about Pit Bulls and advocates for them.
- Mac the Pitbull: Mac the Pitbull is a rescued pittie and the “Mac the Pitbull” brand advocates for pittie rescuing and adoption.
- The Lazy Pit Bull: Pet lifestyle blog advocating for pities and trying to help pities get fostered and adopted through their “Adopt-a-Bull of the Week” campaign.
- Angel City Pit Bulls: Dedicated to promoting the positive image of Pit Bulls as loving pets. They aim to advocate and educate and increase adoptions of pitties.
- Kim Garrison: She walks her dogs with the “Pit Crew,” which she founded. A big group of bully breed dogs all walk together with their people (other breeds allowed too — she has 5 dogs but not any pitties) and pictures of all the happy bullies walking together are posted on social media. She also makes bracelets (many of them pittie-themed!) and donates 45% of the profits to MCSPCA Pittie Project.
- Friends to the Forlorn: I love the founder’s mission statement: “I am often asked why, of all the dog breeds, I chose to rescue Pit Bulls. The answer is simple. Nobody steps up for Pit Bulls…not even dog lovers. I chose a breed that I felt needed the most help. Most people, including dog lovers, avoid Pit Bulls. These dogs have such negative stigmas attached to them. I want to help open people’s eyes to the truth. The dogs deserve it.”
There are lots more Pit Bull advocates and rescue groups out there, so for other pittie lovers looking to spread the Pit Bull love, I would do your own research and particularly look up any Pit Bull rescue groups, charities and advocates in your area.
And again, if you are looking to rebrand your business rather than Pit Bulls as KOTAWesome, follow the same advice except replace the Pit Bull related parts with whatever your brand or business may be!
I told the high school student that creating a website for the “Pittie Project Stella” cause could get expensive but that if she was serious about her project to rebrand Pit Bulls, it would become essential.
I also told her that her website does not have to be at all complicated. Simple is best (whether pittie-related or not!)
What’s essential for a website?
A cohesive visual brand identity and a blog!
For “Pittie Project Stella,” I suggested the blog should include stories about Stella and her adventures (and lots of adorable pictures!!)
It could also include what inspired “Pittie Project Stella,” share credible information about Pit Bulls — with links to the original sources — and update readers on the progress of the project.
For blogging of all kinds (pittie-related and non!) consistency is key. It’s better to write one blog a month than one every week for a month and then give up.
Learn about organic SEO and semantic search so your website and blogs can be as searchable as possible.
Besides a blog page, I suggested an “About” page to describes “Pittie Project Stella” and its goals, as well as to introduce the world to Stella.
The only other website page I suggested for “Pittie Project Stella” (other than a homepage) would be a contact page so people could get in touch if they wanted to help with the project by volunteering, helping host a rescue event, donating Pit Bull related merchandise for PR events, etc.
It’s also a good idea for all websites to link to their social platforms as soon as they’re up and running. The more places people can find and connect with you on the web, the better!
3. PR Events
When hosting PR events, you are basically just bringing all my storytelling advice for online platforms into real life. This has the potential to make a bigger impact, but it’s also not as easily controllable as posting a picture or anecdote to social media or your website.
For all PR events, I highly recommend having someone record them and take a lot of pictures so that you can use all your footage and photos for future PR events (and also to post on social media!)
Something important to keep in mind though — A PR event would be “live,” meaning anything could happen and anyone could take pictures or videos so you don’t have as much control over the situation.
You don’t want your PR event to go awry and to have attendees post proof of this to social media, so unless you have a lot of experience with hosting PR events, I suggest keeping the event as small and low-key as possible. And, as much as you can, do run-throughs where you can practice the event.
In terms of a PR event to spread the Pit Bull love:
There are both benefits and downsides to having animals at the event(s). My background is in film and the adage that filming is the most difficult when animals or children are on set is true. Mostly because it’s in the best interest of the adults that everything runs smoothly, but animals and children are more free-spirited so don’t care so much about getting the perfect shot or sitting quietly during a PR event. It’s much more fun to play or run amok!
The high school student I was giving PR advice to told me that her Pit Bull Stella (unlike my pittie-pie Ivy!) is not shy.
So I suggested it could be a really good idea to include Stella at her PR events.
I also told her that my pittie Ivy, though sweet and loving as can be, would be really scared to be at a PR event so I wouldn’t hold a PR event that included her. When Ivy’s scared she barks very loudly and though she doesn’t have an aggressive bone in her body, a Pit Bull barking, to those with a prejudice against Pit Bulls, just reinforces their (extremely wrong and detrimental) viewpoints.
The plight of the Pit Bull is that Pit Bulls can’t just be normal dogs. Ivy has a harder time than a lot of Pit Bulls because she is the most vocal dog I have ever known! If a Chihuahua or Golden Retriever barks, people don’t think anything of it. Pit Bulls don’t have this luxury.
Ivy, for instance, barks (or rather, RAH-RAH-ROOs!) when she’s happy (when my mom or sister or I come home or she sees a friend coming down the sidewalk), she barks when she’s excited (when we’re driving by her favorite park) and she barks to say hello to passersby when she’s in our yard. People who don’t have a prejudice against Pit Bulls (or who SEE with their eyes rather than their bigotry ) say, “Awwww, you can tell she’s just really talkative! She’s barking but she’s wiggling cutely and wagging her tail! She’s obviously friendly!” But people who DO have a prejudice against Pit Bulls just see a Pit Bull barking. And in their mind, this reinforces their hateful stereotype.
How does my “To Include or Not Include a Pit Bull at Your Live Event” query relate to a PR event for YOUR business?
It should be a reminder to objectively consider what will make the best impression and best serve your business’ message.
Should the CEO of your company give a speech just because she’s the CEO?
If your CEO is an awkward public speaker, much better suited to creating apps alone in his office than engaging a live audience, then don’t have him deliver a speech. Just like I wouldn’t include Ivy at a live event to spread the Pit Bull love because she would be scared to be surrounded by a group of people and would surely bark, potentially spurring on people’s ignorance and prejudice rather than diminishing it.
I would talk about Ivy, I would tell stories about Ivy and I would show countless pictures of Ivy because that would better suit my goal of showing the world how sweet and loving and nurturing and loyal and wise and caring and funny she is!
So there you have it! Pit Bull-themed brand storytelling advice! How will you use my advice on rebranding Pit Bulls as sweet and loving to make YOUR company’s brand story stand out (on Google, on your website, across all your social media accounts and during live events!)? Do you have any questions about brand storytelling or need help telling your brand’s story? Please leave a comment below, or contact the KOTAW Girl Gang with your story! We’d love to hear from you, as we all just LOOOVE a good story!
Photo Credit: Colorful Workspace (top, featured) — Rekita Nicole