Charities 'failing to make the most of the media'

Charities do not know how to meet the media's needs and are often unjustifiably wary of dealing with journalists, according to a new report by the Voluntary Action Media Unit.

Contrary to the beliefs of many voluntary sector organisations, the report claims, journalists are not hostile towards them. They are, however, critical of the way charities promote their messages.

The research shows that charity PRs tend to use generic press releases as their main method of communicating stories. But the 126 media professionals interviewed for the study argue that charities should spend more time trying to understand their publications or programmes, and offer them tailored, exclusive stories.

Mike Pearce, features director at 'lads' mag' FHM, said: "Most charity ideas fall on deaf ears because they pitch the same idea to many magazines.

But all FHM ideas need to be exclusive."

Another complaint was that charities fail to understand deadlines and schedules.

Orion Ray-Jones, who publishes easyJet Magazine, said: "Charities think that because their cause is a good one - and it often is - that's all that's needed. They don't realise that journalists have hearts of stone when a deadline is threatening."

A main gripe from charities was that they often "wasted time" helping a journalist, only for the story to be dropped later. Penelope Gibbs, director of the Voluntary Action Media Unit, said: "Charities need to make a judgement about whether it is worth taking a risk. Journalists can't always guarantee what will happen."

Gibbs added that both parties could learn from the report. "There's a lack of understanding on both sides," she said. "Journalists often don't understand charities' lack of resources."

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