Interview: Stuart Fowkes

The head of PR at aid charity ActionAid tells Annette Rawstrone that the Financial Times and women's weeklies are on his target list

Stuart Fowkes
Stuart Fowkes

- What are your main media outlets?

We have a broad spread and mix of light and serious stories, which is a nice thing about our work. A lot of the campaigning stories go to The Guardian, The Independent, the Financial Times or The Spectator, but stories involving sponsorship or celebrities are targeted at the women's weeklies or youth titles such as NME.

- Is international aid a difficult sell?

For certain media, such as The Guardian and The Independent, foreign coverage is still great, but it is hard to break the tabloid and mid-market, which is increasingly celebrity-focused. If we had an A-list celeb talking about food prices, they'd find somewhere to cover the story. A bigger problem is media outlets' shrinking budgets. It's harder to get correspondents in the field, but that is the best place for them to see and experience stories, then take them back.

- Does it help that your charity has such a wide scope?

It offers a lot of opportunities, but we have to be careful not to put out completely different stories with different tones on the same day.

- What other challenges do you face?

It is always a challenge to find a new angle on an old product such as child sponsorship. We're also in a sector with big players, such as Oxfam and Unicef, which have massive brand profiles. We need to be prepared to get a reaction out quicker and be the first responder with something distinctive to say. As we are a small organisation, it does help that the sign-off process is not as rigorous.

- What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in charity communications?

Bear in mind that the old boundaries are disappearing. Social media and digital are increasingly important and communications teams need to be multi-skilled. It is important to know the whole scene, including PR and digital, have a willingness to work in an integrated way and show that you are happy to do so.

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