Interview: Carrie Brookes

Carrie Brookes, communications manager at Vonne, the regional network for voluntary organisations in the north east, talks to John Plummer about getting coverage in newspapers

Carrie Brookes
Carrie Brookes

- Do your organisation's name and the nature of its work pose PR problems?

Yes - the name doesn't trip off the tongue and infrastructure is a terrible word. I use terms such as 'support group' and 'umbrella body'. But we have worked hard to raise our profile.

- How do you overcome confusion about what you do?

The full explanation is built into our logo and we use the strapline "the support body in the north east". We also make sure our communications messages get across that we are the regional support body.

- How interested is the media in regional stories, do you find?

We are fortunate that there is a strong regional identity in the north east of England. Our two main newspapers, the Newcastle Journal and the Northern Echo, like regional stories. We did a bit of navel gazing when the regional development agencies were dismantled, asking whether there was a role for us - and decided there was.

- What is your strategy for approaching those newspapers?

We try to focus on a couple of big stories a year, rather than hit them with bits and bobs. We do a six-monthly survey on the impact of the economic downturn on the voluntary sector and, sadly, we always have stark figures that make the kind of bad news stories the press can use. We always have case studies available.

- Why do you have so many social media followers?

We spend time listening to what people are interested in rather than just broadcasting nonsense. We follow influential journalists and MPs and try to have a dialogue with them. We just try to have a sensible, intelligent voice.

- Which other charities do you admire?

Beatbullying has clever ideas on social media and reaching young people. It isn't a large organisation but it has got to the forefront of people's minds.

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