Interview: David Hewitt

The communications manager at the Gorilla Organization, which works to save the world's last remaining gorillas from extinction, talks to John Plummer about the changing face of PR

David Hewitt
David Hewitt

- Gorillas must provide great PR opportunities?

Yes, we play on the visual element all the time in our fundraising, and our PR stunts usually involve gorilla suits.

- Which recent charity campaigns do you admire?

I signed up to Mind's Elephant in the Room campaign on mental health. It was quirky and playful, but had a serious message. I also liked the Barnardo's campaigns on child abuse - they were really shocking, and I like that. I also admire Save the Children because it gets angry about children who are dying. Some development charities don't do that, but Save the Children consistently does and I like that.

- What advice would you give someone wanting to get into charity communications?

Look for an internship, be willing to pick up new technologies and be open to everything. It's not enough just to be able to write good copy. You have to be a jack of all trades. That has developed in the past few years.

- How has the economic downturn affected charity campaigning?

It's difficult to say. It has coincided with the rise of social media. This enables charities to save money, because it's a cost-effective way of getting your message out there, but it would have happened whatever the state of the economy.

- What mistakes do charity campaigns commonly make?

Trying to be too clever, perhaps by using too much jargon, being too quirky or experimenting with fonts and images. There's the danger that the message gets lost in all of this. I often find myself thinking "this is great, but what's this for again?" By all means, try something new, but remember the message is the key.

- How will charity communications evolve in the future?

I think there will be more tagging by interests, rather than by acquaintances, as happens now on sites such as Facebook. That should help charities.

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