Interview: Katie Abbotts, head of PR, Oxfam

A good PR campaign can often be more effective for a charity than an advertising campaign, she tells Kate Youde

Katie Abbotts
Katie Abbotts

Katie Abbotts was Oxfam's first PR officer when she joined the charity in 2001. She became its head of PR in 2007.

- What do you enjoy about PR?

I enjoy the opportunity to make a real difference to the charity's business, whether that's making money, changing perceptions, increasing awareness or changing people's behaviour. It's great to have the opportunity to work with lots of different types of people, whether it's an Oxfam shop volunteer, a celebrity or a chief executive. The other benefit is that I get to do a good deal of travelling and am able to meet many Oxfam beneficiaries.

- Which trip stands out?

I have been to Rwanda. I went five times in one year on a media partnership with the Daily Mirror to a village that had received funding from the paper's readers. I got to see the difference that money made.

- What are you working on now?

This week sees the launch of the Oxfam Do, which is linked to the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day on 8 March. The idea is that you choose a date, then decide your 'do' and invite friends - it could be dinner, drinks, staying in, going out, anything you like. You invite your guests to make donations to Oxfam. You can create your event with the aid of our celebration website, which has various ideas - try a Zimbabwean tea party or a traditional barn dance.

- What has been your favourite campaign?

The launch of Oxfam Unwrapped in 2004. It was groundbreaking - the idea of charity gifts went from nowhere to something widespread and normal. I saw the idea through from scribblings on Post-it notes to the front page of The Guardian.

- How will campaigns change in the future?

Currently the traditional 'advertising leading' is the dominant model, with your digital and PR work following behind. This needs to be turned on its head and thought about from a different angle, because a good PR campaign can often be more effective for a charity than an advertising campaign. Communication needs to be much more democratic and conversational.

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