Growl: Life Lessons, Hard Truths, and Bold Strategies from an Animal Advocate

Book review by Rachel Curit, 2014 Spring Intern

GrowlKim Stallwood, a long-time animal rights activist, recently published his first book entitled Growl: Life Lessons, Hard Truths, and Bold Strategies from an Animal Advocate. Stallwood went vegetarian back in 1974 and then vegan two years later. He began his animal rights career at Compassion in World Farming and the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, and he then moved on to be PETA’s Executive Director and the Editor-in-Chief of Animals Agenda. Drawing on lessons learned during his nearly 40 year career in animal advocacy, Growl is a must-read for those who are looking to up their advocacy game in an effective way.

Born in England in 1955, Stallwood began his life like most of us do, eating a variety of animal-based foods. The first seed of compassion for animals was planted as a child when he saw a well-known woman known as Camberley Kate walking her many rescued dogs around town. She’d take them in and find suitable homes for them. Though her presence ignited his compassion for animals, it wasn’t until he worked in a chicken slaughterhouse and processing plant that he awakened to the truth of what happens to animals who are used for food. Not long after that, he found himself going vegetarian and then vegan, and it was then that his career in animal rights took off.

In the book, Stallwood reflects on his own journey of animal activism. In many ways, his experience is like all of ours, with twists and regrets, and in others, it’s entirely unique. How many people are awakened to animal exploitation by working in a slaughterhouse? How many of us have the opportunity to work for several well-known animal rights organizations? He notes where he made mistakes, and he explores what he could’ve done differently to be more effective. He does so by sharing the four key values he believes must make up our animal activism: truth, compassion, nonviolence, and justice.

For example, Stallwood outlines compassion as a value that “encourages selflessness, dissolves prejudice, prevents violence, and promotes peace, through an altruistic love that opens our eyes, hearts, and minds to the suffering of others and forces us to make positive differences in their lives. Compassion is justice in action,” (Stallwood, p. 58).

He makes his point about compassion being a necessity to the animal advocacy movement by painting a picture of what an interaction between Kim the Chef (the man who worked in the slaughterhouse) and Kim the Vegelical (the man in his early days of activism) might look like. Kim the Vegelical has staged a protest with fellow activists outside the slaughterhouse in which Kim the Chef works. His intent is to make Kim the Chef feel guilty for working in the slaughterhouse. Kim the Chef walks by the protest quickly, making an effort not to make contact. Inside, he might feel guilt, because indeed working there has already brought up some of those feelings, but he brushes off the feeling and laughs about the protesters with his coworkers, avoiding expressing his feelings with them.

Personally, I can relate to Kim the Vegelical. While I’ve never protested or yelled at anyone, looking back on conversations I’ve had, I have to question what my motives were. Unfortunately, compassion and understanding for all beings, including humans, were not at the forefront of my mind, despite the fact that I was trying to do right by the animals.

Both Kims would eventually change their attitudes, but “a connection had to be made in which opinions were respected and a genuine reciprocity was experienced before something could shift and progress be made,” (Stallwood, p. 68). Again, I’ve noticed in my own conversations that when both sides act and speak respectfully, much more progress is made for the animals.

Through this scenario, Stallwood shows not only how compassion makes for effective advocacy, but also how ineffective a lack of compassion is.

Throughout Growl, Stallwood highlights his experiences and the lessons he’s learned, and how they relate to the four principles. Any activist, new or seasoned, can learn from Stallwood’s experiences and apply them to his or her own advocacy.

Have you read Growl yet? We’d love to hear what you got out of the book. Post your comments below!

Tips for Running a Successful Pay Per View Event

By Rachel Curit, 2014 Spring Intern

Rachel PPVHave you ever heard of Pay Per View (PPV)? No? Let me explain. Essentially, you offer to pay people one dollar to watch a four-minute video on factory farming, such as Mercy For Animals’ Farm to Fridge or FARM’s 10 Billion Lives. These events are extremely successful on college campuses, but there are plenty of other places you can do them as well.

PPV is great for anyone looking to have meaningful conversations surrounding veganism and animal rights. If at the end of the day you want to feel like you’re making a real difference, try running a PPV event at your local college campus.

VegFund has a short informational video on how to host a successful PPV event, and Mercy For Animals has some great tips for getting started with PPVs, but after interning with Mercy For Animals and running a lot of PPV events myself, I’ve picked up some tips of my own along the way. Hopefully these help you have your own fun and successful PPV event.

Find out ahead of time where you need to go to check in.

A simple phone call will suffice. It’s easier than wandering around campus trying to figure out what to do. Be sure to ask the name of the building that you need to go to. It will save a lot of time and energy. While you’re at it, you might want to ask where you’re allowed to park and how much a parking pass is. Consider printing out a map beforehand.

Rachel College PPVHave multiple volunteers. Three to four is a great number.

It’s hard to do a PPV all by yourself. You’ll need at the very least two people, but three or four is better. Having a few volunteers to answer questions and get people set up with the video and at least one person to draw people in is ideal and will help your event run more smoothly.

Be honest about the video.

When people ask what the video is about, I like to say, “It’s about how animals are treated on factory farms.” Though this may sound like it will turn people away, in my experience, it doesn’t. For me, it feels more honest than saying “It’s about where our food comes from” or “It’s about farming.”

Ask viewers questions that keep the conversation going.

In my experience, asking “Do you have any questions?” is a conversation killer. After watching the video, we want people to open with their own thoughts and questions. Sometimes, though, people don’t even realize they have questions because they are still processing what they saw. This means YOU should be asking the questions.

