How Pet Sitters Ireland Won Press Coverage With A Social Contest – The Digital Marketing Superhero’s Club Volume 1 Chapter 14

How The Nose Of Tralee Got Pet Sitters Ireland Into The Press

This post includes affiliate links. That means if you buy after clicking them I get a cut of the profits. I only subscribe to affiliates when I have tried and love a product. The links are clearly marked in this post.

What do you expect to get out of a social media competition? Will you build your audience? Get more engagement on your social accounts? Get more website visitors?

What about masses of press, TV and Radio coverage? That’s exactly what this week’s Superhero Kate McQuillan from Pet Sitters Ireland gets from her annual pet competition. Listen below to find out how she does it.

Join the club

Be sure to subscribe to The Digital Marketing Superhero Club by email to get notified when the full tutorials go live.

Join the Facebook group to mingle with other Superheroes.

Order a free pin.

Superhero Tips – Are we doing email marketing the wrong way around?

Are we doing email marketing the wrong way around?

We started a new challenge for June in the Digital Marketing Superhero’s Group. We’ve set ourselves the task of growing our email subscribers by 100 people.

This got me thinking. I talk to a lot of businesses about email marketing and I find people have a list but rarely send emails.

Could it be that we’re doing our email marketing the wrong way around?

Should we decide which emails we will send, decide on a strategy and then build the list?


1. People forget they subscribed.

If you don’t send emails frequently when you eventually do you get a lot of unsubscribes from people who don’t remember signing up.

You’ve lost that opportunity to engage with your audience.

2. It helps you write

Each week when I sit down to write my newsletter I know what I need to write. I have a process I can follow to ensure I give you value. If you are a subscriber I’m sure you’ve seen some consistency in my emails.

3. It helps you get subscribers

If you know exactly what you will give your subscribers when they sign up you can tell them. Write a content pledge (find out what that is here) for your email list and promote it. People interested in what you offer will sign up.

So let’s start by thinking about the emails you should send and how frequently you should send them.

We have a fear of annoying people, don’t we? And I think that’s one reason intuition tells us to send infrequent emails.

Maybe you’re already thinking you don’t want to send them too often, maybe a quarterly email is enough?

But no, it’s not. As long as you are sending emails that people will find useful you can send them as frequently as you like.

Have a look at the emails you get and how you feel about them. Here are some of my favourites:

  • I get 3 emails a week from Mark Schaefer, I don’t get to read them all but I always enjoy them when I do.
  • I get an email every day from Bookbub. I mean, who doesn’t like cheap books? I open every single one and browse to the end.
  • I get weekly updates from the Lighthouse Cinema telling me what’s on this week. I often buy tickets.

As I’ve said, the problem with sending infrequent emails is that people don’t remember you, the unsubscribe rate will be high.

So instead of worrying about bothering people, set an email schedule that means you will deliver something your subscribers will enjoy regularly enough to keep them engaged.

What emails should you send?

Content creators rejoice

If you are a blogger, a video creator or even a regular social media poster you already have the content. You can send a digest of your best stuff to your subscribers weekly.

Or you can send blog posts, podcasts or videos one by one as you publish them.


Whenever I hear the word Newsletter I think about those printed A4 documents I used to get from the community groups I was part of. Do you remember them? Usually, they were printed on coloured paper so they looked more interesting.

A good newsletter is packed with information and value for your audience.

It’s not about you, it’s about your readers and should share tips, information and links that help them.

It’s this format I use each week to my audience.


If you are in business you sell stuff, the reason for having an email list in the first place is to sell, right? So don’t shy away from creating sales emails.

It’s true, every time I send a sales email I get unsubscribes. But do you know what else I get? Sales. 

I love window shopping, don’t you? There’s something exciting about browsing and thinking about all the things you’d like to buy.

If you are a retailer, you can tap into this excitement. Send regular emails with new products and offers and you will be the focus of the browsing and the buying.

If you are a B2B company your sales emails will be less frequent but as long as you are delivering value-packed emails in-between people will also see value in what you sell. And if they unsubscribe, they probably weren’t even going to buy from your emails.

So now it’s your turn. Decide which emails you are going to send and when and then start working on growing your list.

Superpower of the week – Convert Kit

I’m send my newsletters using ConvertKit (affiliate link). I’ve been using it for a year now and I’m a little bit in love with it.

I moved from Mailchimp which I was using for free because of the additional functions it has.

I can:

  • Tag people so I can send more relevant emails and offers associated with specific interests.
  • Set up email sequences to welcome new subscribers and deliver multi part email courses (amongst other things).
  • Integrate with the Gravity Forms plugin I have on my site which means I can sell via my site and follow up with emails.

And there are so many other cool features.

How much?

