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Q&A: PETA's 'Gorilla' Marketing Tactics

by Ann Handley  |  
February 6, 2007

Last month, in anticipation of the President's State of the Union Address, the marketing team at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) blanketed the blogosphere with its own version of the same. The email pitch came with the subject line, "Presidential Address + Hot Naked Chick = PETA's State of the Union Undress?"

"With Congress cheering and senators smirking," wrote PETA's Jack Shepherd, "this hot PETA girl bares it all for animal rights." (See the video here.)

No matter how you feel about PETA, as an entity or a cause, you probably know its marketing. Even those who don't admire it, in other words, are likely aware of it. Pointed, outrageous, admired, and criticized, PETA's messaging is the type that makes the audience sit up and take notice.

It's also everywhere. PETA as an organization has jumped on the social media bandwagon in a big way, and is riding shotgun on blogs, YouTube, MySpace, Flickr, and lots of word-of-mouth initiatives.

Last month, I chatted with PETA Marketing Manager Joel Bartlett, who works out of the organization's Norfolk, VA, headquarters.

Ann Handley: As a start, tell me a little about your background and how you came to head up PETA's marketing.

Joel Bartlett: For my first couple years at PETA, I ran the "peta2 Street Team," seeing it grow from a network of 7,500 youth activists to over 100,000 energetic guerrilla marketers (we now boast over 200,000 Street Teamers and an [email] list of almost 800,000 youth). During this time I oversaw all aspects of the peta2 Street Team, including our "missions"; the development of new resources and new ideas; the push for a stronger community via our blog, photoblog, message boards, and sites such as MySpace; and the tracking and analysis of our Web traffic and e-news.

About two years ago I took the position of Marketing Manager in our new marketing department (we were formed to expand the lessons we learned from our peta2 program to the rest of the organization), where…I also oversee all of PETA's non-fundraising email campaigns and the creation and promotion (both paid advertisement and free placement, such as on YouTube) of our Web content. And again, I oversee all Web tracking and analysis and the push for a stronger community (such as launching a PETA blog), except now for the entire organization, not just peta2.

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Ann Handley is chief content officer of MarketingProfs, author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Ridiculously Good Content, and co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules. Ann co-founded, one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary.

Twitter: @MarketingProfs and @AnnHandley.

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