Top tips: how charities can communicate effectively with the media.

Press coverage can have a huge impact on both funding and the work of charities, but it isn’t easy to impress the media. Becky Slack explores the characteristics of effective media relations

Becky Slack
Guardian Professional, 

When the chancellor announced a cap on income tax reliefs, voluntary sector campaigners went into overdrive. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF)and Philanthropy Review joined forces with charities large and small to undertake a major lobbying campaign.

Meetings with ministers were arranged, thousands of tweets were sent, and a website detailing exactly what impact this policy would have was launched. At the heart of the campaign was media coverage – that all important tool that would persuade, influence, shame if necessary, the powers that be to changing their minds. Some 71 days later, after more than 80 articles had been published in the major broadsheets, on influential websites and within the third sector trade press, George Osborne announced he was to reverse his decision.

This campaign is just one example of the valuable role the media has to play in bringing about change. As Dominic Ponsford, editor of Press Gazette, says: “From the Daily Mail’s “Ban the Bags” campaign to local newspapers getting behind readers who have been denied life-saving treatment on the NHS, we often write stories about the influence journalists have.”

However, coverage is not always easy to achieve, especially where fickle, cynical and time-pressed journalists are concerned. “Journalists are under so much pressure today; they are all busy meeting 24-hour rolling multiple media deadlines. They are also bombarded with hundreds of messages,” says Claire Cohen, media director at Inspire PR.

She advises PRs to keep it brief when contacting a journalist and to provide case studies and ideas that have a long shelf life to allow for different deadlines and editorial angles. It’s also important to know what kind of stories journalists are looking for. All too often inappropriate press releases are sent, wasting the time of both the journalist and the PR team.

Jenny Turner, director of Turner PR, recommends research is conducted prior to any stories being pitched. “Only by understanding the needs of a publication will you be able to pitch a suitable angle and get a bite,” she says. “If you can, speak with the editor or relevant journalist to sound them out. Find out what could work for them, what they would find useful and only then marry that with your own messaging.” – Read more>>

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