Interview: John Orchard

The communications manager at Birmingham's John Taylor Hospice tells John Plummer how the charity aims for 'human stories'

John Orchard
John Orchard

- What's unusual about the hospice?

In October, it became the first hospice to become a social enterprise under the Department of Health's right-to-request initiative. It has established new communications and fundraising teams.

- What are the PR advantages and disadvantages of this?

A clear benefit is that we are the first to do it. Journalists like something unique and first. The negative is explaining the process and why it takes so long. We try to get it over in an interesting way by putting human faces to our stories.

- Is it difficult explaining to people that hospices are not part of the NHS?

It can be, but fortunately Birmingham is well served by hospice care, so a lot of people are well educated about how it works.

- How do you strike a PR balance between dealing with death and messages of hope?

By getting across that hospices are not just places where old people go to die. We see anyone older than 18 and help them to make the most of living. Once you get over the fact that dying happens, then a lot of stories we are involved in are positive - they're about letting people die where they want and have the best quality of life right until the end. If you frame it right for journalists, it doesn't need too much spin.

- You previously worked for a large national charity - what is the difference in PR terms?

Smaller charities have the ability to move quickly, but the downside is that you do everything on a shoestring.

We are doing a PR campaign in Birmingham that costs £10.

- Which other charities' PR do you admire?

Help the Hospices does a fantastic job campaigning for us on a national level. I can't forget a Save the Children radio advert about texting £5 to fill a truck with food. There's a trend for charities to be specific in what they ask for, and that's precisely what the advert does.

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