Some of my favorite conversation starters are “How did that make you feel?” or “Did you know this is going on?” Something along those lines is perfect. Another great question you can ask once the conversation is going along are “Do you think you could ever go vegan?” If they say no, gently ask what’s stopping them and then give suggestions on how to overcome that obstacle. “Do you have any other questions?” is perfect for ending the conversation. That way, you’ve already got them thinking and some questions might be popping up.

Share your story!

People respond to personal stories. If they say they could never give up cheese, tell them about your experiences ditching dairy. Knowing that we are not alone in our journeys and that others have been in our shoes is comforting. Do you remember when you went vegan? Learning from vegans who had been there and done that probably helped you avoid making the same mistakes they did. We all learn from each other, so share your knowledge and make someone else’s transition a little easier.

Have information available on the many impacts of eating meat.

You and I know the devastating environmental impact of animal agriculture, but many people do not. Most people don’t realize how eating meat can negatively impact their health. And many still don’t realize how many resources go into producing meat and that there would be more food to go around if we cut down on our consumption. Share this information with your viewers. Sometimes animal issues aren’t enough, but when people learn that we could feed the hungry with the grains that we feed farmed animals, that has an impact. Everyone is affected by different information, and having that information handy might just be what inspires someone to go vegan! You could even have pro-vegan literature on hand that touches on these other subjects, whether it’s on water usage (PDF), health and nutrition, or even religion! Check out VegFund’s list of brochures you can use!

Know when to let go.

Once in a while, someone won’t act affected at all and you can’t stress over it. Instead, hand them the free information and let them go on their way. They may not go vegan today, but you planted a seed and that’s all you can do. Another thing to keep in mind is if they don’t show much of a reaction, they may not feel comfortable being vulnerable in front of a stranger and that’s okay. However, that doesn’t mean they weren’t affected.

Use VegFund’s resources.

You might be thinking, but I don’t have 100 dollars to give to people. That’s where VegFund steps in to help! You can apply for mini-grants and if you’re approved, VegFund will reimburse you for the money you hand out. Check out this page for more information on how it works.

So what do you think? Would you ever run a PPV event? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this form of outreach!

 

Cooking Demos: Educating People Through Delicious, Vegan Food

By Rachel Curit, 2014 Spring Intern

“If it tastes good, they will eat it” are words that vegan author and speaker Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has repeated time and time again. Whether it’s a decadent chocolate cupcake or a salad with an out-of-this world dressing, it doesn’t matter if it’s vegan as long as it’s delicious. And the key is to show people that vegan food can be even more delicious than non-vegan food!

Which leads us to a specific type of activism you may not have considered yet: cooking demos. Whether you choose to host your demo in a church or at a supermarket, whether you feature brunch or dessert, and whether it’s your first time or 100th, you will undoubtedly show people how delicious and creative vegan food can be.

We’ve talked with four amazing activists who have done this type of activism and they had some great ideas to share that we hope will inspire you!

Terri Nelson-Bunge, DTR (TNB): Terri is a long-time vegan and animal activist and has participated in a variety of events. One group she was involved with held monthly events at her local library, including cooking demos. Soon Terri will be launching a plant-based nutrition program called Happy, Healthy, & Whole.

Dr. Matthew Halteman (MH): Matt is a philosophy professor at a liberal arts college. Each year he teaches a course on animal ethics and advocacy. In 2007, Matt started Wake Up Weekend, an animal rights festival that features cooking demos among other things. On several occasions, Wake Up Weekend has hosted vegan chef and cookbook author Bryant Terry.

Leila Vaughan (LV): Leila is a founder and director of Peace Advocacy Network (PAN), and devotes significant time to organizing the PAN Vegan Pledge in the DC Metro Area and around the country. Cooking demos are central to the PAN Vegan Pledge program as well as other vegan advocacy that PAN does.

Gwendolyn Mathers (GM): Gwendolyn is a professional vegan chef and owns a vegan baking company in Los Angeles called Miss Kitchen Witch. She started doing cooking demos because she could see that there were many who were trying to transition to vegetarian or vegan, but who didn’t know what to cook or where to start.

Miss Kitchen Witch Cooking Demo

VF: What is the first step in hosting a successful vegan cooking demo?

TNB: The first step is to find a good location (hopefully free), and someone who is comfortable doing the demo. This may be an activist in the group, or in our case, a professional chef who is well-versed in vegan cooking.

MH: The first step to achieving a great cooking demo is to recruit a great presenter who has ample experience cooking in public. It’s tempting to think that anyone who is a “good cook” would make a good presenter, but in practice that’s not always the way it goes. Cooking for live audiences requires, among other things, foresight into which recipes are both accessible to wide audiences and executable on portable equipment, knowledge about how to prep and transport perishable ingredients without compromising the recipe, the ability to cook and talk simultaneously, and the poise to troubleshoot mistakes or unanticipated equipment malfunctions. That’s not to say that non-professionals can’t pull off a great demo; it’s just to say that those who haven’t done a public demo before should think ahead about these potentially challenging aspects of the process, practice the demo several times for friends and family, and perhaps even consider recruiting a partner to split up the responsibilities, with one person doing the chef-work and one doing the talking.

VF: Where are the best places to hold cooking demos?

TNB: The best places are locations that are:

  • Free or inexpensive
  • Veg events
  • Easy to access (parking)
  • Community events that draw a large audience

GM: Churches, spiritual centers, community centers, schools, libraries, and even supermarkets are great places to do demos. They often have kitchens, large community rooms—not to mention an existing audience base. Find those that feel like they ofter the low hanging fruit and lean toward what you want to teach.

VF: What are your top three tips for first timers?

TNB: 1. Be organized! You want people to come back, not feel frustrated with your event. 2. Hand out recipe cards for each dish you prepare. 3. Promote the event as much as you can. Promotion can be done through a website, Facebook page, word of mouth, flyers, and if held at a public venue (e.g., a library) through that location.

