A Conversation with Gail Miller Bisher – Westminster Kennel Club’s Director of Communications
The 147th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is now in the record books. What are your thoughts on covering the show from its latest venue?
Gail Miller Bisher: From a communications perspective, the venue lent itself to the events because it was built for media production and hosting the press. The fully equipped facility allowed FOX Sports to produce their 16.5 hours of television, live streaming of all rings, and social media coverage. A large part of WKC’s mission is dog breed education; enabling widespread coverage is paramount.
Additionally, not being under COVID restrictions once again allowed for more collaborative efforts such as having Mrs. Met attend the event, hosting the NBA Larry O’Brien Championship trophy for a social media photo shoot on-site, and it attracted various segment productions such as America’s Test Kitchen, HBO Real Sports, and ABC News’ Nightline. These collaborative efforts help WKC and the sport reach new audiences.
These collaborative efforts help WKC and the sport reach new audiences.
Westminster has now been held successfully in May and June at locations other than Madison Square Garden. Does the time of year or venue have an influence on viewers?
Gail Miller Bisher: The WKC fans are passionate and supportive. The core constituency understands the history and importance of the club and its legacy; therefore, they stand with us in promoting the sport and our dogs. As with all dog clubs, we strive to reach a new audience with breed education and an invitation to join our love of dog breeds and dog sports. In today’s digital culture, breaking through all the other entertainment and events being streamed is a year-round effort.
The Masters Agility Championship and Masters Obedience Championship have quickly become significant in their own right. How important is coverage of these events?
Throughout WKC’s history there have been educational demonstrations, including mock Field Trials, Herding demonstrations, and synchronized Obedience drills held by none other than Blanche Saunders. But having a variety of competitive sports disciplines has created “Westminster Week” and offers the public a chance to learn about dog sports that they can participate in with their pets.
I think Agility and Obedience are sports that hook people. Once bitten, you want to commit to the training, in part, because you know that your dog will be so happy to learn new things and be by your side. There is a real sense of joy in that teamwork.
Is there a single takeaway that you hope viewers will have about purebred dogs and the sport of dogs from watching coverage of this year’s Westminster?
Gail Miller Bisher: The communications goal each year is multi-pronged. Beginning with connecting the history of preservation breeders with the dogs we see today, we’re creating a basic understanding of form follows function and, of course, the primary takeaway is based on showcasing the pure love of dogs and the bond of the dog and handler teams. Celebrating the companionship of dogs and presenting another way for owners to enjoy time with their dogs is at the core of WKC messaging and is key to the sport’s future.