Interview: James Puxty

The head of public relations at the animal welfare charity PDSA tells John Plummer how having celebrity supporters helps

James Puxty
James Puxty

- How does PR in the voluntary sector differ from elsewhere?

The pressure on budgets and the need to make every pound work is similar to the public sector. Budgeting is tighter than the private sector.

- What is your biggest PR challenge?

There's some confusion over the boundaries of the animal charities in the UK. What are we responsible for? What is the RSPCA responsible for? For us it's clear. We need to make it clearer to the general public.

- Aren't animal charities pushing against an open door when it comes to media coverage?

It's a nice change to talk to the media knowing it's supportive of what you do. But we don't all get coverage so it isn't an open door. There are a lot of animal charities.

- Why is PDSA successful at securing coverage?

It's our relevance and the fact that if the media wants a view on animal welfare we will happily provide it. We're also lucky to have a lot of celebrity supporters.

- What advice would you give charities seeking celebrity supporters?

Look for a celebrity who believes in the cause. We won't pay for celebrities - that gives them and us credibility. You also have to understand that they are busy. Graham Norton supported an awards ceremony last year. He said he'd like to support us again in the future but that if he said "no" to something it was because he was busy rather than because he didn't want to. You have to understand that.

- Which PR by other charities has impressed you?

I was impressed by the change of attitude in Comic Relief's most recent Red Nose Day. It was harder and blunter, and that made for a compelling ask. The way Help for Heroes organises events and fundraising is efficient.

James Puxty is head of public relations at the animal welfare charity PDSA. He has also worked in PR in the private and public sectors

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