Convertkit starts at $29 a month. You can sign up for a free trial here (affiliate link).

Superhero Interview – Kate McQuillan

Kate McQuillan is the co-owner of Pet Sitters Ireland, a Pet Sitting and Dog Walking business. Kate has 2 Pointers, Joey and Coco, and a cat named Smug.

Living in rural Ireland with her husband Mike she is a huge animal lover, an avid blogger and all round lover of Social Media.

Amanda Webb:

This week’s superhero is Kate McQuillan from Pet Sitters Ireland who isn’t new to this podcast, she’s been on loads of times, but I wanted her to share what I think is a brilliant campaign that she runs. Welcome to the show Kate.

Kate McQuillan:

Thanks for having me Amanda.

Amanda Webb:

So tell us, tell us about this campaign. What is it and what were your goals?

Kate McQuillan:

Well, for the last five years, this will be our sixth year, we have been running a pet competition called the Nose of Tralee. If you are Irish, you’ll get the comparison between the Rose of Tralee, but just to give you a bit of a background, the Rose of Tralee is an annual competition that’s been going on for, I don’t even know how many years, it’s kind of an institution of its own now.

I hate to say it’s a beauty contest because it’s not really. It’s more about finding someone to represent Ireland and it’s run across Ireland and it’s international as well I think, isn’t it? So they have-

Amanda Webb:

Yeah they have New York Roses and things I think. As long as you’ve got Irish heritage I think you’re allowed in.

Kate McQuillan:

Yeah, so the competition is a kind of play on that really. It’s the pet version of it. So we follow a similar format.

We run the competition at the same time as the Rose of Tralee’s going on. We have it in the 32 counties of Ireland. And people enter their pets to basically win it the overall title of Nose of Tralee.

There’s various stages to the competition, initial entry and voting and we have judges, and the we pick a final 32, and then they compete with a public vote to win. So it’s not a short competition, it is run over a period of time and I think the great thing about that is you get some longevity out of it in terms of press.

Initially I suppose, the goal of the competition was really just brand awareness. I actually never thought that it would become as big as it has in terms of the amount of free press that we’ve had has been incredible.

Particularly last year, which was the fifth year, we just had so much free press, so many newspaper articles, radio,

I think we had three TV interviews. What’s great about this is I did actually one of the TV spots but they tend to focus more on the pets. Obviously we get a mention, but it means that you’re not doing all of this press yourself.

Amanda Webb:


Kate McQuillan:

A lot of the guys generate that themselves and they enjoy it too. So in terms of free press, like you couldn’t pay for that kind of coverage. You really couldn’t, as a business of your own. So that’s been kind of something that’s developed throughout the competition from something that was just you know, I think people will like this, to well known in Ireland.

Amanda Webb:

And why do you think it’s captured, I mean I have an idea, but why do you think it’s captured the imagination so much? Why do you think it’s-

I don’t think the press would want to write about a pet competition unless it had a funny angleClick To Tweet

Kate McQuillan:

I think it is the association with the Rose of Tralee. Obviously it’s completely different to any other pet competitions out there.

Mostly I think people do kind of like cutest puppy, those types of things, whereas this is number one, it’s open to all types of pets, and we have had horses, we’ve had pigs, we have lots of cats, last year there was a bird in the finals.

So it’s not just your typical dog competition, which is generally what people tend to do. And like I say, the association with the Rose of Tralee, people find it really funny and take an interest in it. It makes for good press too.

I don’t think the press would want to write about a pet competition unless it had a funny angle, I think that’s what’s kind of-

Amanda Webb:

I think it is the humour. Whenever anyone hears the title they do smile. I remember there was a DJ on, I think it was Today FM, who was just laughing her head off, about the whole concept. And that’s great because she was well behind it then as well.

Kate McQuillan:

And what’s great is we’ve had some great pictures for the press as well where the Noses have managed to get pictures with the Roses in their county. And again I think press love that.

I mean there was one with one of the Roses with a horse that was in the final that year, so you know, that makes for good press. People like those kind of fun images.

Amanda Webb:

Then so the goal as brand awareness, which would include your press mentions, website visits, so how are you doing from that point of view? Has it been worth it?

you couldn’t pay for a TV slot like that really. Last year they did kind of a runway style show with I think there was four of the finalists on, so it was really kind of fun. You know it’s got a big segment of morning TV show.Click To Tweet

Kate McQuillan:

Yeah, totally. Like we’ve had beyond any amount of press that you could possibly imagine. Most of the local papers cover it. So that would be in all of the 32 counties. You definitely get something if not in one paper, two.

And then a lot of the big press have covered it, so we’ve been in the Times, we’ve been in the Sun, we’ve been in a lot of the online places like Lovin Dublin,, all those types of really high profile blogs as those and that would get a lot of traffic to them.

