Workshop: Case Study - Media people join in the dating game

Francois Le Goff

Summary

The Media Trust held its debut 'speed-matching' event in September to pair up charities with media professionals. The event generated a lot of enthusiasm from both sides and secured future support from communications agency Edelman, which is hosting the next event.

Background

The Media Trust, which helps the voluntary sector understand how the media works in order to communicate its messages better, has run an online service for two years that matches charities' specific PR needs with media professionals. Charities enter their details in a database that can be accessed by journalists and PR professionals who want to volunteer their time. This process is direct; the trust only acts as a middle-man if one or both parts require some assistance.

To build on the success of its online service, which has arranged more than 800 successful pairings to date, the Media Trust organised a free speed-matching event held at Channel 4's headquarters on 28 September.

Media Trust spokesman Dominic O'Reilly said: "I have freelance friends who want to help charities but don't know how. So I say to them that they could spend a couple of hours doing work they would usually charge hundreds of pounds for and make a more significant contribution than raising money for a sponsored event."

How it worked

The event was relatively cheap to organise, and the Media Trust had only to foot a bill of around £300 for drinks and food. Apart from a press release picked up by the specialist press in September, and an email notice sent to the trust's online matching-service users, most people learned about the event by word of mouth. The venue was provided by Channel 4, the Media Trust's corporate partner, and it supplied music, candles and drinks to create the atmosphere of a speed-dating evening.

The 20 charities that took part, which included the National Missing Persons Helpline, the RNIB and St John Ambulance, were paired with a similar number of marketing, PR and media professionals. Each pair engaged in a five-minute conversation before moving on.

Like most who attended, Helen Seedhouse, head of fundraising at the Eve Appeal, came to the event with a clear sense of purpose. Her charity is to undergo a makeover in January and needs a new fundraising pack, website and brochure. Seedhouse was seeking marketing and strategic advice. She managed to talk to 18 professionals during the evening and was given three matches when the Media Trust emailed her a few days later.

Ujwala Samant was there representing Learning for Life, a charity established 10 years ago in response to the need for education in South Asia. She wanted to know how she could develop a press kit that would help to distinguish the charity from the similarly named Lifelong Learning.

Results

The Media Trust only failed to find a match for one charity, whose demands were too specific. "This is a big opportunity to help smaller charities, and we have already made some great matches," said Caroline Diehl, the Media Trust's chief executive. "We will host more events over the next year. The format was fun and it brings a new dimension to our existing online matching scheme."

Meanwhile, Seedhouse has already met with one of her matches who wants to help with the charity's regional fundraising. "It is good to feel less isolated and to know that there are people are out there who can help," she said.

Of the two matches she was given, Samant last week met a journalist from Dazed and Confused magazine with contacts in South Asia, and heard from a PR expert who can help the charity develop its strategy. She is keen to attend future speed-matching events. She said: "Now I've been once, I know what to expect, and what questions to ask, and will make a more efficient use of the allocated time."

Communications agency Edelman will host the next event at its London offices in January.

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