Thursday, April 14, 2005
A few weeks ago, Mark Kern -- an entertainment PR vet (NBC, Fox) whom I've known for years -- was walking his beagle around his L.A. neighborhood when a group of young punks came up to him.
The kids, probably no more than 14 or 15 years old, demanded money. Mark hadn't brought any. So they sprayed him with mace, grabbed his dog and fled.
The next morning, eyes still stinging from the spray, Mark sprung into action. Taking advantage of his P.R. mojo, he called every local TV station (including the Spanish-language outlets) to get the word out.
The stations bit. Mark's story, after all, fit the classic rule of local TV news: Stories about cute pets, good. Stories about cute missing pets, better. Stories about cute, missing pets -- plus a local crime wave! (the kids hit two other people in Mark's neighborhood that night) -- best.
Mark wound up on KCBS, KABC, KTLA, KTTV, KVEA and others. His story -- complete with photo of Nikki -- appeared in the La Opinion newspaper. On the advice of a friend, he launched a website (www.findnikkila.com). He appeared on radio. It rivaled any media blitz.
Then came the reaction. Strangers emailed, offering their help. As word spread, groups around the country (yes, around the country!) pledged their support and promised to pray for Nikki's safe return. One woman volunteered to visit every animal shelter in town.
Law enforcement folk were bowled over -- parents with missing children weren't this tenacious! But Mark just wanted his dog back.
Believe it or not, Nikki was found at a local shelter -- and quickly identified, thanks to the ID chip planted in her neck. Mark and beagle were reunited on March 29. And yes, several stations did a follow-up report.