How PR Can Take On The Negative Views Of Horse Carriages

Recently there have been several incidents that brought horse-drawn carriages into the media. Most recently in Charleston, a woman dressed up in an inflatable t-rex costume and deliberately tried to “spook” the horses, hoping to draw attention to the negative outcome she expected would occur. It would seem that she stuck around and growled at the horses a moment too long because by-standers saw her and witnessed the antagonizing. Why am I talking about horse-drawn carriages on my pr/social media marketing site? Well, because this industry is currently under attack by a number of people who are quite literally ignorant when it comes to horses and the care they require. A good PR strategy can be the carriage industry’s savior.

“My Two Cents” that I shared on my personal Facebook page: 

“I generally stay pretty quiet on this matter. Horse people, let alone people who have no education of horses, all have their own opinions on what the best practices are for horses. But, as I read the comments on this story about the lady dressed up as a T-rex antagonizing and growling at carriage horses in Charleston (not this particular post), I realized that if my voicing my opinion about this, even if just once, helps educate one person about the needs of a horse and the humane treatment of carriage horses, then I should probably speak up. My husband and I own 3 horses. They get fed before us each morning and each night. They are on the top of our priority list. We will own each of them and will continue to take the best possible care of them until the day they die. (Hopefully not any time soon.)

Would you believe me if I said that carriage company owners, especially the one we consider a friend, love their horses just as much as we do? They love their horses so much that they want to share the pleasure of being with them and experiencing them with visitors to our city. “Animal advocates” say it’s wrong to make the horses work, to have them in a city area, to “enslave” them. The likely alternative for these carriage horses if these “animal advocates” force the carriage companies to close is SLAUGHTER.

Are any of those so-called advocates willing to adopt/purchase the horses? To take on the care- the time required, the money that must be spent on feed, hay, farrier, vet bills and boarding? Just to feed our three horses grain and hay twice a day, it costs roughly $300 a month per horse. The farrier is upwards of $40 every six weeks per horse, and that’s cheap because they just get their hooves trimmed, not shod. Our vet comes out multiple times a year for bi-annual shots, coggins, teeth floating, plus anything else that comes up. (For example in our case for Rowdy, a hematoma in the sinus cavity & cancer on his nose/mouth & penis.) If you don’t have your own property, boarding costs vary, but I can assure you, they’re not “cheap.” The owners of these carriage companies aren’t in it “for the money” because most of the money is spent on the care of the horses. Horses are legally considered “livestock” animals. Livestock is defined as “animals kept or raised for use or pleasure; especially: farm animals kept for use and profit.” So, these horses aren’t on the “farm.” In a lot of ways, they get better treatment working in the city than they would on the farm. (An Amish horse’s life is not an easy one.) And in the life of a carriage horse, they provide a service and a pleasure pulling a carriage that even I can move when it has no passengers. (They’re actually very light.)

These carriage horses are extremely well taken care of. Their bodies are in optimal shape and body condition. Their hair/coats are shiny and healthy. They get the exercise and attention they need. A horse is similar to a dog in that they yearn for exercise and purpose. If they don’t get the exercise they need, they will create “jobs” for themselves which more than often is considered misbehavior to us, similarly to a bored dog chewing things they’re not supposed to. Before you attack the diligent, loving owners of these horses, who have chosen a life caring for equines, think about the well-being of these horses. Would you rather them dead? Those calling for the carriage horses being “saved” and let “free” onto farms obviously know nothing of horses. I’d think that true animal advocates would appreciate the impeccable care these carriage horses receive.

In terms of treatment, I would equate it to parents and their children. Some parents go above and beyond to care for their children. Others not so much. There are the rare bad eggs in anything, but overall, carriage horses are pretty pampered and very well provided for. Draft horses are so large because they were bred to slowly pull heavy workloads. They’re amazing really. Horses were bred for purposes just like dogs were. They enjoy doing what their purposes are. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t do it. They’re big enough to be noticeably defiant if they didn’t like their treatment. In regards to hot temperatures, they’ve adapted just like we have. We drink extra water/Gatorade, hose off or go swimming, take breaks, etc. So do they. [ See Weather Channel’s helping-horses-when-temps-get-hot ]

Draft horses are our favorite, and I would hate to see them cast aside or lose their worth because they’ve become targeted.

We will continue to support horse drawn carriages because we know how much she loves her horses and how well taken care of they are, just as much as ours are. If you want to get behind a movement, look up equestrian cross country/eventing deaths, where riders and horses alike frequently die or are severely injured. Or look up what happens to off the track thoroughbreds that didn’t make a name for themselves. (Side Note Here: Not every horse in these industries experience mistreatment.)

There are lots of things to get upset about. Hating the carriage companies because they love their horses shouldn’t be one of them.”

I shared the above with a video of the exceptional press conference that Palmetto Carriage Works held after the targeted attack on their horses, their driver and their guests. I definitely recommend you watch it. Live with Tom Doyle at Palmetto Carriage Works

So from a Public Relations standpoint, what should the carriage companies do? Inform. Inform. Inform.

