AKC's Greatest Strength Is To Hold Fast To Tradition
One of our greatest strengths as an organization has been our ability to hold fast to tradition over the course of one hundred thirty-five years. Not many corporations have been in existence – and flourishing – for as long as the American Kennel Club has. Our success is fueled by one constant: our abiding love of the sport of purebred dogs. That passion will always be our internal compass.
But it was Benjamin Franklin who famously said, “when you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” Our path forward must be forged with not only a foundation in the fancy but with support from the greater world of dog lovers. After all, without a market for purebred dogs, breeders and our sport would face many challenges. Much like a hunting organization must become involved in environmental conservation, or an explorers’ club must participate in cultural preservation, we too must look outward as well as inward. It is our job to influence and shape public opinion with positive messaging in order to secure our future.
Some who advocate for dogs exploit the media to create perceptions of their work that may or may not be accurate. These are extemporized (and sometimes even staged) tactics that can be effective for the singular goal of fundraising. However attention-grabbing these headlines and images may be, they do not suit or serve our organization’s objectives. Our mission is to do whatever is necessary to uphold the integrity of our Registry and promote the sport of purebred dogs. Sustained public interest in and demand for purebred dogs is crucial to the breeder’s decision to produce another litter, a club’s ability to hold a show, a network’s choice to air a dog show on television, and even a family’s opting to register their pet. Headlines are ephemeral. Community-building can last forever.
To cultivate a broad, diverse and enthusiastic community of purebred dog lovers, we have taken the long view when it comes to public relations and marketing. Influencing the public positively is a slow and steady race, a marathon and not a sprint. With established programs and new initiatives, AKC has been incredibly successful in reaching and growing our audiences, even among segments that previously went ignored or had not been identified until recently. Over the past several years, by developing programs within AKC Public Education, diversifying our sports with events like scentwork and dock diving, and investing in communications platforms such as AKCtv, AKC.org and social media, we have gone from insular to embracing all dog lovers. The results speak for themselves. Registrations of dogs and litters continue to grow for the sixth and fifth years respectively. Entries have been up two percent for the majority of the year. We have been mentioned in the news more than 21,000 times this year, and not once with a critical tone. Traffic to our web site is up nine percent this year, with a thirty percent increase in visits to our breed-specific content. AKC.org continues to hold a top-three rank among pet web sites. We have even been featured prominently on a major sports network, ESPN2, with an unprecedented showcase of AKC agility. These trends indicate strongly that now, more than ever, the public looks to AKC as a voice of authority, a leader in education and a positive resource for dog-related information, sports and entertainment.
We have achieved this paradigm shift with creativity, open minds and even empathy to an extent. Get to know some of our newest projects to understand how we have shaped and guided the public’s perceptions of the American Kennel Club. AKC Pup Pals add cheer to the lives of struggling children. Enhanced lesson plans from AKC Public Education infuse academics with dogs to help children embrace learning. AKC’s BARK (Be a Reading Kid) program includes dogs to foster a love of reading among children, a crucial effort during our screen-dominated times. The Pupdate equips hundreds of thousands of new puppy owners with weekly education to help them be the best owners they can be. AKCtv provides an incredible roster of programs to interest all dog lovers – from breed videos to lifestyle shows to livestreams of our very own AKC events. (Download the app and encourage every dog lover you know to do the same.) Follow the adventures of the Puppy Pack 2.0, AKC’s Instagram hit that has driven up our followers on that social platform nearly ten percent this year. Join the crowds at the AKC Museum of the Dog for exhibitions that celebrate dogs in new and interactive ways.
Most of us know that it is a joy and also a privilege to participate in the sport of purebred dogs. As we look to the year ahead and envision greatness in the show ring and the whelping box, let’s not forget how we can all do our part to keep the public loving who we are and what we do. Take advantage of everything AKC has to offer, particularly our consumer-facing programs. As ambassadors for our breeds and our sports, let’s continue to spread the word and share the joy.
Happy holidays to you all.
William J. Feeney, Chairman
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