Dr. Kwane Stewart

The Making of a Hero

A Public Relations / Personal Branding Case Study of Dr. Kwane Stewart (aka The Street Vet)

OBJECTIVE

Promote Dr. Kwane Stewart’s philanthropic outreach to the homeless by taking care of their pets at no cost. Generate donations for Stewart’s nonprofit entity, Project Street Vet. Explore opportunities for new profit-generating products and/or services. Expand Project Street Vet’s presence into new US cities and states.

BACK STORY

Dr. Stewart began his veterinary career as a shelter vet. There was a recession at the time and the euthanasia rate at the shelter was alarming. Stewart was saddened that he wasn’t making enough of a positive impact in his profession and began reassessing his situation.

His life was changed when one day he helped an unhoused man’s dog that was suffering from a horrific skin condition. At that moment, he knew his calling was still veterinary medicine, but that he would also focus on taking care of the animals of the unhoused people who couldn’t afford veterinary services. He would walk the streets in some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Northern California and Southern California and reach out to the homeless offering free veterinary services. He paid for all the medication out of his own pocket. He gave his services away for free. He did this for six years without telling anyone – even his family. Years later, he began to share his story and he needed a national publicist.

GOALS & STRATEGIES

Purple Penguin PR (PPP) began working with Dr. Stewart in 2022. At the time, Dr. Stewart had been a practicing veterinarian for 24 years, and had served thousands of unhoused pet owners. The first step was to initiate a personal branding campaign, which would expose this charismatic, caring “Street Vet” and his incredible story. The intent was to make him the most recognized and trusted veterinarian in the world.

San Diego

The initial push would be in San Diego, where Stewart lived with his family and worked at a burgeoning clinic. His good looks, calm demeanor and charming personality lent itself to TV interviews while he was doing his Street Vet work (offering veterinary services to the homeless). B-roll was shot from Stewart’s former outreach, edited, and provided by the client. The TV-focused campaign was strategically developed to give each station an opportunity to walk with Dr. Stewart in areas of downtown San Diego that had the largest homeless encampments. Covid was still a major concern but there were pets that needed to be taken care of and the subject matter was so visually compelling that many reporters walked away from these situations with tears in their eyes.

Every TV station was pitched — both the assignment desks and the morning show producers. Every station covered the story (see KNSD-TV) within the first 3 months and most stations covered it both as a hard news story for evening news and a “feel good” human interest story (see KFMB-TV) for morning talkshows. It was agreed that this media coverage would be shared on Dr. Stewart’s social media where followers and likes began to climb rapidly.

Print would be focused on next. The San Diego Union-Tribune, the city’s major Daily Newspaper, did a front page photo feature and smaller community newspaper groups followed. With this success came a more aggressive strategy. PPP’s client was unique and the story was heartwarming, thoughtful and lifesaving during a time when Covid had brought mankind to its knees. The agency asked for everything and got even more. Features became photo features and photo features became covers. In the first three months, the agency solidified five cover stories for Dr. Stewart.
Dr. Kwane helping a homeless pet.

Holidays Are For Giving / Media Attention is the Star on top of the Tree

In November 2023, Dr. Stewart and one of his associates agreed to help Richard, a homeless veteran, and his dog, Princess Leia, who were living in a barely functioning auto with no heat. They gifted a beautiful modern van to Richard and his dog that changed their lives. Again…the media were there (CBS and FOX) to cover the story and it became the impetus for additional coverage in San Diego and B-roll was shot for the upcoming visit to Los Angeles a few weeks later. NOTE: The coverage in San Diego and the B-roll paid huge dividends. In April, 2024, Stewart and Richard were both guests on the Kelly Clarkson Show.

Los Angeles

The first push in Los Angeles began with only a few pitches to 2 print and 2 TV stations (FOX and KNBC-TV). All four outlets (see FOX-11) accepted the offer to follow Dr. Stewart doing his Street Vet work in Skid Row (one of the nation’s largest homeless areas) . Stewart had been working with the unhoused people and their pets on Skid Row for years and he was well known amongst them. PPP used Stewart’s longtime commitment to the oppressed area as a local “hook” to attract LA-based media. The LA Downtown News (LADN) and the Los Angeles Times followed Stewart as he offered his services and the resulting coverage was another cover article in the LADN and a captioned photo on the front page of the Los Angeles Times.

Fox-TV and KNBC-TV also spent a few hours with us and their story aired multiple times throughout the next week. In fact, A-list celebrity Katherine Heigle saw the story and favorably posted on her Instagram feed about Dr. Stewart’s mission and his compassion. Within hours, the post generated 60 thousand likes and seemingly endless positive comments. It also resonated with other celebrities who later became partners with Dr. Stewart in a pet food business venture.

The next push in Los Angeles was a resounding success and every Los Angeles-based TV station (ABC, NBC, CBS, KTLA, KCOP) except for Fox (who had just done the story a few weeks earlier) attended an invite to walk with Stewart in Skid Row. KNX-AM, Southern California’s largest all-news radio station, also covered the story. City News service primed the pump and the stations showed up en masse. PPP knew the Los Angeles Times reporter loved the story and pushed for additional coverage. Weeks later, the reporter lobbied his editor and the resulting coverage was a massive photo feature in the Los Angeles Times on the cover of the Features section.

