PetSmart Charities Strives to Change Perceptions Through User-Generated Content
Let’s be honest, the internet would be a darker place without cats. Yet, many of the the adorable critters face rough futures because of negative perceptions – perceptions that PetSmart Charities is trying to break down with their #meowOUT Yourself Contest. Recently, we spoke with Karilynn Galiotos, PetSmart Charities’ Digital Content and Social Media Specialist, about her inspiration for the campaign and experience engaging their community. Read the full interview below!
To start off, can you share with us a bit about Pet Smart Charities?
PetSmart Charities is the largest funder of animal welfare in North America. We offer grants to 3,000 animal welfare organizations across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico for adoptions, spay/neuter and emergency relief.
We’re a 501(c)(3) nonprofit animal welfare organization that is separate from PetSmart Inc. PetSmart’s founders created PetSmart Charities in 1994 when they made the decision not to sell dogs and cats in PetSmart stores. It was a revolutionary decision at the time. Since PetSmart Charities’ inception, more than 6 million pets have found their lifelong, loving homes, and we’ve funded more than 1.2 million spay/neuter surgeries.
Can you tell us about the #MeowOUT Yourself Contest? What inspired the development of it and to work with Chute?
We came up with the concept for our #meowOUT Yourself Contest after looking into some startling statistics about the disparities cats face. In 2014, PetSmart Charities did a consumer study on the attitudes and perceptions of shelter pets, known as the U.S. Shelter Pet Report. One of the standout statistics was 27% of people who wanted to get a pet wouldn’t choose a cat.
Cats are more likely than dogs to die in shelters, so we wanted to dig a little deeper into why so many people think cats are undesirable. We did another consumer study earlier this year that focused on attitudes and perceptions of cats and cat owners. It turns out, many people associate negative qualities with cats, such as moodiness, aloofness and grouchiness. But anyone who understands cats knows they’re often misunderstood.
We also learned these negative stereotypes affect the people who love cats. The most pervasive is the “crazy cat lady”, and nearly half of survey participants still buy into this stereotype. Conversely, more than half of our respondents thought more people would adopt a cat if the negative stereotypes about kitties and the people who love them were removed.
So how do you remove the stereotypes? Our survey also uncovered that 74% of people get their information about cats from friends and family, but only 1/3 of cat parents are sharing about their kitties on social media. It became clear that we needed to get these cat parents to declare their cat pride, so we came up with the #meowOUT Yourself concept to convince cat lovers to share selfies with their cat on social media.
Chute was a natural fit for the campaign because of the heavy visual component. We wanted to be able to show the cat-loving community is filled with diverse men and women of all ages and walks of life. Chute helped us aggregate the #meowOUT photos across social platforms, and display the photos on our landing page.
Hey cat lovers! Tomorrow is the last day to enter our #meowOUT Yourself Contest! Help us prove the “crazy cat lady” stereotype is a thing of the past by sharing a selfie with your kitty using #meowOUT. @missmayim will pick 5 of her favorites to be featured in PetSmart Charities promotional materials! You can learn more by clicking on the link in our bio. #catsofinstagram #catpic #adoptlove #catoftheday #kittylove #weeklyfluff #meow #cute #adoptdontshop #cats #kittykiss
Has this campaign given you the opportunity to learn from your community or the community of cat lovers? How so?
Absolutely. We knew cat lovers are a unique group of individuals, but it really comes to life when you see all the beautiful images come through. Their comments are also inspiring because you can tell people really find meaning in their relationships with their cats. They also seem to understand the need for our campaign and want to support it.
Were there any hurdles that you’ve had to overcome in regards to this contest or around user-generated content in general?
We have a feature on our website that asks pet adopters to share their adoption story with us, but this is the first time we’ve ever built a strategy around user-generated content on social media. I would say we had to learn the legalities of displaying user-generated content on our website. Chute’s “request rights” feature has proved to be invaluable in overcoming that hurdle. Plus, it’s proven to be a great engagement tactic with our audience. The people we reach out to are often thrilled about the opportunity to be a part of our campaign.
Are there any highlights or anything you’d be able to share about your experience using Chute?
Chute has been a crucial component to managing this campaign. We had a lot of press surrounding the launch because of our partnership with Mayim Bialik of the Big Bang Theory and Cats of Instagram. Before Chute, I would have had to copy/paste entries in a Word document. I act as a solo community manager for PetSmart Charities, so the ease of collecting and managing submissions has afforded me time to focus on engagement. Chute also makes it easy to engage, too.
Lastly, for people who have read this, seen the campaign, and are now believers in how wonderful owning a cat can be, How do they adopt?
Great question! All PetSmart stores have a Cat Adoption Center with cats from local animal welfare groups. If you’re looking for a specific kitty, you can search for adoptable cats in your area through our website.
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