MH: 1. Retain a compelling presenter. For a lot of people, this presentation will be the first time they’ve seen a vegan recipe prepared, so it’s best to have an approachable, gracious, experienced person at the helm to create the best possible impression. 2. Book a sensible venue. Even the world’s best presenter will face difficulty in a poorly chosen venue. A fold-out table with 30 yards of extension cords between you and the nearest outlet in a park on an 85 degree summer day is no place to try to make appetizing food with perishable plant-based ingredients. 3. Keep the demo simple with delicious recipes that showcase the ability of plant-based foods to replace familiar comfort-food favorites with healthier alternatives. When people see that eating a plant-based diet can be easily done without giving up their favorite tastes and textures, the prospect of going vegan becomes much more inviting.

VF: What do you do to attract non-vegan attendees to the event?

LV: Promote the class as a free cooking demo for non-vegans and new vegans and ask vegans to please invite their non-vegan friends. As much as we love being around fellow vegans, everyone will understand that the purpose of this demo is to introduce non-vegans to vegan food. That way vegans will know that the class is more basic, and will also leave valuable class space open for the non-vegans and new vegans who really need the exposure to vegan cooking.

GM: Aside from making your demos free and open to the public, you’ve got to figure out what is the best way to get the word out for your particular event. Putting it on in a church or community center? Put up posters or go to other free classes and events to pass out leaflets. Post your event to local calendars, online community listings, bulletin boards, or ask local bloggers to share your event. Social media really takes the vegan cake when getting the word out. Create a Facebook event page. You can invite those in your area and ‘tweet’ your event page link to community event users in your town and newspaper accounts on Twitter. Though, it’s not all just about getting the word out and putting up posters. You’ve got to start with a demo that entices the average person. Sometimes you’ve got to start with cupcakes before you pull out the kale salad!

VF: Anything else you’d like to add?

LV: If the circumstances permit, give attendees a chance to get involved (after they wash their hands or put on gloves). Give them something to do, like chopping, mixing, etc. The more involved people are, the more fun they seem to have.

TNB: Yes. Don’t forget, a cooking demo (or any other event), is also a great way to promote animal rights. Have a literature table full of information about animal issues and especially at a cooking demo, veg starter kits that contain recipes.

We’d like to thank Terri, Matt, Leila, and Gwendolyn for taking the time to share these great tips!  If you have your own techniques or cooking demo experiences to share, please leave a comment. We love hearing from you!

And, don’t forget that VegFund provides funding to help support vegan cooking demos through our Merit Awards program!

May/June 2014 Volunteer Spotlight: Rachel Curit

VegFund intern, Rachel Curit, talks about her life as a vegan advocate and her many unique volunteer experiences.

Rachel CuritI have been an animal lover for as long as I can remember. It’s a quality my mother instilled in me. Have respect and kindness for animals. I know I wouldn’t be vegan today if it hadn’t been for her. She was the person who would yell (not too mean, though) at the local kids for harassing the ducks at the lake. We went to a circus once, and I remember her eyes filling with tears when the tiger or lion jumped through the ring of fire. And we always had companion animals living with us.

She was vegetarian in the 90s and fed me with a lot of vegetarian food. In fact, there was only a four or five year period in my life when I ate meat. As a toddler I was vegetarian and then I went vegetarian on my own when I was I was 8.

It wasn’t until I was 16 that I started reading vegan cookbooks and trying vegan recipes. I went vegan for a short period then, but finally made the official, permanent switch at the age of 19. After that, I scoured the internet for as much information as I could get my hands on. I listened to podcasts, read blogs and articles, and watched YouTube videos.

The defining moment for me was in February of 2012. I was sitting in my college dorm room, listening to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s podcast Food for Thought. She was talking about the horrors chickens face in the animal agriculture system. That’s it, I thought to myself. I can’t do this anymore. About a month later, I made my veganism official and I haven’t looked back.

Since going vegan, I’ve started my own blog The Vegan Mishmash, interned with Eco-Vegan Gal and Mercy For Animals, started writing for One Green Planet, and, of course, I am interning with VegFund. From MFA I learned how to do grassroots outreach. That experience vastly improved my ability to confidently communicate with people about veganism and animal rights. Through the other opportunities, I’ve learned and continue to learn the ins and outs of writing and social media. I’ve written blog posts for VegFund, including a review of Carol Adams’ Defiant Daughters and an interview with Vic Sjodin on his experience leafleting. As for the future, I can’t wait to see where my activism takes me.

Tips from a Leafleting Pro: An Interview with Vic Sjodin

By Rachel Curit, 2014 Spring Intern

Vic in actionJust about everyone has been handed a leaflet, whether on their college campus or outside of their local Whole Foods. But, have you ever thought about what it takes to be the person leafleting? Have you ever wanted to leaflet but were too nervous to get started? Or, have you leafleted before and are wondering what you can do to improve your take rate? Whether you’re new to vegan outreach or are a leafleting veteran, today we’re excited to share some tips from Vic Sjodin, who has been called the “best of the best” and the “leafleting king!”

Having worked for Vegan Outreach (VO) since 2008, Vic has a lot of experience in grassroots outreach. Though he started out as a volunteer, Vic was soon hired and began touring around the country leafleting at colleges and meeting other activists. So far, he has handed out over 720,000 leaflets!

Today, we’ve asked him to join us and share a little about his experiences in hopes that it might inspire you to get out there and share the animal rights message too.

VF: How did you get involved with leafleting?

VS: I got a “Why Vegan” leaflet in college, and later on my friends and activists in Philadelphia were leafleting and I joined them. After seeing Earthlings, I felt I had to do more than just not eat animals. I had to educate others. People will not hear of the animals’ plight on corporate television, so in the greatest spirit of democracy we take the message to the streets and directly into the hands of the people.  