In December of 2023, Dr. Stewart and PPP CEO, Ray Drasnin, again visited Los Angeles and this time, there was a clean sweep of every TV station in addition to Los Angeles Daily News, Telemundo, Cable News Spectrum 1 and a media agency based out of France who picked up the story from a local wire service, and ran a tease in advance of our arrival. This story, this spokesperson, these visuals, at this time of year was just what the doctor ordered.

The agency pitched two completely new angles —

  1. A story about Dr. Stewart who just launched a street pantry for the homeless to feed their pets. The concept was based on the honor system… take what you need and leave the rest for others.
  2. PPP’s nomination of Dr. Stewart for CNN Hero of the Year had landed him in the top ten finalists amongst 10’s of thousands of nominations from around the globe. The winner would be chosen based on how many votes each nominee received. The agency’s focus was to place Stewart’s story in front of millions of people in the weeks leading up to the Dec. 10, 2023 announcement as that would be the secret sauce to tipping the scales in his
    favor.

Dr. Kwane Stewart

National Human Interest

Soon after campaigns in San Diego and Los Angeles, there was an ongoing effort to garner major national press coverage. The intent was to position Stewart as the world’s most trusted veterinarian. Initial efforts had PPP accomplished this in a grandiose manner. The visibility being generated for Stewart was unrelenting. He was on NBC’s TODAY Show twice. There was an article in AARP and there were numerous placements in veterinary trade publications. When a Los Angeles viewer’s pet swallowed human medication, Dr.Stewart was on air with advice on what to do. When a perplexing virus began to affect dogs, closing dog parks and positioning grooming salons as a primary culprit, Stewart was the de facto in-studio guest on national NBC-TV. By June 2023, if any news story had a connection to veterinary health, Stewart was top of mind for virtually every assignment desk in the nation.

International

PPP solidified an article that ran on the Associated Press wire service on June 23, 2023. The coverage was picked up by hundreds of TV stations and publications in more than 123 countries. Pick up of this article (see CBS San Francisco) included Voice of America that provides news in more than 40 languages to an estimated weekly audience of more than 326 million people. This onslaught of international coverage stimulated donations to Stewart’s nonprofit and began opening doors for new sponsorships and other business opportunities. Coverage in Yahoo News, US News & World Report and FORTUNE favorably positioned Stewart and Project Street Vet in front of corporations worldwide.
Dr. Kwane Stewart helps homeless pet

RESULTS

Purple Penguin’s PR’s campaign successfully positioned Dr. Stewart as the nation’s most trusted veterinarian. He was seen, read and heard by more than 1 billion people. The media coverage helped fund his nonprofit, Project Street Vet, with more than $2 million in donations in 2023.

  • On Dec. 10, 2023 Dr. Stewart was named the CNN Hero of the Year and was awarded $100,000.
  • More than $507,000 was raised in a Go Fund Me Campaign for Dr. Stewart’s nonprofit, Project Street Vet.
  • Project Street Vet expanded rapidly from 2 cities to 6 cities including New York City. New teams of veterinarians and veterinary technicians began treating the pets of the unhoused across the nation
  • The TODAY Show appearance generated a call from an A-list Hollywood celebrity with their own production company asking to make a major motion picture about Dr. Stewart’s life.
  • Dr. Stewart successfully launched his first book, How to Save A Life.
  • Even a beer was named for Dr. Stewart and one of his key sponsors in New York City.
  • On May 1, 2024 Stewart joined forces with Chrissy Teigen and John Legend to launch a new dog food and pet treat line under the banner of Kismet.

Dr. Kwane Stweart

Media Placements

2022

2023

2024

FINAL THOUGHTS

TIP: Pitch with passion. You can do your own personal branding campaign. It’s laborious and tedious to pitch the national media, but it’s exhilarating. If you decide to outsource the process to a publicist, look for one who pitches with passion. Reporters and editors at major media outlets can tell if you’re simply going through the motions or if you wholeheartedly believe in your client.

My personal goal was to generate awareness of Kwane’s mission to make the world a better place for humans and animals. I walked the streets with him during Covid while he was doing his Street Vet work. I spoke with and consoled the unhoused who love their pets unlike any pet parent I’ve ever seen. Later, I shared these experiences when pitching reporters and proudly let my emotions drive the conversations.

What Dr. Kwane had to say about Purple Penguin PR….

Ray Drasnin is a skilled and impressive publicist, and I knew he was what my team needed from the moment I met him. Ray is an amazing storyteller who truly loves what he does for a living. Early on, he knew exactly what elements about me and my veterinary practice would be most compelling to the media. He developed strong press materials that positioned my story for print and TV, and then his tenacity turned my personal branding campaign into a media frenzy.

Ray doesn’t just get media coverage…he gets cover stories and front page features. He’s creative and knows everyone. When he pitches TV stations, every camera crew in town shows up. I’ve heard him pitching and he doesn’t take no for an answer. There is no one more aggressive, more passionate, or more determined.

Most importantly, Ray believes in his clients. His commitment to the quality and quantity of PR placements he garners is a reflection of how much time he invested in learning about me, my practice and my nonprofit. He is both a visionary and a strategist, who has always seen my potential and helped develop a path for me to reach it. Ray’s positive energy is infectious and he is a valued member of my team.

Dr. Kwane StewartProject Street Vet