Interview: Celia Richardson

The director of communications at Social Enterprise UK tries to meet the media halfway

Celia Richardson
Celia Richardson

Is social enterprise a difficult sell?

Yes. A lot of politicians and opinion formers are switched on to it, but the mainstream public isn't. The business press thinks it is about charities; the public sector or third sector press think it is about businesses.

How do you get around this?

We have to give examples so people can get their heads around it. We talk about social enterprises such as Divine Chocolate, Jamie Oliver's Fifteen or The Big Issue. We explain that they are businesses that exist for social purposes.

Who are your main media outlets?

We are mainly in contact with business, political and public sector journalists. At the moment we are trying to crack the BBC so that when a story breaks on social enterprise it gets some coverage there.

What qualities do you look for in charity communicators?

A real passion for the cause. I also like them to be a bit nerdish in the sense that they have their heads in the media all the time. It's also important that they find a crossroads between what the media is talking about and our stories. You have to meet the media halfway.

Which charities do you admire from a communications perspective?

I admire different organisations at different times. What is interesting at the moment is how the different women's organisations are working together. Platform 51 has been leading on trying to get a ban on topless women in newspapers. The Fawcett Society has taken the government on over the cuts, and then you have the blogger Delilah taking on Hamleys for its gender-specific toy department. I'd like to see youth charities come together with similar coherence.

What are your views on shock advertising?

It's probably under-used. It's good for when you need a paradigm shift but you can't use it too often because people become desensitised to it.

Celia Richardson is director of communications at the umbrella body for social enterprises

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