When Suzanne Gould set up her dog walking company in 2017, she knew being visible would mean more clients.
She started out with a Facebook page, then focused more on marketing and writing her own content.
First came newsletters, then e mails, then blogs, and in 2019, she decided she wanted to get some media coverage.
She read my book, Publicity Tips for Pet Businesses, and had some press releases featured in her local paper in Edinburgh.
Suzanne, 37, wanted to feel confident writing, so took part in my first Create Content With Confidence programme and her blog took off.
Next, she decided she wanted more publicity, so did the programme that started in February which is now a membership.
Lockdown hit. Suzanne couldn’t go out and walk or train dogs and was stuck at home with her Old English Sheepdogs, Erick and Ally.
But she didn’t wallow. She set up a Facebook group, Edinburgh Dogs in Lockdown and attracted hundreds of owners.
Then she started pitching stories about her group to the media.
She featured in the Telegraph, the Scotsman, and even gave tips to Loose Woman star Kaye Adams on BBC Radio Scotland.
AND she wrote a book! The Rescue Dog Ranger’s Road Map – a step by step guide new pet parents can follow to transform their rescue dog into a calm, confident canine.
In this episode, Suzanne talks about leaving behind a career in fashion to set up a pet business.
And she breaks down the steps she followed to get publicity in top publications.
You can listen in on the player link below or read as a blog post.
Before setting up her dog walking business in February 2017, Suzanne worked as a fashion designer for Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ness for over a decade.
Then, she was made redundant. She loved living in Edinburgh with her dogs Flash and Nora and didn’t want to return to Yorkshire, so she took a leap of faith and set up as a dog walker.
“It was terrifying,” she said. “I left my job as a designer which was fun, with colleagues and a nice salary and took a leap of faith. I thought the worst that can happen is in three months if it doesn’t work out, I’ll go back home.
“My business slowly grew through word of mouth and being very visible locally and by the end of the first year I felt like I could relax.”
Then Suzanne got some help from Dominic Hodgson and joined his Pet Business Inner Circle and was soon fully booked. She realised to grow, she needed to offer something more so self studied to be a dog trainer.
Suzanne had been to classes with her own dog Flash who had ‘clowned around’ and she’d left them often in tears, feeling rubbish, and she wanted to offer owners something different, where they felt understood and could build their dog’s confidence.
She recalled: “I hated that I was made to feel like I was a bad dog owner because I couldn’t get Flash to do what they wanted him to do. I wanted my classes to be different. No dog is perfect and that’s pretty much how I approach dog training.”
One of the things Suzanne struggled with was writing and she felt like she didn’t want to write in a formal and stuffy way, so joined my first blogging course to help her communicate better on her website.
Soon she began sharing her own stories and experiences as well as her client’s and that helped give an insight into what it was like to work with her.
Then she found she was dealing more with rescue dogs and decided to niche into offering classes for new owners.
She explained: “I found a lot of the dogs had come from abroad and they needed extra understanding and TLC and for their confidence to be built before we started with training.
“I’d had similar experiences with my own dogs so I could empathise with them and the beginners classes for rescue dogs really snowballed.”
Suzanne had already had press coverage when she started training but in February this year she wanted support in promoting the rescue dog classes and joined the PR course. (This is now the membership programme)
Then lockdown hit. Suzanne had to stop all her sessions and her walks. But she set up the Edinburgh Dogs in Lockdown Facebook group and attracted hundreds of local owners.
Each day Suzanne would share training tips and advice on how owners could keep their pets entertained. She started going live and chatting to owners, even thought she was ‘terrified’ of lives.
Then she decided to start writing a book for rescue dogs and her Rescue Dog Ranger’s Road Map is out now.
And during this time she also had lots of press coverage, appearing in the Telegraph, Woman and Home, the Edinburgh News and even on BBC Radio Scotland helping Loose Women star Kaye Adams train her Cockapoo Bea.
Suzanne said: “I tried Twitter and looking at the #journorequest hashtag and within two days of having the Facebook group I was in the Telegraph. The group grew and I got hooked on Twitter and found more opportunities.
“Then somehow thanks to the Telegraph and the popularity of the Facebook group I ended up on the Radio talking to Kaye and doing videos of how she could train Bea.
“Then I decided to write the book. It had always been something I wanted to do but never had the time, but in lockdown I had no excuse.”
The media coverage and writing the book has been a huge boost to Suzanne’s confidence and her business. She says that for a long time she suffered imposter syndrome and didn’t think she was ‘good enough’ but that’s a thing of the past.
“It’s give me a new layer of confidence with who I am as a trainer and a dog walker and just a person in general,” she says.
“I can show the world what I’ve done and and it’s not only me saying how amazing this book is, which it is by the way!
“I’ve had dog trainers, walkers, groomers and owners who have read it and everyone’s come back with really positive feedback.
“Before, there wasn’t really a book out there for rescue dog owners. There’s millions of books on puppies in general dog training and, and recall and walking nicely.
“But there isn’t anything to handle bringing in a rescue dog who may have an unknown background or just a completely different life so I wanted to change that.”
After going from fashion designer, to new dog walker, to dog trainer, to author in such a short time, Suzanne says the biggest lesson she’s learned that has carried her through is to believe in herself.
She said: “It took a while but I realised, ‘Actually, I am a really good dog walker,’ and it was having the self belief to say that which really helped me.
“I needed to go through the journey of learning to say that how I’m bloody amazing at what I’m doing and, and then having the confidence to put that in writing and have it reflected in writing as well as doing videos and Facebook Lives and things like that.
“It’s important as you’ve got to be able to have the belief in yourself before you can do anything else because if you don’t, it won’t come across in your writing or anything you do.
“For the longest time I suffered with imposter syndrome when I started doing the dog training. I had to step back and just tell myself, ‘Actually no, I do know what I’m talking about. Look at what changes I have made to these people’s lives and the dog’s lives.’
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I am brilliant, just as I am.”
Suzanne’s website: www.edinburghholisticdogs.co.uk
Suzanne’s Facebook group: Edinburgh Dogs in Lockdown
Buy Suzanne’s Book! It’s awesome! Edinburgh Holistic Dogs
Suzanne in the Telegraph: A crisis can bring out the best in us
Suzanne in Woman and Home: Seven ways to calm stressed pets
In Edinburgh News: Leith dog trainer sets up support group
September PR Challenge – this is FREE challenge to help you get press coverage and you can sign up here: PR taster