VF: What are your top leafleting tips?

Vic in action 2VS:
  1. Smile
  2. Lock your arm straight
  3. Approach people with a statement, not a question. For example, “Help stop suffering” or “Info on helping animals” are great things to say, whereas, “Would you like some information?” will instantly drop the take rate.
  4. Have fun and remember the big impact that you’re making. Leafleting can be intimidating, but it’s really not asking too much of someone to consider taking some information.

VF:  What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out with leafleting?

VS: Just do it, and bring a friend if you can. Get out there and any nervousness will fade in 15 minutes or so. I was extremely shy and socially awkward growing up, so if I can leaflet, anyone can leaflet.

Also, remember that we are privileged to be human and free. If we are connected to all, if we appreciate our freedom, if we are thankful we are not in a gestation crate or a battery cage, then we have a responsibility to help others, and there is no greater use of our freedom than to free others from a level of suffering that we cannot even imagine. Our discomfort is nothing compared to what animals endure.

VF: What do you do when someone says something rude to you?

VS: Kill them with kindness. Aggression only attracts anger and validates their behavior. Often people who were rude will feel bad and come back to apologize or take a leaflet later in the day.

I do want to note that rude interactions are extremely rare; like, extremely. If it happens, it’s usually, “I love eating meat” or “I’m a meatatarian.” I try not to be too sensitive. If I can get 20 people to go veg and only have to listen to one person say something snide, who cares? That’s a reflection of them, and I choose to let it pass and move on.  

VF: What’s the most interesting leafleting experience you’ve had?

VS: There are usually a few every day. But, I remember early in the game, I was in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania and I gave a booklet to this beefy guy with greased hair and a tank top. I remember thinking as I handed it to him, this is a waste of a leaflet.  After class he came back to me teary-eyed, asking how he could get his protein because he liked to lift, and how disturbed he was by how they treat, “dem chickens.”

So, I’ve learned we can never give up on another human being. Many friends who were initially anti-vegan are now vegan and have joined on leafleting tours. Don’t only see things as they are, but also how they can be. I take a lot from Gandhi’s quote, “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not the attainment. Full effort is full victory.”

VF: Anything else you’d like to let readers know?

VS: I love them for caring about others and hope they get involved in moving the vegan revolution forward. While not a panacea, veganism is an antidote to greed, selfishness and environmental destruction and is a direct step to making our world more compassionate, connected and healthier. We are united in the struggle. Whenever I leaflet alone, I always think of all the people who support this movement, and I imagine them rooting me on. Anytime you step out of your comfort zone and leaflet, know that I will be rooting you on and so will the countless animals who rely on you as their voice.  

Thank you, Vic, for sharing your knowledge with us and for your tireless effort to raise society’s consciousness about the plight of other beings.

If you want more tips from the leafleting king, be sure to check out Vic’s YouTube video on leafleting techniques! And, if you have your own techniques or leafleting experiences to share, please leave a comment. We love hearing from you!

 

Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and The Sexual Politics of Meat

Book review by Rachel Curit, 2014 Spring Intern

Defiant DaughtersDefiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and The Sexual Politics of Meat  compiled by Carol J Adams is a compilation of essays highlighting the intersectionality between different forms of oppression, such as speciesism, sexism, racism, and ableism. Each essay features one woman’s true story of how she came to both veganism and feminism, and how she incorporates these values into her life. Every woman’s story is unique and inspiring.

For example, in The Feminist-Vegan’s Dilemma, Colleen Martell highlights something many of us have faced at one point or another: the issue of whether or not to speak up about why we’re vegan. The big question Colleen keeps asking herself, as it relates to both her animal activism and her feminism, is “What are my goals as a feminist-vegan activist?”  Though she doesn’t arrive at a hard and fast answer, she does say in regards to the gender studies class that she teaches, “I know I’m not convincing every student in my classes to support feminism, but it’s enough for me that I’ve taught them to ask good questions about the world around them and to be critical of oversimplified answers. Maybe that’s the best I can do with animal rights as well.” (p. 84).

This was an important takeaway for me in terms of my own activism. Getting people to think deeper about who they’re eating and the moral implications that go along with that is all I can do. I can’t force veganism on anyone, but I can answer their questions with honesty and authenticity.

Another poignant essay was written by Jasmin Singer of Our Hen House. In Found Art, Found Hope she writes, “We, as a society, willingly and mindlessly accept that certain groups fall beneath others in this hierarchical system that just is. The poison just seeps in…Shrugging our shoulders and becoming complacent is not acceptable. In order to end this mind—this notion that ‘I’m better than you and therefore can do whatever I want to you’—we cannot just wait patiently. We need to fight.” (p. 206). This notion is what all oppression boils down to, the idea that one group of individuals is better than another for arbitrary reasons and therefore can exploit, dominate, eat, and/or use the other group to their own benefit. One of the fascinating points Jasmin makes is that to give up meat and other animal products is to give up our power over non-human animals. I’d never thought about veganism in those terms before, and it resonated with me deeply.

This book contains such a wealth of information that this review barely begins to scratch the surface. I encourage you to pick up a copy and read it for yourself. You’ll likely find connections that you’d never thought of before and will be moved by each woman’s heartfelt, personal journey of accepting herself and discovering her own beliefs and convictions.

 

Part 3: Lessons from 10 Successful Facebook Campaigns

This final blog in our social media series explores several extremely popular Facebook pages. Each of these pages have attracted anywhere between one hundred thousand to eighty million fans. We do not endorse any of the following companies or their products, but we can learn from them. Our hope is that the techniques that they use will spark creative ideas for your own online vegan advocacy campaigns.

