Palestinian aid agency alters marketing tack

ANNIE KELLY

Medical Aid for Palestinians is to refocus its message to emphasise the humanitarian nature of its work in an effort to recruit further donors.

The charity plans to develop a two-year strategic programme to move the organisation away from the wider issues of the Palestinian conflict, and start communicating how the charity's medical work alongside the Palestinian health service can affect individual lives in war-torn areas.

"With all the media focus on the Palestinian situation, people become numb to the never-ending horror stories and feel unable to help,

said Mark Middleton-Heath, a director at marketing agency Catalyst, which is handling the brand review. "We are looking to change this and show how much impact Medical Aid for Palestinians work can have on people in these horrendous circumstances.

"Medical Aid for Palestinians is the only UK charity working on the ground in areas such as Jerusalem and Nablus, and at the moment their credible voice is not being heard,

he said.

The charity is looking to regain the high-profile that it enjoyed in the 1980s following intense media coverage of its work helping victims of the Bourj al Barajneh refugee camp siege in Beirut.

Belinda Coote, the organisation's new chief executive, said it was vital that the charity raised its public profile at a time when its services are in high demand.

"The pressures on Medical Aid for Palestinians are greater than ever to provide medical help, often under extremely difficult circumstances,

she said. "We have to ensure that our communications are highly effective and our financial future is secure."

Test press advertisements run in The Guardian have reaped "highly significant

returns. The charity is also grafting a donor development programme that will encourage existing supporters to continue to be involved. An appeal is due to launch to the donor base at the end of August to test responses to the new messaging.

"We need to get some money in the bank before we take the message wider,

said Middleton-Heath.

Catalyst will also explore additional revenue streams, although initial campaigns will use low-cost and tested channels such as direct marketing.

"We'd like to look at all the different ways that Medical Aid for Palestinians can reach new channels and galvanise public support,

said Middleton-Heath.

"But at the moment we're really concentrating on developing a clear proposition and build a core base of supporters to provide consistent unearmarked funds."

The charity operates a non-sectarian policy in its delivery of health services. It was founded in the aftermath of the killing of refugees at Sabra and Shatila, West Beirut, in 1984.

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