As a fellow animal rescue marketer, you're probably a fan of the witty and dynamic content found on Tony LaRussa's ARF social media pages. Meet the guru behind their activities, Sara Kersey. Sara is ARF's Marketing Manager, and she runs a very lively and fun team of both social marketers and citizen marketers who have made ARF's online presence one of my favorite examples of a job well done!
ARM interviewed Sara this month and wanted to get the juicy details on her evolving career path that led her to this much desired position at ARF, as well as her favorite social media tricks and tips:
ARM: Ok Sara - everyone wants to know - what career path led you to become the Marketing Manager for ARF?
Sara: I spent two years as a volunteer and ten employed in animal welfare operations doing everything from evaluating dogs to supervising adoptions to running programs for low-income pet guardians. Any shelter or rescue worker knows you are always making use of the resources you have, so when I was program director for a small nonprofit shelter without a marketing department, I took on the writing, web, and social media in addition to my other responsibilities. I’d been writing articles and essays for years, and like many others of my generation had been exploring social media for as long as it’d been in existence. I jumped at the chance to combine those interests with my career path with animals, and was so excited to come work for an organization like ARF. Never a dull minute!
ARM: Describe a typical day for you as ARF's Marketing Manager.
Sara: On any given day I’m working on one--more likely two and sometimes three!--of the many ARF publications; writing, editing, and overseeing layouts and production. I do a lot of writing and editing of webpages, articles, and content for various things, manage promotional materials for events, compose press releases, choose images, etc. My department functions as a sort of internal advertising agency for ARF’s many programs, so it’s pretty typical for me to be simultaneously working on a strategy for marketing adoptions, specific animals who need additional exposure, one of our youth programs, or a need for fosters, volunteers, something else. I’m responsible for social media strategy, so of course among all that I’m intermittently tweeting, pinning, and posting to Facebook!
ARM: What is the coolest marketing idea you've developed?
Sara: I love to take good ideas to the limit using social media. We marketed one of our long-term kitties as a great office cat and did a full-fledged “job” search: created business cards, a resume…and put him on LinkedIn! He’s the first cat ever with his very own profile on LinkedIn and he has more connections than me! He still gets requests even though I’m happy to report he found “employment” months ago.
ARM:what makes you cringe when you see it out there in social media land?
Sara: There is definitely a time and place for sad stories, and we encounter many of them in our field, but rescues who only use fear and guilt are missing massive opportunities to engage, excite, and inspire people to get involved with the positive things we do and see every day: the magic animals bring to people who need their comfort, the animals who overcome adversity, the people who go above and beyond to help a fellow creature…not to mention the humor and personalities we see in the animals we encounter.
This is a smaller pet peeve, but as a writer, I find posts containing walls of text maddening! If you can say it in 15 words, don’t say it in 45 and risk your readers losing interest or scrolling past altogether. Save the long narrative for something else – it usually doesn’t belong on social media.
ARM: Name your 3 favorite social media tools.
Sara: 1. The ability to schedule Facebook posts in advance so I can put my energy into making them amazing ahead of time and watch the likes fly in while I’m working on something else. 2. Google Alerts and Social Mention so I can stay on top of what’s being said about us and our favorite topics and jump right into the conversation! 3. And the best tool of all: staff and volunteers who “get” what I’m trying to do and feed me photos and stories from their daily work.
ARM: What is the best single tip you can offer to animal rescue advocates who are social media marketers?
Sara: Keep your ear to the ground. I try to take a full walk through our building at least once daily and almost never come back without an irresistible image for Facebook or an amazing story. I promise there are hundreds of social media posts in the making happening every day in your organization! It’s just a matter of finding them and putting your own spin on top.
ARM: What is your favorite thing about being an animal rescue marketing professional?
Sara: It is FUN, especially when staff and volunteers get involved! When the “harlem shake” craze hit YouTube, I brought it up to our Executive Director and she said “let’s do it tomorrow!” An email was sent out and more than 20 of our amazing team members and their dogs showed up in crazy costumes with props to shake it for ARF and the animals on video. No hesitation, just pure enthusiasm for the idea. Check out the ARF Harlem Shake video. It got more than 1500 views in the first 24 hours.)
ARM: What are your favorite examples of good social media?
love anything unexpected and timely. Tying your group into current
events or trends, ESPECIALLY if non-animal related. Anjellicle Cat
Rescue did a “Downton Tabby” adoption event
introducing their cast of characters one by one via social media. On a
more simple scale, I nine times out of ten cannot resist sharing a
well-lit, clearly captured photograph with a funny caption like this one
from Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA.
ARM: Of course, we have to ask…tell us about the furry kids you live with that I am sure inspire you for your great ideas.
Sara: Oh yes! Goodie, the feisty senior Kelpie, rules the roost. Bodie the pit bull/hound mix is my sensitive guy who cuddles my kindergartener to sleep every night. My newest addition is Squeak, my chirpy black cat from ARF who fetches paper balls (very helpful as a writer who does plenty of crumbling up of papers)!
ARM: Where are the best online places for folks to see Sara in action?
Sara and I co-presented a fun and education session at ARF's annual conference, "The Business of Saving Lives", on March 23, 2013, titled "Social Media: UNLEASHED". We offered our 25 most useful social media tips for animal rescue marketers. Check out the presentation here!