American Red Cross

Likes: 592,178
Talking about this: 9,943
Cool feature: Two-way conversations to build relationships

The American Red Cross is a great example of a non-profit that successfully uses social media. They use Facebook and Twitter to have two-way conversations with community members, volunteers, and the media; in doing so, they build strong relationships, get feedback on what they do well and how they can improve, and help spread awareness about their programs (Briones, Kuch, Liu, & Jin, 2011). The Red Cross’ southern region chapter uses social media to share volunteer opportunities and events with their fans, while other chapters use it to recruit new volunteers and relay information during crisis situations (Briones, et al., 2011). They also use social media to build relationships with local TV stations and newspapers, which has helped them respond to disasters more quickly. In turn, the media follows the Red Cross and contacts them to generate news stories (Briones, et al., 2011). You can follow the Red Cross’ example and use Facebook and other forms of social media to build relationships and establish trust. You can also follow other animal rights groups to find out the latest developments and spread the word on your own page.

Burt’s Bees

Likes: 2,273,163
Talking about this: 95,361
Cool feature: Inside look at their company and products

Burt’s Bees provides a look at the inner workings of their company and products through the use of videos and photos, which makes fans feel welcome and establishes trust (Porterfield, 2010). If you feel comfortable enough, you can do the same for your page by sharing your own story and experiences with vegan living and animal rights. In addition to posting “inside look” status updates on your page, you can also create a special tab with videos and photos of you and the people who volunteer for your page.

Coca-Cola

Likes: 80,101, 225
Talking about this: 665,948
Cool feature: Fun competitions

Coca-Cola gets their fans involved with their page by running fun competitions, such as the Share a Coke® Valentine’s Day Competition. They asked fans to submit photos of themselves with their loved one while sharing a Coke. The fans who submitted the most creative photos won personalized sets of Coke bottles. You can try asking your fans to post photos of themselves at vegan restaurants and farm sanctuaries, which will help spread the word about these places, and get your fans more involved with your page. If you decide to run competitions on your page, remember to make it easy to join (i.e., have only a few steps to join), easy to share so more people will find out about it, and most important of all, make it fun (Porterfield, 2010)!

Jones Soda

Likes: 1,013,021
Talking about this: 1,515
Cool features: Tabs for different types of social media; weekly polls

Jones Soda knows that fans have different preferences for the way that they communicate and so they provide multiple options on their page (Porterfield, 2010). They have tabs for Instagram and YouTube, as well as tabs for their videos and events, and a tab called Caps for Gear! where fans can trade in Jones Soda caps for t-shirts, hats, watches, and more. They also run weekly polls, which is a great way to interact with fans, learn about the audience, and find out what they want to see on the page (Porterfield, 2010). If you use more than one type of social media, make sure that your fans are aware of it and know how to find you on the other sites. It might be fun to borrow the “Caps for Gear” idea and create something like “Go Veg for Gear!” in which fans can turn in vegan food product labels in exchange for vegan buttons, t-shirts, books, and other such rewards. This will give fans an added incentive to try out vegan foods!

Livescribe

Likes: 132,023
Talking about this: 371
Cool feature: Customer support tab

Livescribe’s page has a customer support tab, in which fans can ask questions, share ideas, report problems, and give praise. Other people can see these posts and get answers to their questions, as well as reviews of Livescribe products. You might consider adding a Frequently Asked Questions tab to your page with information about veganism and links to restaurant guides, veg starter kits, and other helpful resources.

Oreo

Likes: 35,758,226
Talking about this: 92,242
Cool Feature: Oreo Creme Canvas tab

Oreo has a fun tab called Oreo Creme Canvas, where you can create a unique image on the creme of an Oreo and share with your friends. The team behind Oreo’s Facebook page came up with a clever way to use this tab to help build up their fan base; you have to “Like” their page before you can create a canvas. Then you can choose to upload a photo, or fill in the canvas with text and icons. You can create a farm-animal related tab where fans put their faces where the animals’ faces should be, or type messages into word bubbles. If you choose to do this, you may want to include a message that states that inappropriate photos and messages that fans create will not be posted on your Facebook page.

Red Bull

Likes: 43,052,387
Talking about this: 348,533
Cool features: Games; welcome tab

The crew behind Red Bull’s page understands their target audience and they know what gets the best response on their page (Porterfield, 2010). One of their unique features is a tab with several sports-themed games for their fans. They also created a welcome tab with an eye-catching image and a clear call to action to “Like” their page. Creative design can have a BIG impact on people who visit your page; it may be worth it to spend a little bit of money on your page design (Porterfield, 2010). You can also organize your page by making tabs for different areas, such as videos, contests, polls, and events.

Skittles

Likes: 25,887,257
Talking about this: 38,009
Cool feature: Well-developed brand voice

Skittles’ Facebook page is entertaining, colorful, and funny. They have done a great job of developing a brand voice for their page. They tell fans that they might become The Rainbow’s BFF if they post Skittles-themed photos on their page. Then they add funny statements to go with the photos. Try to develop a brand voice for your page. Know your audience so that you can create a voice that they will connect with, and make sure to keep your tone and language consistent (Schwab, 2011).

Starbucks

Likes: 36,329,214
Talking about this: 480,828
Cool feature: International tab; locations tab; open jobs tab

Starbucks created a special International tab for people to join their country’s Starbuck’s community Facebook page. They also have tabs for their locations and for open jobs. You can borrow their idea and add a tab with links to the Facebook pages of vegan organizations, vegan meetup groups, and farm sanctuaries worldwide. You might also consider adding a tab for volunteer and internship opportunities.

