Interview : Uta Hope

The director of fundraising and communications at the veterans mental health charity Combat Stress tells Harriet Crawford how they will be raising awareness around the First World War centenary

Uta Hope
Uta Hope

What is your role? I've been director of fundraising and communications at Combat Stress for just over 18 months. The comms team comprises four people, who cover the charity's operations across the UK.

What are the challenges of your role? At the moment we are on a high when it comes to public engagement with our armed forces. But we have to prepare for waning interest when the troops come home from Afghanistan and Germany. We need to put ourselves in a position where we can maintain that interest.

What are you currently working on? This year is the centenary of the start of the First World War. The charity was founded in 1919, after the war ended. We want to make sure the public knows it was not just about the loss of many hundreds of thousands of lives - many soldiers survived with mental scars. Psychological trauma was a major fall-out of that war.

We are working with national media, including the BBC, on everything to do with the First World War; we are creating two short films to increase awareness; and we are going to create a travelling exhibition about combat stress. We are also working on a national event called Cook for Combat Stress - it's about the homecoming meals when a veteran comes back from the front, and it's also about sharing experiences.

How important is communications for the charity? There are two elements to what we do: increasing awareness and lobbying. The most important part is to get veterans to come to us for help. We also lobby politicians on behalf of veterans to explain the importance of the services we deliver.

What advice would you give communications professionals starting out in the sector? Be passionate about your cause - if you don't believe in it, you can't be convincing. Be informed about the issues and get your figures right. Work your socks off. You need patience and determination.

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