Then the radio, obviously, and TV. Like you couldn’t pay for a TV slot like that really.

Last year they did kind of a runway style show with I think there was four of the finalists on, so it was really kind of fun. You know it’s got a big segment of morning TV show.

Amanda Webb:

Yeah I think it’s doing brilliantly. If a small business was to take on something like this, what would you suggest to them? I suppose the time scale is good, because I think often when we think of competitions like this, we often think they need to be a few weeks long. So yours runs for how long?

Kate McQuillan:

It runs from, we’re running it this year from the 10th of June up to the third week in August, so I think that is really important though, because in terms of press, you send out your press releases, it takes a while for people to pick it up, and depending on what day they put stuff out, depends on when you’re going to get in the paper. Then organizing things like TV and radio takes ages, and for people to kind of get on magazines, you know, in two weeks you wouldn’t get that amount of press, it just wouldn’t happen.

So I think you do need something that’s not just a kind of one hit wonder or a couple of weeks, and then it’s done. If you’re going to invest time in it, and creating it then you want something that’s going to go on for a little while.

Amanda Webb:

And any other tips if somebody’s thinking of running something like this?

Kate McQuillan:

I think you need to have a really good plan. I think in the beginning obviously we set it up the first year, and we had an idea of what we wanted to do. I don’t think I realised how much people would be passionate about it, in terms of being upset if they didn’t make certain levels of the competition, so having really good terms and conditions, and almost preparing yourself for what you’re going to say if people are asking questions about this, that, and the other, and being very clear to people how the competition is going to run.

The way that I have it now, it couldn’t be any clearer. It’s in every spot on the website, it’s explained in like a step one, step two, step three, because people do get confused and people do get upset. I suppose it’s like a baby competition really, you know if your child doesn’t win you get upset. And people are the same about their pets.

Amanda Webb:

They do because our pets are beautiful.

Kate McQuillan:


Amanda Webb:

My cats I swear I don’t enter them because, you know they’d just win.

Kate McQuillan:

Well exactly, exactly. And that’s how everybody feels, so I think you have a duty to make it really clear to people this is the way it is, this is how it works, this is what you’re entering into, this is what you can expect, and to keep people updated as well.

And to have, you know I’ve written loads of articles about the competition, how it works, so that I’ve got stuff to send to people when they have questions, because you’d be surprised, the bigger it gets, the more confused people seem to get. I think being open and kind of transparent about how it works is always good.

Amanda Webb:

Kate that’s really helpful. You’re running this completely online, am I right?

Kate McQuillan:

Yes. So the competition we use a software called WishPond, I have tried others. There’s loads of competition software out there. They all have their good and bad things about them, so no competition software is ever perfect in my experience, but this works well for me. It’s easy to set up. So we have that.

Then last year we did do an in person meet up for the fifth year, which was really actually quite nice to meet some of the people.

Amanda Webb:


Kate McQuillan:

And I think to recognise that it had been around for five years was a big thing, because you know, it’s taken a lot of work and sometimes you do feel like quitting these things when people are complaining and going after you. But yeah, to get to five years, I think is incredible and to have people turn up, so doing something like that.

I wouldn’t necessarily do an in person event every year. I think maybe of doing one at ten years. It’s quite a lot of work to do an event like that, so online is much easier.

Kate McQuillan:

But we do a lot of other things, like we do Facebook Lives. We’re going to do more Instagram Lives this year. We announce the winner on Facebook Live, so we do try to make it sort of in person online if that makes sense. So that people feel that they’re kind of part of it, and it is an event, as opposed to just submitting your entry and you’ll hear if you win kind of thing.

Amanda Webb:

Okay, that has been fabulous Kate. I think that’s a really good inspirational campaign to share with people. I think it’s so hard to be creative with campaigns, so well done. And well done for keeping it up for so long, I’m looking forward to seeing the sixth year winner, which I’m hoping for a cat this year.

Kate McQuillan:

I know, ever year I say, you know, we’ll try to get more cats to enter, and we do get them in the finals, in the final 32, but we’ve just never managed to get one to win. So maybe this is the year.

Amanda Webb:

You need a hyper talented cat. That’s what you need, because-

Kate McQuillan:

I think all cats are talented in their own way.

Amanda Webb:

That’s true, this is true. Thanks for joining us today Kate, you really are a superhero. Welcome to the club.

Find Kate Online





Make 2019 The Year You Conquer Your Digital Marketing Strategy. Find out more about how I can help you succeed in 2019


How Pet Sitters Ireland Won Press Coverage With A Social Contest  – The Digital Marketing Superhero’s Club Volume 1 Chapter 14

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *