16th November 2014

Does #FindJasper prove that we care about dogs more than people?

In April 2011, my mum broke her leg while making her way down Scafell Pike.

Thanks to Wasdale Mountain Rescue, she was promptly pumped full of morphine and whisked away in a helicopter by (I’m told) a rather handsome paramedic. To me, this actually sounded like quite a good day – apart from the whole ‘broken leg’ thing…

But in all seriousness, who knows what would’ve happened to my mother, stranded up a mountain, had it not been for the Wasdale Mountain Rescue team.

This is just one example of how mountain rescue organisations help hundreds of people each year – but this particular team has recently made headlines for a very different reason

Earlier in the month, Adam Nolan and his dog Jasper were walking the very same fell which had a disagreement with my mum’s leg, when Jasper went missing.

Luckily, thanks to Wasdale Mountain Rescue and local man, Geoff Horky, Jasper was found safe and well a few days later – and reunited with Adam.

Since then, more than £50,000 has been donated to the mountain rescue team, much to the organisation’s delight:

But while Wasdale Mountain Rescue is (deservedly) enjoying a windfall, other mountain rescues – which provide the exact same fantastic service – are going through things like this:

Faced with this kind of evidence, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that people care more about dogs than their fellow man – as it takes something happening to a dog for people to reach into their pockets.

After all, when millions of pounds were raised in the aftermath of the fire at Manchester & Cheshire Dogs’ Home, many were cynical about whether this would have been the case if a homeless shelter, children’s home or retirement complex burned down.

Although we love our dogs, I’m convinced it’s not as simple as that.

Here are a few reasons I think #FindJasper really made such a stir:

Clever use of social media


The fact that Andy’s appeal went ‘viral’ was no coincidence. He had the nouse to set up a hashtag and contact relevant media outlets about his story. Here’s part of a Facebook post he made after Jasper’s disappearance:

He posted regular updates, shared news articles and encouraged everyone to spread the word about his quest to find his dog.

He even set up a Twitter page for Jasper.

Aww.

Simple, shareable content


Andy also shared posters and photographs which played on people’s emotions and encouraged them to spread the word. Like this one:

This photograph reflects the fact that Andy and Jasper had a long-standing bond – emphasising the fact that he lost a friend on Scafell Pike. Plus puppies are cute, right?

The success of many charity campaigns can be boiled down to this as well. No makeup selfies and ice bucket challenges were simple to generate and created an instant emotional reaction when shared.

Jasper is a dog


Okay, okay – the fact that this story involves a dog is important. Not only are we a nation of dog lovers, it is very difficult for our canine companions to do wrong in our eyes. When something bad happens to a dog, we cannot think to ourselves ‘well – it’s their own fault for being in that situation’, which is an unfortunate attitude many have when bad things happen to people.

Clear calls to action


This is one of the golden rules of content marketing: if you don’t tell people what to do, they won’t do anything.

For example, I’ve known for years that my mother was helped by Wasdale Mountain Rescue, meaning it’s a very worthy cause. However, until today, it’s never even occurred to me that I can, or should, donate to them.

This national news story has given people a reason to donate to the organisation (they saved a cute dog!) and how: through the JustGiving page Andy set up.

In any case, I just donated.