Communications - How to take your message to Brussels

As the importance of European legislation grows, it is becoming increasingly vital for charities to target the Brussels-based media.

In view of this, NCVO held a special PR forum on Monday for voluntary sector organisations that want to improve their media coverage in Europe.

A number of specialist publications based in Brussels, including European Voice and European Politics, are similar to The House Magazine, which covers events in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. They are widely read by opinion-formers and are considered influential.

Nolan Quigley, European and international officer at the NCVO, says: "You need to be aware of the European policy agenda and what's going through Parliament. If you know something's coming up, that's the time to send a press release.

"It's also useful to build up contacts with other organisations in different member states who want to campaign on the same issue. You might want to put out a joint press release, for example."

Vikki Phillips, EU institutions manager at the RSPB, agrees there is power in numbers. "It's useful to be part of a pan-European network," she says. "It gives you a better chance of securing coverage.

"We are a member of Birdlife International and have a partner organisation in every member state. Publications are more interested in what groups of organisations are saying across the EU, rather than just in one member state."

Both Quigley and Phillips concentrate their energies on the print media on the grounds that the majority of decision-makers read magazines such as European Voice, and there is no television or radio equivalent they tune into regularly. However, Phillips also targets popular websites such as Euractive.

For charities that can't afford a base in Brussels, it might be equally productive to target British journalists who cover what goes on for publications at home.

But whatever an organisation's size, ignoring the EU is no longer an option, according to Quigley. He explains: "I believe most of our member organisations can get something out of Europe. It's all about networking."

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