Uno Chicago Grill

Likes: 132,202
Talking about this: 279
Cool features: Great visual appeal through photos; Happy Mutt’s Day album for fans

Uno Chicago Grill’s page uses appealing photos of food to entice their fans (Porterfield, 2010). They know how much people love their dogs so they created an album titled “Happy Mutt’s Day” where fans can post photos of their dogs, which is a great way to connect fans to their page. When you create posts, try to use the most appealing images. Look for bright colors, appetizing photos of vegan food, and the cutest animals. And find ways to make your fans part of your page!

We hope this blog series helps you with your activism, gives you some new ideas, and inspires you to use social media as a way to help animals. We would love to hear about your experiences with social media campaigns and we wish you the best of luck!

References

Briones, R. L., Kuch, B., Liu, B. F., & Jin, Y. (2011). Keeping up with the digital age: How the American Red Cross uses social media to build relationships. Public Relations Review, 37(1), 37-43.

Porterfield, A. (2010, August 31). Top 10 Facebook pages and why they’re successful. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/top-10-facebook-pages/

Schwab, S. (2011, March 31). Finding your brand voice. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/social-media-marketing/finding-your-brand-voice/

 

Part 2: Understanding Your Target Audience

When using social media as an activist tool, it’s important to tailor your message to your target audience. In order to do that, you first need to determine who your target group is. If you already manage a Facebook page, you can easily find details about the people who “Like” your page by going to the “See Insights” tab and then clicking on the “People” tab. From there you will see a breakdown of your fans by gender, age, country, city, language, etc.

Once you’ve identified your target audience, you then need to do some research to find out what appeals to them. Google Scholar is one great resource. In addition, Google has several search operators that help to narrow down search results, as well as an advanced search page. You might try using search terms such as:

  • “marketing to [insert your target audience name]” (Placing quotation marks around search terms is one type of search operator; this will bring up results that have the exact word or phrase that you typed)

  • tips OR strategies for marketing to [insert your target audience name] (If you place OR in all caps between search terms, you will pull up pages that contain either term)

  • marketing social causes AND [insert your target audience name] (By placing AND in all caps between search terms, you will find pages with both terms)

  • how to market to teens -cigarette (Place a dash [-] before a word to exclude results that include that word; this is especially helpful if your search is bringing up a lot of irrelevant pages on a particular topic)

After you’ve identified your target audience and have an understanding of what appeals to them, you can begin to customize the messaging. For example, if you’re reaching out to older adults, you may want include information about the health benefits of plant-based foods, which often leads to a better quality of life, as well as a longer lifespan and more time to spend with their children and grandchildren. For health conscious audiences, you might focus on the health-promoting benefits of vegan food and the many common, yet avoidable diseases and conditions that arise from eating animal products. For eco-conscious consumers, you could give information about the negative effects that animal agriculture has on the environment and the Earth’s resources. For religious communities, focus on how veganism is in line with their spiritual values. Given the wide array of ethical, health, and environmental benefits of veganism, the message can easily be tailored to various demographics.

Case Study: Generation Z

When it comes to veganism, teens and college students tend to be one of the most receptive demographics and most likely to switch to a vegan lifestyle (Ball & Friedrich, 2009). So, focusing on this group may be the best use of limited resources. Additionally, those living at home with their parents influence upwards of 70% of the family food purchases, and 80-90% of the food that their parents buy for them (Williams & Page, 2011).

Who exactly is Generation Z? According to Williams and Page (2011), Generation Z is anyone who was born in or after 1995. They are smart and should not be underestimated, and according to Cross-Bystrom (2010), they “take fewer risks, but take the right risks.” They are technologically competent, do not know what life was like before the internet existed, and are not overwhelmed by messages and information assaulting them from every angle. More than 80% of teens use social networks and 96% use the web at least once a month (Savitt, 2011). They prefer social media over blogs, have an above average number of friends on social networks, and they love to share on these networks, all of which are fantastic reasons to use social media campaigns for this demographic (Ehret, 2011). While they may be good at multi-tasking, technology decreases their attention span (Richtel, 2010), so we need to create unique content that quickly catches their attention and gets the message across (Cross-Bystrom, 2010). A market research article that is helpful for understanding Generation Z can be found here.

One admirable thing about this generation is that they tend to be aware of, and concerned about, environmental and social issues, and they are likely to mobilize around causes that are important to them (Cross-Bystrom, 2010). If we show them how animal rights is connected to many other issues, they’ll be more motivated to take action.

In conclusion, to be effective we need to identify our target audience, find out what appeals to them, and tailor our message accordingly. While it would be ideal to reach and influence every demographic, it isn’t always possible. So it may be best to focus on people who are most likely to make changes, such as Generation Z.

Keep a lookout for our final blog in this series. We’ll share lessons learned from successful Facebook pages and provide lots of helpful examples.

References

Ball, M., & Friedrich, B. (2009). The animal activist’s handbook: Maximizing our positive impact in today’s world. Brooklyn, NY: Lantern Books.

Cross-Bystom, A. (2010, August 20). What you need to know about Generation Z. Retrieved from http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/27425.asp#multiview

Ehret, J. (2011, July 6). Marketing to Gen Z – Teens. Retrieved from http://themarketingspot.com/2011/07/marketing-to-gen-zteens.html

Richtel, M. (2010, November 21). Growing up digital, wired for distraction. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/technology/21brain.html?ref=your_brain_on_computers

Savitt, K. (2011, April 8). Three ways companies can reach Generation Z. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2011/04/08/marketing-generation-z/

Williams, K. C., & Page, R. A. (2011). Marketing to the Generations. Journal of Behavioral Studies in Business, 3(1), 37-53.

