Why should charities be working with the media?

Why should charities be working with the media?

After a period of seemingly unprecedented negative media coverage, from fundraising techniques to salaries, the charity sector is licking its wounds. Charities have been shown to be ill-prepared to cope when coverage turns sour. So how should they be thinking about their media relations? And, after the recent attacks on the sector why should charities be working with the media?

In the first of a series of blogs sharing excerpts from Becky’s book Effective Media Relations for Charities: What journalists want and how to deliver it we will share insight gathered from her 20-year career as a media professional, covering print, online, TV and radio as well as 12 years working within and around the voluntary sector.

So why is it important to build strong relationships with the media?

The media has reach and it has influence. This is why it offers such value to charities. Whether a charity wants to raise public awareness of an issue, highlight its successes, campaign for change, or build trust and confidence, working with the media can be a very useful tool. It can also be dangerous..

Following the Daily Mail telephone fundraising exposé in July 2015, where it was alleged that overly aggressive tactics were being used to coerce old and vulnerable people into giving money, charities chose to put their use of this technique on hold. This resulted in the loss of hundreds of jobs and many thousands of pounds to good causes.

In response the government commissioned a review of the self-regulation of fundraising and charity sector leaders were hauled in front of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee to explain their practice. All of which resulted in new regulation, a new regulator and diminished public trust in charities.

What happens when you get it right?

In contrast to this negativity, when worked with, the media can generate great coverage and outreach. A good example of unlikely bedfellows is the 2014 CoppaFeel! partnership with The Sun which worked wonders in raising public awareness of the charity. Its bold PR campaign, which used the newspaper’s glamour models to encourage readers to check their breasts more regularly, got results – after eight months women were four times more likely to check their breasts than before and at least six women had cancer diagnosed as a result of the campaign. Funded by The Sun the Check ’em Tuesday campaign was estimated to be worth £1.5m in free publicity.

Tapping into the benefits and tackling the challenges is easier said than done, especially where cynical and time-pressed journalists are concerned. Successful media relations require a combination of skills, resources and relationships.

For more on how working with the media can be a positive experience Effective Media Relations for Charities: What journalists want and how to deliver it is available from Social Partnership Marketing at £14 +p&p (paperback) and £12.99 (PDF).

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