Conference examines whether charity stories can be ‘sexy’...

Senior journalists from The Mail on Sunday and BBC London expressed opposing views as to whether fundrai­sing stories can ever be ‘sexy', at a special conference last week.

The editor of The Mail on Sunday's You magazine Sue Peart insisted such stories struck a chord with readers.

She said: ‘Creative fundraising stories work really well for us. Our readers are very generous.' Peart added: ‘But they stand more of a chance if they have an interesting ang­le or a personal viewpoint.'

But BBC London's community editor Penny Wrout said the opposite was true for her organisation, with fundraising stories generally being ‘profoundly unsexy'. She said that such stories came close to contradicting the BBC's neutral remit, which is to encourage citizenship and community engagement but not involve itself in commercial deals.

‘The BBC cannot favour one charity over another unless it has an arr­anged par­tnership with them such as Children in Need,' she said.

Peart and Wrout were part of a panel at the Institute of Fundraising PR and Comm­unications conference, res­p­o­nding to a question from the British Heart Foundation's head of comms David Barker.

The panel was also divided on celebrities. Peart said this ang­le was still useful. ‘For us there is no such thing as bad press. If someone offered me an int­erview with Heather Mills McCartney now, I would bite their hand off.'

But Third Sector editor Stephen Cook was more sceptical about cel­ebrities. ‘There are a lot of celebrities who benefit their own profile by associating themselves with a charity, but they do not give much back,' he warned.

The entire panel agreed, however, that charities without a well-known PR agency were not at a disadvantage.

Wrout said that journalists often did not notice whether a story came from an in-house press office or a PR agency.

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