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Should I Take a Social or Political Stand on My Pet Business Pages?

Consider this formula when taking a stand on your business pages.

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I’VE BEEN GETTING a lot of questions lately about how socially or politically minded a pet business should be on various issues. It’s what I get for calling my business ’cause Digital Marketing. But as a queer, multicultural woman who appears Anglo-Saxon and straight, the question of how involved or vocal to be is something I’ve had the privilege to wrestle with my entire life. It’s also what drove me to pursue a degree that combined intercultural communication and advocacy with marketing — because I learned from my animal shelter days that I’d need to work with everyone.

The pet industry crosses massive cultural, socioeconomic and religious divides. It’s something I love deeply about our industry. Not all U.S. groups share their lives with pets, but the majority do. For petpreneurs, this means that scaling to size often means you have customers who hold very different opinions about the world.

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Does that mean we petpreneurs should stick to our pets and let important social topics fall where they may? Not if you’re the decision-maker in your business and your heart is telling you otherwise.

So the question becomes how and when can we leverage our businesses to create positive change. Ask yourself these questions:

Is this topic central to your mission or company vision? 
If yes, share and discuss it, but make sure your whole team is up to speed and able to do the same. If no, move on to the next question.

Does this topic directly impact your community? This may mean your local community, your employees or your customers. If it does in a positive or negative way, consider featuring those voices and their stories.

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Do you have the time to discuss the issue properly? Be wary of mixing something in when you don’t have time to do it justice or when you’re trying to build up a different, important cause.

Is this something your brand is willing to defend? If yes, by all means take a stance or provide a safe platform for those impacted to raise their voices. Invite discourse. Ban bullying of all forms.

Are you prepared to back this for the long-haul? When you step into the cause realm with your business, be aware of the time and mindspace it takes to maintain. While an individual changes course easily, it’s harder for a brand to redefine itself. Not impossible, but it takes time, so make sure it’s true to your long-term vision.

Now the good news: Brands that successfully align themselves with issues their customers, community and staff care about often see lower turnover, stronger referrals and lower marketing costs. Connecting to a cause can build bridges to new clients and be a word-of-mouth superpower. It’s even driven results like a 150 percent increase in month-over-month sales and a 75 percent decrease in total marketing costs with our clients — but only when authentically and thoughtfully done.

Here’s a final quick tip to start you on your way: If you’re thinking about chiming in on an issue from your business page, have conversations with people from all sides of that issue first. Then fact-check everything. Deliberately bust your preconceived notions and listen. Ask questions. Only from there do we create real change.

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Jane Harrell is President of 'cause Digital Marketing, a boutique marketing firm focusing on delivering real ROI for pet businesses of all breeds and pedigrees. Jane is also co-owner of WorkingWithDog.com, the marketing club for petpreneurs and small pet businesses. In 2013, Jane won the Rising Star Award from Women in the Pet Industry for her work with Petfinder.com. She’s a regular contributor to many pet-industry publications, focusing on topics that bring tangible results with less work. Jane's enjoying a busy COVID-19 quarantine living with her partner, their six animals and their foster son in Maine.

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