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Direct Response Marketing

A Bite as Big as His Bark

1 Dec, 2010 By: Thomas Haire Response

Former lead lobbyist Wayne Pacelle's six-year run of success as the leader of the Humane Society of the united States has a strong DR marketing plan as its backbone.


After working in that role for a year — “writing features, book reviews, news; it was a great primer on all subjects in the animal world” — he was contacted by Cleveland Amory, the founder of The Fund for Animals, a national organization created in the 1960s. Pacelle says, “Cleveland was a best-selling author in the field, a social historian, a hero in the animal rights world. His executive vice president had retired, and he told me he’d been following my writing and my work. He hired me as executive director of his organization at age 23. It was a very flattering experience.”

He worked at The Fund for Animals for five-and-a-half years, beginning his experience in lobbying for new laws during his time. “The HSUS began recruiting me, and I finally took its post as chief lobbyist and spokesperson in 1994,” Pacelle says. “I thought then — and I’ve worked hard to prove those thoughts correct — that the HSUS had enormous potential to reach mainstream America.”

During his 10 years in that role, Pacelle worked to pass such key ballot measures as: Florida’s ban of the use of gestation crates for housing breeding sows (2002); mid-1990s bans on the use of bait and dogs to hunt bears, cougars and bobcats in Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington; bans on the use of cruel traps in California (1998), Colorado (1996), Massachusetts (1996) and Washington (2000); and outlawing cockfighting in Arizona (1998), Missouri (1998) and Oklahoma (2002).

His track record of leadership made him a natural candidate to lead the HSUS, and he won election as the organization’s president and CEO in 2004.

A Busy Presidency

Since taking the leadership role, Pacelle has spurred unimagined growth for what is now the nation’s largest animal protection organization — 11 million members and constituents, $130 million in annual revenue and assets of $200 million.

Part of this growth has come from successful mergers with other major animal groups, including Pacelle’s previous employer, The Fund for Animals, in 2004 — a move engineered by Pacelle and former Fund president Michael Markarian, who now serves as the HSUS’ chief operating officer. Pacelle was the architect of the 2006 combination with the Doris Day Animal League, a 20-year-old organization founded by actress and renowned dog lover Doris Day. He also created the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, after the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights was brought into the HSUS family.

The HSUS now provides services for more animals than any other organization in the United States and operates five animal care centers around the nation. Pacelle also founded Humane USA, a non-partisan political arm of the animal protection movement, and the Humane Society Legislative Fund, a 501(c)(4) organization that lobbies for animal welfare legislation and works to elect humane-minded candidates to public office.

And though the HSUS is not directly linked to the many local Humane Societies and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) offices around the U.S., Pacelle did co-found the National Federation of Humane Societies, a trade association for local humane societies across the nation, in 2006 and serves on its board.

But it’s the organization’s success in the legislative space that clearly makes Pacelle the proudest. “Before I came to HSUS, the organization had two federal lobbyists and — like many animal rights groups — had left the ballot measure process for dead after a few tough defeats to well-funded opposition in the 1970s,” he says. “We took something that was seen as an unworkable process and have turned those perceptions completely around.”

Pacelle is clearly a busy and determined man, but he says the HSUS could not have been as remotely as successful as its been since he joined the team without great marketing — specifically, effective direct response marketing.

DR for the Animals

“In terms of DRTV, we were one of the first non-profits to invest in video and streaming video online,” Pacelle says. “We have a team of experienced people in-house, editing studios in-house. We know what an important visual opportunity the animals themselves provide. Animals are living, breathing creatures that fascinate people, and their issues lend themselves to audio-visual treatment.”

Pacelle adds that the HSUS began working directly with TV networks for DRTV campaigns back in the early 1990s. “DRTV has always been an important way for us to strengthen our brand and make animal protection a theme that percolates through the culture,” he says. “It allows us to recruit new members for advocacy — we’ve seen the success of other non-profits in the DRTV space and believe are programs there are as strong as any in the sector.”

Pacelle says television has played a tremendous role in the HSUS’ ballot successes, as TV advertising spend on those successful campaigns has been key. And he also points to the organization’s strong Web marketing efforts as a reason for the HSUS’ success across the board.

“We have outstanding personnel on the Web, and we’ve invested in outbound E-mail to our supporters,” he contends. “We’ve taken a campaign approach to our regular updates, informing our constituents about issues like dog fighting, puppy mills, factory farming. Our supporters are educated, and we now have 1.4 million online advocates.”

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About the Author: Thomas Haire

Thomas Haire

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