Many of the people who are “against” horse drawn carriages simply do not know the physical and mental stimulation needs of a horse. They simply just don’t know horses. It’s not an easy fix to the mob mentality that surrounds and is against this industry right now, but this is a straight forward plan. Inform them.

Readily Provide Information About:

There are various ways to reach the target market, but a few ideas are:

  • Discussing the information within the carriage tour itself
  • Visually appealing and organized pamphlets on the carriages
  • Hosting a meet and greet with the horses
  • Signage near the horses’ main post
  • Q&A session with an equine vet

This isn’t an exhaustive list. It’s just a start. Unfortunately, I don’t think everyone will listen. You’ll have those individuals that would rather hold onto their ignorance than allow themselves to be educated on the matter.

Even if you help just one person learn and understand more about horses and the carriage industry, it is all worth it in the end.

Social Media & SEO

I recently read an article on Social Media Today titled How Does Social Media Impact Your SEO Efforts? 

In the online marketing realm, it feels like the answer to this question is constantly changing. Google continuously updates their algorithm. I’m not sure they even know how they rank sites now (just kidding, Google!). When I first started my business, I remember telling clients that social media was a huge contender for getting their brand’s recognition up on the Google search list. That was over three years ago, and a lot has changed.

The author of this article, Andrew Hutchinson, says, “And while social media, as part of the wider online eco-system, does now play a part in the overall process, Google still doesn’t factor in associated social media performance directly.” 

Hmm. So, does this mean that Business ABC (<- fake business) who has a Facebook, Twitter & Instagram but never post to them gets the same amount of influence in the search rankings as Business DEF who has and updates daily all of their social media accounts? And the answer to this question is…. it’s complicated. “As noted, Google looks for backlinks and page content, and individual social posts and profiles are considered the same as any other webpage which Google can index. That means that if you have a lot of people visiting your social profiles and content, they can individually rank in search – in fact, for a lot of entities, you’ll find a Twitter profile, in particular, will show up high in search results (this has been helped by the fact that Twitter and Google have an agreement to index tweets).”

“So in itself, sharing content and generating engagement on social won’t help your content rank in Google, but more traffic and backlinks definitely will, which social can facilitate. As you can see, while the connection between social and search is not direct, the two processes are aligned, and being active on social will most definitely help your SEO efforts – though not necessarily in the way you might expect.” 

I really like that last sentence. The answer is yes, social media can help your Search Engine Optimization, indirectly. I definitely recommend following the link to Andrew’s article to read on. It’s fascinating how complex yet simple SEO really is.

 

How Do You Market Yourself When Your Business Is Just You?

Well, I’m writing this post today from some personal experience…

How Do You Market Yourself When Your Business Is Just You? It sounds easy. Who better to market yourself other than you? Sometimes though, it can actually be pretty difficult.

Being thoughtful and careful is the key. You don’t want to come off as arrogant rather than confident. You don’t want people to see you as bossy rather than informative. When you’re talking about yourself and what service you can provide others, think about your target market. It doesn’t matter if you’re B2B or B2C, your target market is still extremely important in figuring out how you want to present yourself and your business.

Take me for example. My business is B2B. It’s just me. I don’t have employees or interns. I’m not representing a group of people. Just me and what services I can provide for other businesses. Because of this, I use my personal social media accounts as my business accounts also. If I talked your ear off about social media on my website and each one of my social media sites all day long, that’d get pretty pushy, and you’d quickly get annoyed with me. I try to treat my accounts like 85% / 15%. My business is B2B, but I’m ultimately trying to appeal to people, specifically the people who have their own businesses.

85% of my content consists of things other people rarely tire of- my husband being silly, my diy projects or my animals. My friends/followers know that those are the most important things to me in life based on it making up 85% of what I post. Most can relate to at least one if not all of those subjects. Now the other 15% of my content pertains to my business. Newest trends. Social media strategies. Featuring Savannah. There are many different ratios/percentages suggested out there, but 85:15 is what works for me.

  • Think of your niche and target market.
  • Feature what’s important to you & what makes you you.
  • Feature your business but do it in a tasteful, helpful way.
  • 85% relatable content
  • 15% business content

At the end of the day, you are the biggest and sometimes only advocate for yourself and your business. Make a good impression.

And now because I mentioned how much I feature my animals, here are a few:

2017 Social Media Trends

I recently read this article -> The Top Social Media Trends for 2017 – The Influencers’ View – and was amazed at the future trends some of the top social media pros see coming this year.

Pretty much what I’ve gotten from this is we as social media marketers are losing more control this year. Algorithms and filters have already greatly influenced how we present content. This article hones on the continuation of this and then some.

  • “The information distribution highway will have toll stations that must be paid for by the those who create content.”
  • “ The days of organic social media success are over. It’s not a question of paying for playing but of how much you pay to play.”

