Charities Failing to Connect with Journalists
24 March 2016 at 11:32 am
A lack of time, resources and understanding of the media is hindering charities in generating good news coverage, according to the UK author of a new book.
Authored by Becky Slack, a UK social affairs journalist, and produced in conjunction with peak body CharityComms, the book claimed that charity media managers are finding it difficult to place stories due to a lack of interest from the media, poor contacts, and a belief that the media is mostly interested in negative or sensationalist stories.
“These were some of the findings from a recent survey of 125 charities by CharityComms, which asked charity PRs to select their top three challenges when securing press coverage for their stories,” Slack said.
The responses showed that a lack of time and resources were the most common issues for charity media teams, with 59 per cent of respondents admitting to these problems.
However, the survey also found a group of results that implied there was a disconnect between charities and journalists.
These included 38 per cent of respondents who said journalists weren’t interested in their stories. Another 25 per cent said journalists only want negative stories, not positive news; and many also cited a demand for “attractive” or “high profile” case studies or “dramatic, sensationalist, ridiculous” stories.
The survey found that one in five (20 per cent) said they did not know who to contact to get media coverage.
A spokesperson for the author said the survey results were likely to be the same in a number of other countries including Australia.
Becky Slack said the book, Effective Media Relations for Charities: What journalists want and how to deliver it, provided solutions to these problems and a guide to raising a charity’s media profile.
“Charities do not always receive the positive coverage they need and deserve. At the same time, the response to the recent media furore [in the UK] has shown that charities have found it very difficult to cope when coverage turns sour,” she said.
“Charities need to be able to respond to media requests quickly, relinquish control of the message and think more like journalists if they are to secure more and better media coverage.
“The most successful PR teams are those that think like journalists.
“PR should not be an extension of your marketing department. Working with the media is about a genuine opportunity to engage with wider audiences on the issues that matter to charities.
“If charities want coverage they have to work fast. They have to provide journalists with what they want, when they want it and in the format they want it in.
“If charities want to avoid more negative coverage [in the media], they need to communicate how they operate. News is something that is new, shocking or surprising. Charities need to be transparent so the way they work becomes normalised.”
Chief Executive of CharityComms, Vicky Browning, said the UK charity sector provided a vast range of services which help improve the wellbeing of society.
“However, for a number of reasons, it has to be accepted that the sector as a whole is neither generally well understood by the public, nor is it always applauded for its work or its methods. This book will give charities a better understanding of how best to make the most of their resources to deliver a more effective media strategy.”
CharityComms is a membership network for communications professionals working in UK charities.