Behind the Headlines: Britain’s loneliest dog

Behind the Headlines: Britain’s loneliest dog

Benjamin Winter

News channels and online reporters were falling over themselves yesterday to promote the story of the UK’s loneliest dog. Ben Winter looks at how this clever piece of PR activity has raised the profile of animal rescue centres everywhere.

What happened?

It’s a news story sure to break your heart. According to the Freshfields Animal Centre in Liverpool where she lives, Freya, a homeless Staffordshire bull terrier, has been rejected by 18,720 potential owners. Picked up as a six-month-old stray she has been overlooked for six years. Did I mention also that she has canine epilepsy? Dubbed by the media as Britain’s loneliest dog, hers is a tale of hardship tailor made for an ITV prime time talent show. The story broke first on Good Morning Britain when viewers were introduced to Freya, but in a matter of hours rolling news channels, online news and, of course, Twitter had picked up on the story.

Why is it important?

In the midst of arguably the most important vote facing the British public in generations, this does admittedly rank fairly low on national importance. However, the story itself is the result of a fantastic bit of PR on behalf of Freshfields Animal Centre. By highlighting one particularly emotive case, they have successfully raised their profile as an organisation and, more importantly, the plight of rescue animals across the nation. Setting up a Facebook page for Freya so that the media could comment on how many ‘friends’ she has was a particularly nice touch, bringing the reader even closer to the message.

What’s the reaction been?

The Twitter response was actually fairly underwhelming, with Kay Burley of Sky News (who had previous canine-themed social media success with the now infamous “sadness in his eyes” post last year) driving a lot of of the conversation. This did not necessarily reflect the level of individual engagement however – the Daily Mail and Mirror articles have been shared nearly three thousand times each, with the Metro article also receiving over two thousand shares. Perhaps the lack of visibility was due to the hashtag #BritainsLoneliestDog simply not catching on. However this didn’t stop offers for adoption coming in from as far away as Australia and the US.

Best headline?

Britain’s loneliest dog Freya has 700 Facebook friends but has never had a home – Daily Mail

What’s next?

Of course we all hope Freya has found a new home. But on a wider point, this creative piece of PR has given life to a story that has already raised the profile of the Freshfields Animal Centre, and indeed that of other animal rescue centres across the UK.