Advancing communications measurement and evaluation

What an Orphaned German Shepherd Can Teach You About Social PR


Shonali Burke uses a story about the adoption of a dog to illustrate her 7Cs of Social PR. Read our interview with her here. (Did you know that she gave up a Bollywood career for love, and only met her husband ten days before their wedding?) See the other posts she’s written for The Measurement Standard here.

I’ve been in India since the first few days of the year (work brought me here, but of course I’m seeing family and friends as well).

It’s always terrific to come back; there’s something about this country that is magical, though it can also be (and often is) noisy and dusty and frustrating and exhausting.

Look, who’s talking?

One of the things that I’ve noticed on this trip, which I’ve never really noticed before (and I left the country almost 17 years ago), is that especially in certain settings, Indians have an enormous capacity to conduct multiple parallel, simultaneous, and coherent conversations.

It’s really quite impressive. But if you’re not one of those people who can do this, it’s more than a little overwhelming.

Imagine Conversation A about So-and-So’s daughter who’s now in college, and Conversation B about who was always the ringleader in school, and Conversation C about socialites who extol the virtues of the handloom industry yet continue to wear gowns made of synthetic fabrics, and Conversation D about the U.S. presidential elections, and …

… and they’re all happening at the same time. And you’re supposed to be able to respond coherently to every single one of them.

It would drive you just a little bit crazy, right?

This is essentially what most brands experience when they enter the social space.

They know they have to get on the social media bandwagon, so they do. But once through the magic portal, they have absolutely no clue what to do next.

So they try this, and they try that, and they try this, and they try that… but they really don’t know why, or what to expect, or to whom to listen. And they start getting discouraged, even though they know they really really really need to be on social media.

And sometimes it’s so exhausting to just try and keep up, they simply wash their hands of it and quit altogether.

And that is such a tragedy! Because time and time again I have experienced the immense community-building power of social media. There’s nothing quite like it.

The one where social media found Darby the German Shepherd a home

Take, for instance, the story of Darby, the German Shepherd. I wrote about her several years ago, but for those of you too impatient to click through, here’s the tl;dr version:

Thanks to the power of Social PR, I found a home for my husband’s late uncle’s beloved dog, from 3,000 miles away.

For the braver of heart, here’s the PowerPoint slide version:

  • My husband’s uncle died unexpectedly while abroad on vacation, leaving no kids but his dog, in Portland, Ore.;
  • The family asked if I could help find a home for her (ex-ASPCA and all that); note that I’m based in the Washington, D.C., metro area;
  • I did all sorts of “social media things” including setting up a Twitter account for Darby and more;
  • Thanks to a wonderful pet blogger then on the East Coast who wrote about Darby—Megan Drake—a local TV producer in Portland heard about her;
  • A Skype interview and TV story later, Darby had more prospective pet parents wanting to adopt her than Scarlett O’Hara had suitors while wearing curtains;
  • Darby went home with a lovely family and did indeed, I hope, live happily ever after for the rest of her natural born life; and
  • There is (or, at least, was) a kitten in the United States named “Shonali” after me, because of how Megan (her mom) and I bonded over this entire situation.

As you are processing this story, keep the following in mind:

  • Had it not been for the technological revolution, there’s no way I would have been able to publish multiple stories about Darby, let alone send out cute tweets on her behalf;
  • While I still don’t have a massive social media following, back then I had an even smaller footprint. So had it not been for my community stepping up and sharing Darby’s story, it’s highly unlikely she would have caught Megan’s attention, and KOIN-TV in Portland would never have known about her;
  • Had my strategy not been highly creative and collaborative in pursuit of my ultimate goal—i.e. to find Darby a home—I honestly don’t know if we’d have succeeded.

I have many stories like this. And in the course of my work, I’ve come across so many people and companies who do as well.

The 7Cs of Social PR

The congruence of specific elements that kept popping up when I looked at, and for, similarly successful Social PR campaigns is what led me to develop The 7C Social PR Framework™, as a way to help organizations wrap their minds, arms, and wallets around Social PR.

I’ll be going through this in a free online training I’m teaching Feb 10-12, but here are the 7Cs in a nutshell.

  • Corollary: because if you don’t have a strategy to start with, then everything that can go wrong will
  • Creativity: that’s not just about mad Photoshop skills, it’s about thinking outside the proverbial box (Darby the GSD started tweeting, for heaven’s sake, and people believed it was actually her)
  • Content: tweets, blog posts, whatever—they’re all content, and it’s up to us to make it versatile and impactful
  • Conversation: we need to get people engaged with our story, and then talking about it
  • Community: our “village,” who help us so much further than we could ever go on our own
  • Collaboration: not having an ego and being flexible enough to switch up your strategy when needed
  • Calibration: having a goal from the outset, because, contrary to what Bob Dylan sang, if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re likely to end up in East Jebip.

The more I work in the field, the more I see that successful Social PR campaigns and initiatives embody the 7C Social PR Framework™, even if they don’t know it.

And because I truly believe in the power of Social PR to change the world, it is my mission in life—or at least as long as I’m in the biz—to bring it to those who could use it.

I do hope you will consider applying the Framework to your own particular situation, and let me know if it helps you get friendlier with Social PR. He’s a nice guy, trust me.

And if you’d like to roll up your sleeves and get to work with it, you can register for “LIFT OFF! The Social PR Superhero’s Guide to The Galaxy,” a free online mini-training I’m teaching Feb. 10-12 (just one hour a day).

I’ll bring the 7Cs to life for you, it will be a ton of fun in addition to being hugely educational, you’ll get to meet some really cool Social PR pros… and it’s free! That’s a pretty good deal, if you ask me.

I know Darby the GSD would agree.


Photo of Darby O’Callahan the German Shepard by Shonali Burke.

Shonali Burke

Shonali Burke

Shonali Burke is a “social PR” strategist who, among other career highlights: Rebuilt the ASPCA’s communication function, and instituted its award-winning measurement program to boot; Was named to PRWeek’s first “top 40 Under 40” list, the first list of 25 Women That Rock Social Media, and; Founded and continues to curate the popular #measurePR hashtag and Twitter chat.
Shonali Burke
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