Interview: Ben Whitnall

The head of media at the Christian charity the Bible Society says the priorities are audience, audience, audience

Ben Whitnall
Ben Whitnall

- What's your role?

The charity's mission is to offer the scriptures of the Bible to the world. So my job is to give people a fresh encounter with the Bible by telling engaging, positive stories in the mainstream media.

- What media do you target?

We primarily target print and broadcast media. The goal is to connect with contemporary culture and people outside the church, so we'll look at any media where that can happen.

- What are the challenges of your job?

While there are normally a fair few column inches for religion and a couple of hot-button topics around Christianity, the scriptures themselves - particularly the actual contents - don't get much exposure. We also want to expand the conversation beyond just the religion segments and the 'Indiana Jones' archaeological-type stories, which we find can be a tough sell. The Bible is full of timeless, human stories and we think it can inform analysis and debate as well as mainstream news and features.

- What's your background?

I worked at a digital media agency for five years, doing everything from buzz marketing to digital democracy. I then moved to the Bible Society to do online advocacy in a digital PR role. After a short time at the digital coalface, I was promoted to lead the media team, which is made up of experienced journalists from TV and newspapers.

- What advice would you give to someone wanting to break into PR?

Get a foot in the door somewhere and then confidently and speculatively ask about a role. Organisations will always want good communicators, so it's important to prove your worth, probably by sticking relentlessly to the essentials: audience, audience, audience. I would also recommend prioritising effectiveness over creativity. And personally I reckon there's no better apprenticeship than a few months at the sharp end of sales and direct marketing.

Ben Whitnall is head of media at the Christian charity the Bible Society

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