Communications update: Vicky Browning on adverts that confuse commerce and charity

Plus: Why communications staff need to get to grips with budgets

Vicky Browning
Vicky Browning

The latest campaigns from Kenco and Always – coffee against gangsters and, er, sanitary towels for self-esteem – show how the lines between commercial brand advertising and the traditional heartland of charities are increasingly blurred. Even the cosmetics company L'Oreal announced in September that it would be shifting its advertising strategy "to focus on emotion rather than product". It throws into sharp relief the need for charities to communicate clearly what makes them different.

This shift is one of the reasons why I believe it's time we created a new narrative for the third sector.

We need to start to build public understanding of the overall contribution charities make to the fabric of our society and, more specifically, how charities actually work in the real world, which is not the sepia-coloured one imagined by some of the public. We need to explain why many charities employ staff or what administration costs actually cover, for example.

As I was discussing budgets with a charity comms professional recently, they waved an airy hand and said: "I don't really do numbers." I don't buy that, I thought, and neither will senior management – and maybe that's why comms people sometimes find it hard to get the resources they need. Fundraisers don't find it hard to ask for budgets and comms people need to do it too – that's why CharityComms is running a workshop on it in October. Being able to make the business case for communications is a vital tool in an effective communicator's box.

Vicky Browning is director of CharityComms

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