 

Part 1: Creating Engaging Social Media Posts

As animal advocates, our goal is to educate as many people as possible about the realities of animal agriculture and encourage them to make choices that are kind to animals and the planet. As such, social media is one of our most powerful tools because it enables us to reach large numbers of people very quickly. By creating Facebook and other social media posts that are engaging (i.e., generate a lot of comments, likes, and shares), our reach will expand even further. And, it doesn’t take much extra effort.

In addition to reaching people with our message, we also need to build relationships with those who follow us on social media networks. By doing so, we establish trust, which can go a long way in influencing positive lifestyle changes.

What Types of Facebook Posts are Most Engaging?

According to Smith (2013), posts that include photos and status updates have the greatest reach. Educational posts and posts with videos tend to get a lot of likes and shares, and posts that ask questions often get many comments (Greenstein, n.d.). However, engagement will vary from page to page, so you may want to experiment and see how people respond to different types of posts. If you manage a Facebook page, you can find out what works best by going to the “See Insights” tab and then clicking on the “Posts” tab. Once there, click on the “Post Types” tab. You will then find the average reach and engagement by type of post.

In our experience, posts that reveal the shocking truth about the way animals are treated are extremely engaging and reach quite far. If you do post any disquieting information, photos, or videos, be sure to suggest actions that help solve the problem; research has demonstrated that this is one of the best ways to help people change (Barach, 1984). There are many actions you can encourage people to take, but just make sure that they are practical. If the action seems too difficult, it may not have any effect on the audience. You also always want to make sure that you’re complying with the social media platform’s guidelines, as certain types of content are sometimes prohibited.

How to Get More Comments, Likes, and Shares

  • It may seem too good to be true, but if you politely ask for comments, likes, and shares, users will often comply (Greenstein, 2012; Smith, 2013). However, don’t overdo it or you may drive people away (A. Malhotra, C. K. Malhotra, See, & Business, 2013). Asking once or twice a week should be fine, but experiment to see what works best on your page. It’s recommended that you ask for only one thing (i.e., comment, like, or share) per post (Smith, 2013). For example, you can say something like: “If you like this recipe, ‘Share’ with your friends!” or “Tell us what you think in the comments.”

  • Keep users interested by posting regularly (Williams & Page, 2011). Try posting once or twice a week at first to see how your fans react. Drell (2012) stated that some brands have been successful with one post per day. However, many have found that making two or more posts per day can reduce engagement. If you only post a few times a week you can still keep your fans engaged by “liking”  and responding to their comments (Drell, 2012). Most importantly, be sure to emphasize quality over quantity when posting.

  • In your posts, try to convey messages in as few words as possible; research has shown that shorter posts generally get more likes (Malhotra, et al., 2013). Aim for 100 characters or less to get the most engagement, and whenever possible include compelling photos, which will make your posts even more effective (Pierce, 2012).

  • People love to associate themselves with winners, so share milestones, achievements, and success stories (Malhotra., et al., 2013). You can post about the growth of your page or awards you have received for your activism. You can also share heartwarming stories about rescued farm animals.

  • Posts with questions placed at the end receive 15% more engagement compared to questions asked in the beginning (Pierce, 2012). Ask your fans what they would like to see on your page or what their favorite meat alternatives are.

  • Make sure to keep up with current events, holidays, and other important dates; these types of posts are seen as more personable (Malhotra, et al., 2013). Try posting vegan versions of traditional recipes around holidays. You can also share information about breaking undercover investigations.

  • Humanize your messages by showing emotion; humorous posts are particularly effective (Malhotra, et al., 2013). Post funny photos and videos of farm animals.

  • Try to see through the eyes of your audience and create posts that will appeal to them. People who use Facebook typically like posts that educate them, keep them informed and entertained, and help them interact and connect with others (Lachance, 2013).

  • To gain their trust and loyalty, always make sure to respond to any messages users send within a 24 hour period (Williams & Page, 2011).

  • Encourage discussion, but don’t try to control everything that is said. There will probably be negative comments, but your page will be seen as genuine (Savitt, 2011). Of course, your page should be a place where people feel safe and comfortable. It is alright for users to have opposing points of view, but you may want to consider banning or blocking anyone who becomes hostile or threatening. You can even post your ground rules on the About section of the page.

  • Make your page fun! You can try hosting events, running contests, and featuring your fans (Smith, 2013). Post photos of your fans and a short story about their path towards veganism. Of course, you’ll always want to be sure that you know, and are complying with, the rules of the social media platform.

Don’t miss the next blog in this series! We’ll cover how to identify your target audience, find out what appeals to them, and tailor the messaging accordingly.

References

Barach, J. A. (1984). Applying marketing principles to social causes. Business Horizons, 27(4), 65-69.

Drell, L. (2012, June 7). 10 Facebook marketing mistakes to avoid. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2012/06/07/facebook-marketing-mistakes/

Greenstein, H. (n.d.). A marketer’s guide to the new Facebook. Retrieved from http://images.prsoftware.vocus.com/Web/Vocus/%7Bca91784d-8997-494c-8237-8e77fad39d39%7D_Vocus_-_New_Facebook_Guide.pdf

Lachance, G. (2013, May 11). Top 10 must read tips to run a successful Facebook business page. Retrieved from http://socialmediatoday.com/genevieve-lachance/1454711/successful-facebook-business-page-top-10-must-read-tips

Malhotra, A., Malhotra, C. K., See, A., & Business, S. (2013). How to create brand engagement on Facebook. MIT Sloan Management Review, 54(2), 18-20.

