Voluntary Sector: Charity prefers to pay for PR

Macmillan comms chief says it is a false economy to use agencies on a pro bono basis.

Thomas: pro bono sceptic
Thomas: pro bono sceptic

A charity comms chief has spoken out against using agencies on a pro bono basis, suggesting it is better to pay for comms work or to do it all in-house.

Speaking at PR Week's The Big Idea event last week, Macmillan Cancer Support director of external affairs Lynda Thomas said that she preferred not to use agencies on a pro bono basis. She said: 'We find we get better work out of people if we pay them.'

Her comments sparked reaction from agencies. Lexis PR's head of corporate James Thellusson said: 'I don't see why that should be the case. If an agency is committed to pro bono work then its standards shouldn't be different to those under a commercial contract.'

Director of planning, EMEA, at Porter Novelli Melissa Taylor added: 'We put the same amount of effort into the activity as we would for a commercial client. These types of projects are what fuel our staff. We feel passionate about the work and it shows.'

Agency director with experience working pro bono for charities said: 'When an agency takes on pro bono work, it allocates a certain amount of resources to it. But what can happen is that the charity expects more than what was initially agreed.'

A number of other charities have expressed reluctance to use agencies in general.

But one British Heart Foundation spokesperson said: 'Everything is done in-house - it's cheaper. We wouldn't want to use a PR team, even on a pro bono basis because we already have existing relationships with the media in place.'

Unicef media relations officer Gemma Parkin said: 'We don't use PR agencies often. We have an in-house PR team and it works across organisational priorities. The way we use PR agencies is through our corporate partners.'

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