Interview: Caroline Diehl

The chief executive of the Media Trust says the sector is jumping at the chance to appear on its television channel

Caroline Diehl
Caroline Diehl

The Media Trust is celebrating the conclusion of the eighth series of Untold Stories, its television programme that profiles the work of the UK's small charities.

The series is produced by professional film-makers who volunteer their time in support of a range of causes throughout the country.

"We get huge demand, with more than 100 charities applying for it this year," says Caroline Diehl, the trust's chief executive. "They take it very seriously and they understand the media opportunities and exposure it can create for them."

This year's series ran on the Community Channel, which is owned by the charity, for two weeks from 20 May, and featured more than 20 organisations.

"Films are so powerful because you really get under the skin of the charities and their beneficiaries, and the difference that the charities are making," says Diehl.

"There has been a big shift away from the chief executive or members of staff fronting charities' films to hearing the story of the organisation's impact directly from beneficiaries. You see how charities change people's lives."

Making films has become easier and Diehl says that is one reason why they have increased in popularity in the sector.

"Charities can now make films that range from the tiniest clips that can be tweeted to a whole hour-long documentary on television," she says. "They can also train their beneficiaries to make films. These can then be used in various ways: on a charity's website, on YouTube, on social media, at events, or for inspiring their volunteers."

The Media Trust is proud of its Community Channel, which will celebrate its 13th birthday in September. When it was launched, it was broadcast on one channel for three hours each day. It now runs 24/7 on Sky, Virgin Media and Freeview, and is available in 98 per cent of UK homes.

Audiences have also grown, with five million unique viewers watching the channel for at least three minutes each year.

"To have that many people engaging with us is fantastic," says Diehl.

"It provides charities with a great opportunity."

Charities such as the British Red Cross, Cancer Research UK, Oxfam and the RSPCA are among the organisations to have advertised on the channel. "It can be used in a very focused way to reach particular communities, and the charities get a fantastic response," says Diehl.

She says that the charity provides other services apart from the channel and is often approached for a package of communications support.

"So much of what we're doing now is multimedia training," says Diehl. "From interview training, online feature writing and film-making to photography and podcasting - charities want to use a mix of communications channels. Those that are most successful are able to integrate that mix of media, communications, PR and social media. And it's becoming a lot easier to do all that, especially if you empower your volunteers and beneficiaries to be your voice."

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