Last year, the San Diego Humane Society (SDHS) earned a Silver Anvil Award for “Yorkie Mania Animal Rescue,” a campaign centered on rescuing nearly 200 neglected Yorkies and raising the public’s awareness of animal hoarding.
In anticipation of the Feb. 22 entry deadline for the 2019 Silver Anvil Awards (and the Feb. 8 early submission deadline), we talked with Elizabeth A. Pecsi, APR, Fellow PRSA, the Society’s director of communications, about working on a shoestring budget, capturing the attention of PRSA judges and what earning a Silver Anvil meant for her organization.
What inspired you and your team to submit your campaign for the Silver Anvils?
Being fairly new in my position as director of communications, I was blown away by the way the San Diego Humane Society responded with compassion to rescuing 181 Yorkie mixes, and I recognized how public relations could play a bigger role than just handling the news of the situation.
We played a bigger role and influenced decisions about increasing people’s awareness of hoarding, adopting these little dogs and raising funds to support the enormous care these neglected pets would require, and I saw a case study unfold that could contribute to the PR body of knowledge.
“Yorkie Mania Animal Rescue” was entered in the “Most Effective Campaign $5,000 or Less” category. How did the shoestring budget inform the way your team operated?
Whenever unexpected company shows up at your home, close to the lunch or dinner hour, you go to the cupboard, take stock of what’s there and then figure out how to make a wonderful “meal” with what you have on hand.
By the very nature of the PR profession, we don’t always have time to plan for everything, but we have time to build really strong ties internally so we can quickly assess what we have and figure out what to make of everything available to us.
There were all kinds of opportunities SDHS had when we worked across internal boundaries. We could follow one of the dogs, posting stories about his journey from rescue to adoption. We had a CEO who was there to receive the dogs when they came into the shelter. We could interview the vets who were examining the dogs during a Facebook Live broadcast. We could photograph the conditions these dogs were rescued from. We could make an appeal to the public-at-large and ask for volunteer groomers, and for pet bedding and clothing. We could set up multiple ways to communicate using a hashtag through our strong social media network, digital communications and website.
None of these opportunities required us spending hard dollars. It required us cooperating and focusing our existing resources and knowledge on our mission. Money was spent on what we do: rescue animals.
Why do you think the campaign connected so well with the Silver Anvil judges?
The very nature of animal abuse/neglect is emotional. It’s hard not to be drawn to an animal rescue that extended over a six month period and brought together a community to help care and find homes for 181 Yorkie mixes. The results were impressive as well, and PR’s role extended beyond tactics to one of facilitator and leader.
What did earning a Silver Anvil Award mean for the San Diego Humane Society?
It was an honor for everyone and validated how powerful we are when we pull together, which is common in our workplace.
Employees are here for animals and the people who love them. Rescue is what we do every day, but winning the award made us take stock in how we can rescue in a way that leaves a lasting, positive impression on our community. That helps advance us our mission: creating a more humane world by inspiring compassion, providing hope, and advancing the welfare of animals and people. Winning the award also proved we have a model to reference when we face other rescues of this magnitude.
If you could offer three pieces of advice for prospective Silver Anvil entrants looking to submit their campaigns, what would they be?
- Be absolutely certain your campaign embodies the foundations of public relations — goals/objectives, research, strategy, planning and measurement.
- Collect your “proof” of work as you go along. It will save you a lot of time when organizing your entry.
- Reach out to other Silver Anvil award winners and ask them to read your entry and give you feedback.
Dean Essner is the editorial assistant for PRSA’s publications.