Expert view: Can your boss be a media star?

How many times have you seen Camila Batmanghelidjh on the television or quoted in the press recently? The chief executive of Kids Company is a prolific interviewee and gives her organisation a very high profile.

Kids Company has an income of £3.4m, which is a fraction of the £219m income of fellow children's charity NCH, yet NCH's chief executive gets much less media exposure.

Like Batmanghelidjh, Marjorie Wallace of mental health charity Sane, Michelle Elliot of child-protection charity Kidscape and Shami Chakrabarti of civil rights charity Liberty all punch above the weight of their organisations - if weight is counted in terms of income. One reason these individuals are lionised by the media is that they are willing to criticise government policy robustly and consistently.

Many charity spokespeople feel it is not in their interests to risk displeasing the Government. But the media dislikes ambiguity. Someone who says "on the one hand this, but on the other that" doesn't suit our soundbite culture.

These charity stars are also first choice for the news media because they are flexible and always available. They are happy to give their mobile phone numbers to newsdesks and to spend their evenings in scruffy basement radio studios. The media loves those who will dance to its tune and answer their phones whatever the hour.

When a particular cause becomes flavour of the media month, TV producers seek out a camera-friendly spokesperson. Make Poverty History was a coalition of charities that decided early on that no single individual would be the spokesperson for the campaign and opted instead for rotating spokespeople: media requests would be handed out to different coalition members in turn.

But the media baulked at dealing with different PRs and different spokespeople. They wanted a face of Make Poverty History, so when Richard Curtis and Bob Geldof started speaking up for the cause, the media was overjoyed. From that point on, these two became de facto spokespeople, despite the wishes of some campaign members.

Making your chief executive a media star will help your charity gain a much higher profile. But he or she may hate everything about media interviews - the nerves they engender, the ignorance of interviewers and the way that complex subjects have to be encapsulated in a few seconds.

There are other ways for charities to increase their profiles, from using celebrities to providing journalists with exclusive stories. Creating a media star is only one option.

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