Organic reach has slowly been dying the past couple of years. I tell my clients that it is up to them whether or not they want to spend precious advertising money on social media, so most choose not to. It may surprise you, but I totally understand this. Social Media platforms are constantly updating and changing. People are hesitant to take the risk of promoting their content when nothing is concrete or permanent. It looks as though now that 2017 will actually bring an end to organic reach altogether. Not great news, but good to know.

 

 

Top 10 List: How to Communicate Like a Human Being (Instead of a Marketer) by Eric Roach Co-Founder and CEO, EveryoneSocial

Love this article by Eric Roach Co-Founder and CEO, EveryoneSocial. 

It’s so hard for businesses to be human when they start activity on their social media platforms. Take a look at Mark’s Top 10 List:

Top 10 List: How to Communicate Like a Human Being (Instead of a Marketer)

“We’re living in the midst of a content explosion in social media. Can we survive? Yes, but it will require new skills. As cofounder and CEO of social media platform EveryoneSocial, I see organizations and employee advocates sharing a great deal of content. Some of it is even good. But for maximum success, here are my top 10 tips on how to cut through the marketing clutter in the content you share and learn, instead, to communicate and share like a human being.

1. Write the way you actually talk. First off, in a tip from Melanie Davis of Convince and Convert, practice writing the content you want to share in the way you would actually speak.

For example, consider this piece of information: “Beyond the basic benefit, both individual and spouse buy-up options are available Please note an election of voluntary life coverage for a spouse can equal up to half your individual life buy-up, although depending on the desired level of coverages, EOI may be required.”

Huh??? Clear as mud.

Try this instead, Melanie says: “The company is going to buy some life insurance for you. If you want, you can buy extra. Whatever extra life insurance you buy for yourself, you can also buy up to half that amount for your spouse. Now, depending on how much additional insurance you’d like, one or both of you may need to answer some questions about your health to see if you qualify for it.” Ah.

2. Let people respond naturally. Here’s another tip from Melanie. Instead of the typical web contact form, think about providing something like this:

“We check our email with alarming and unhealthy frequency. Just fill out this form and we’ll get back to you on the double.”

Hey! My name’s _______________ . I’d like to talk to Jellyvision about _____________, so please call me on _______________________ or email me at _________________________.

Oh yeah, and my favorite food is ______________________(in case you ever need to bribe me). Thanks!

Melanie’s firm received 83% higher response than from their old traditional form. Surprise!

3. Avoid the Curse of Knowledge.   This is a real thing. We know what we know and we tend to assume everybody else will as well. In an actual experiment, individuals who tapped out the rhythm to a familiar tune assumed 50% of people would “get it.” Only 2.5% did. The moral of the story: Lose the jargon, if you want your readers to truly understand what you mean.

4. Don’t pitch. Here’s a tip from speaking expert Ryan Lee, for WhatTheSpeak.com.  Ryan understands that if you’re like most people, you hate being pitched to and you can smell a marketing pitch from at least 100 yards away.

But Ryan Lee “gets it.” He tells his audience up front about how his speak will go. He tells the audience they’ll have the opportunity to buy from him, if they choose, when he’s done.

His audience loves his candor. Then he gives them quality content and good education, but he’s still able to convert sales. The ticket is his honesty. He treats his audience the way he’d want to be treated as well.

5. Use good headlines. When you speak to a friend do you lead into your topic with a boring headline? Of course not! You want to stir the pot and get your audience appropriately excited about what you’re going to say. Be true to the promise of the content you’re offering, of course. But in a headline, don’t be afraid to tell it big!

7. Create a Two-Way Conversation. Remember when you share content that it’s a dialogue you’re looking for, not a one-way megaphone blast. Respond to comments (politely, if at all possible). If you can’t honestly thank your reader for anything else, thank them for taking the time to read and respond. Your willingness to engage will go far.

8. Educate, don’t hype. Have you heard the one about the carpet cleaner who created a million dollar career? Actually, this story’s a true one: Marketer Joe Polish realized in his 20s that sending direct mail and email on topics like “How to extend the life of your carpet” and “How to choose a reliable cleaner” were much more successful than blaring specials and ads. Pretty soon his business outpaced all others and he became a million dollar enterprise…..by selling his marketing “secrets” to other businesses like his own. Educative marketing. It’s a thing. You should try it.

9. Be authentic. Your audience can smell a phony from miles away. Don’t create sneaky back links or promos that leave your audience feeling “tricked”. Do what you say you’ll do. Conduct every aspect of your marketing as if the world is watching from behind the scenes (because increasingly, they are). Be yourself (albeit your very best version of self) and you’ll be far better poised to succeed.

10. Tell good stories (about the things people are actually wanting to hear).  Would you tell your friends a boring story? No, you wouldn’t. Well, at least not for long. Include details. Visual images. Power words. Like blog writer Henneke Duustermaat says “

Seduce your readers into begging for more.” Don’t put them to sleep.

Have you got the picture? Yes, good content marketing is both an art and a science, but if you can learn to think like a human instead of like a human marketing machine you’ll be well ahead of the game.”