Pierce, S. (2012, October 10). 5 ways to improve your Facebook engagement. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/improve-facebook-engagement/

Savitt, K. (2011, April 8). Three ways companies can reach Generation Z. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2011/04/08/marketing-generation-z/

Smith, M. (2013, June 2). 10 proven ways to improve your Facebook reach. Retrieved from http://www.marismith.com/proven-ways-improve-your-facebook-reach/

Williams, K. C., & Page, R. A. (2011). Marketing to the Generations. Journal of Behavioral Studies in Business, 3(1), 37-53.

 

Starting Young: New York Nonprofit Puts Good Food into Schools

By Leslie Brefeld, 2014 Winter Intern

NYCHSFThe New York Coalition for Healthy School Food (NYCHSF) is taking on an important issue: what food our children are able to access while in school. The nonprofit introduces plant-based foods and offers nutrition education to inform schools and the greater community.

One of the organization’s signature programs is Cool School Food, which partners with restaurants to develop plant-based recipes for schools. The meatless entrees initiative spread nationwide with recipes distributed to nearly 25,000 schools. Another program focuses on teaching the value of nutrition to kids with the Food UnEarthed curriculum. It features a fun detective theme and is taught to more than 500 students weekly. NYCHSF also created the Wellness Wakeup Call, a soundbite of nutrition facts written by registered dietitians and read over the school’s loudspeaker every morning.

The New York Coalition for Healthy School Food recently worked to help a school go vegetarian, making it the first public, non-charter school in the nation to serve only vegetarian food in their cafeteria.

Executive director of the NYCHSF, Amie Hamlin, took some time to answer our questions about the great work that her organization is doing.

VF: Why is it important for kids to eat healthy at school?NYCHSF

AH: Good question! School is the place where kids go to learn. When children enter the school each morning, the schools act “in loco parentis” which means in place of parents. We expect schools to protect our children. If we feed our children healthfully, we don’t want to send them to school and have that be undermined with an unhealthy food environment. If children come to school who don’t get healthy food at home, this may be the only opportunity for healthy food.

Also, our tax dollars pay for the food. Our taxes also pay for the cost of diet related disease and obesity. I know I don’t want my tax dollars paying for food that causes disease, hurts the environment, or causes suffering to animals. A lot of tax dollars are being spent on health care expenses for problems that are almost completely preventable. It doesn’t make sense to provide unhealthy food which can cause children to be sick more often, which means they are learning less, may have more behavioral issues, and thus affect their learning abilities.

Healthy habits can be established at schools. One of our greatest achievements was the introduction of a private fresh fruit and vegetable snack program in Ithaca. For two years, before turning the program over to another group, we provided fruits and vegetables twice per day to over 300 children. There is a video about it on our website. Children would come back to school after a weekend or a vacation and say they just didn’t feel the same without their fruits and vegetables. On the one hand that was really sad because those children apparently weren’t getting them at home. On the other hand it meant that they had internalized how fruits and vegetables made them feel good, and they had established a healthy habit, one that they did not like missing out on.

VF: How can vegan advocates bring healthy, vegan options to local schools?

AH: We recommend getting involved in the Wellness Committee. Schools are mandated by federal law to have a Wellness Policy, so the Wellness Committee determines what the school district will do to achieve Wellness goals. Contact your school district’s superintendent’s office to ask about the committee and how you can get involved.

Next, and this is really difficult, don’t go in there as a “vegan.” The component of the lunch that is most in need of improvement is the “meat/meat alternate” and the meat alternate would be beans or other legumes or tofu (processed soy is also allowed but we don’t advocate for highly processed foods).

The most important thing is to approach it thoughtfully – get to know the people, listen, understand that the food service director is working really hard, and that change is unusually pretty slow. Make sure you are offering to do the work – nobody else wants to hear about what you want them to do.

Don’t expect miracles overnight, and remember, perfect is the enemy of the good. No matter how perfect we might hope to have school meals, there is a very limited budget, very strict regulations, and different personalities involved. So try to come up with very doable goals that you can work to make happen.

VF: Can students or parents be the driving force behind getting healthy food into the schools? If so, how?

AH: Absolutely. But there are some schools that make it very difficult, and others that welcome the involvement and change. If many parents and students got very involved and advocated for change, it would happen. After all, a food service director, or a superintendent or school board does not want a lot of unhappy parents or students. If all else fails and you aren’t getting anywhere, attending school board meetings and contacting the media should get their attention, if you can get a big enough crowd.

VF: Can you tell us a little about the all-vegetarian school in Flushing?

AH: PS244 is an amazing school that focuses on health and fitness, in addition to academic excellence. The administrators, staff, teachers, and food service staff are really what makes it work because they embrace a healthy lifestyle, as do the students and families. Last year the third-graders went to Catskill Animal Sanctuary and this year they are going to Woodstock Animal Sanctuary. Both sanctuaries were so excited about the program, that they funded the trips for the children to come visit. This project is really a dream come true for us. Who would have imagined 10 years ago that we would be able to say that we helped a school go vegetarian? Several other schools have expressed interest so we do expect more vegetarian schools in the not too distant future. I think it’s a trend. Everyone knows that moving to a plant-based way of eating is healthier, so while it may take some time, it will happen, and it started with PS244.

VF: Is there any additional information you would like to share with our readers?

AH: For those of you who are in the New York City area, or would like to come there in the fall – we have the most amazing gala. It’s definitely the best vegan party in NYC. We feature at least 20 tables with restaurants and caterers and it is a food feast! You can count on eating a lot of amazing food, bidding on great silent auction items and raffle baskets, and hearing great live music. This year we are “Celebrating a Decade of Changing How Schools Feed Kids” on Friday, Oct. 24 at the New York Academy of Medicine.

Thanks, Amie, for answering our questions! The New York Coalition for Healthy School Food is certainly doing important work for our children and our future. For those of you passionate about bringing healthy, plant-based food into the school systems, we hope you use their great example for guidance and inspiration.