Guest columnist Judy McMahon is the Legislative Liaison for the Irish Terrier Club of America and an exhibitor and breeder of Irish Terriers. She shares her experiences in promoting dog shows and establishing relationships within the area business community.
As the world of purebred dogs continues to come under attack, it is increasingly important to find creative ways of demonstrating the value of purebred dog ownership and dog events. The Irish Terrier Club of America has developed a business outreach program in conjunction with its National Specialty show that could easily be adopted by dog clubs across the country. This program engages dog show exhibitors and spectators, demonstrates the positive economic impact of dog events, and helps forge relationships in support of the right own and breed quality dogs without unnecessary governmental interference.
Several years ago, Marcie Dobkin from California introduced an idea at the Kennel Club of Palm Springs shows to distribute "I'm Here For the Dog Shows" lapel stickers to people attending the shows. The idea quickly became popular in California and we began seeing these stickers at many dog shows on the West Coast.
The Legislative Action Team of the Irish Terrier Club of America (ITCA) thought it was such a clever idea that they decided to introduce it at their National Specialty — and at numerous all-breed, limited breed, and specialty shows — held in Montgomery County, PA each October. The original idea was expanded in an attempt to gain even greater appreciation for dog shows among local businesses.
Prior to the shows, the ITCA contacted area convention and visitors bureaus and persuaded them to ask restaurants to offer discounts to everyone who comes into their establishments wearing an "I'm Here For the Dog Shows" sticker during the five-day show cluster.
The Valley Forge Convention and Visitors Bureau (VFCVB) provided a list of approximately 30 of their member restaurants that would offer various types of discounts. Although they generally do this for conventions in the area, we convinced them that the dog shows attracted more people than a single convention ever would. The wonderful folks at the VFCVB instructed their members to offer the same types of discounts to anyone wearing our bright yellow stickers as they would to someone wearing a convention badge.
This year we reached out to the Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau in the adjoining county. Because many of the dog show folks stay in the Chester County area, this group also agreed to provide a list of restaurants offering discounts.
At the shows, members of the ITCA Legislative Action Team put stickers on anyone and everyone who will accept one. We tell them we appreciate their support for purebred dogs, and that by wearing their stickers they can get discounts at local restaurants. With permission of the show chairs, we post information at the show site about participating restaurants. By the end of each day, we have literally "stickered" hundreds of people — so the entire area has people all over proclaiming "I'm Here For the Dog Shows"!
It's actually a lot of fun to pass out the stickers, and a great way to start a conversation. Last year, a number of other terrier breed clubs asked for stickers and restaurant information ahead of time to include in welcome packets for their attendees, so we got them to help pass out stickers at the shows as well! The program has become something people look forward to each year at these shows, and could easily be adapted for use at large shows everywhere. All it takes is a little pre-planning, cooperation from your membership and the show chairs, and you're on your way to getting some great publicity at relatively little cost and effort.
After the shows are over, the ITCA president sends a letter to the owner and/or general manager of each participating restaurant to thank them, to advise them how much revenue dog shows brought to their area or state in the past year (information obtained from the American Kennel Club Government Relations Department), and to ask them for their help if anti-dog legislation should be introduced in the future. These business contacts are added to the contact list for the Legislative Action Team member in that area, and we do contact them for assistance the next time we encounter a legislative issue.
If you need assistance in setting up your program or samples of any of our postings, letters, or other materials, please contact me at email@example.com
Irish Terrier Club of America Legislative Liaison
The opinions expressed by guest columnists may not represent the views of the American Kennel Club®.