Charities, by definition, get the money they need to do the work they set out to do by asking for donations from the public and institutions. To keep this money coming in they must be trusted and demonstrate the values in which they ask for the donations. The background of trust and good works that accompanies charities makes putting out positive stories into the media fairly easy. But if a problem or scandal happens it can be devastating for the charity’s future, the people who were supported by the charity and the people who gave donations to support them.
Ensuring that your charity staff are trained to go in front of the media and answer questions is important. Not only is there a reputation and certain public image to get across, there may be searching questions to answer, where gaining trust and showing transparency are paramount.
TV and Radio vs Print Media
However experienced you might think you are at dealing with the day to day running of your charity, talking to a newspaper journalist or appearing on broadcast media has its own particular challenges.
Interviews, for example, can take place in a range of different media. There is the TV interview in a studio or at an outside location. You could just as likely be talking to a journalist via Skype or over the telephone. It may also be live or pre-recorded. Experience in this area is vital and you need to get the right people in place who know how to handle the situation.
Print media is a different thing altogether. For example, you may be talking to a journalist but, because of inexperience or lack of training, not be aware of what is on and off the record. You might want to build an effective relationship with a journalist, particularly if they are likely to want to meet with you again or get comments from you.
Choosing the Right People
Not everyone is great at appearing on TV or on radio. Some may have a natural ability, others might find it too difficult to get their points across succinctly in such an environment. Training will help improve performance but the initial choice of individuals who handle all your media communications is equally important.
The person you choose to speak for your charity needs to be articulate, but they also must have a deep understanding of the organisation and be fully briefed on what is going on. You may want some spokespeople who are good at promoting your brand to the media while another individual will be chosen if there is a crisis to control.
Getting Key Messages Across
The one thing every spokesperson needs to able to do is get those key messages for your charity across. Broadcast interviews can be very short so the ability to speak in a clear and concise fashion is vital. Interviews often go badly when these key messages aren’t fleshed out enough and the spokesperson ends up floundering, especially if tricky questions are asked.
Media Crisis for Charities
If there is a crisis within a charity, then having a strong media team to present the information quickly and with clarity to the media is essential. The very nature of charities means that if there is a crisis, previous supporters and the general public at large feel betrayed. Charities large and small can come under severe media scrutiny. Oxfam recently had to answer for the behaviour of some of their operatives abroad in one of the biggest charity scandals to hit the news in recent years.
For charities, having a strong media team able to handle any situation in the best way possible is essential. Whether that is to ensure that the media is being correctly informed about the good work or new projects that the charity is doing, or to answer questions if there is a crisis situation, a strong well trained and prepared media team is essential for any organisation within the charity sector.
As with any business or organisation, making sure that your charity is prepared for any media exposure, whether good or bad, makes sense. That means providing the appropriate training as well as getting the right people in place to handle interviews.