Charities told to 'stay visible'

Comms chiefs say charities need to be proactive in order to survive the year ahead.

Support: The public must be urged to keep up donations
Support: The public must be urged to keep up donations

Voluntary sector PROs have been advised that a proactive communications strategy will be crucial in 2009 if they are to fend off a donations dip.

With people tightening their belts, charity comms chiefs have stressed the importance of ensuring that charities are visible in the press.

'Being visible when people are thinking about how they spend every pound at least gives the best chance of being top of mind when they make their choice,' said NSPCC comms director John Grounds. 'Charities that manage to maintain their profiles during a recession are more likely to benefit in the long term.'

Barnardo's assistant director of comms Puja Darbari also said demonstrating a charity still needs support and maintaining high awareness levels would be critical in 2009.

Comms chiefs said charities would rely more heavily on PR than other marketing disciplines in 2009.

'Voluntary organisations will no doubt be reducing expensive advertising and marketing campaigns - so there will be more pressure on PR teams to deliver higher levels of on-message, targeted editorial coverage,' said The Children's Society's assistant director, campaigns and media, Tim Linehan.

He added: 'Voluntary organisations will be more dependent on high-calibre and engaging spokespeople.'

The economy will also be a key topic for the media. Mencap's PR manager Sam Heath said charities that can demonstrate how the economy is affecting their beneficiaries would find it easier to achieve coverage.

Meanwhile, a key strategy for the environment movement will involve positioning green issues as cost-effective.

Friends of the Earth comms director Adeela Warley said: 'The big comms challenge will be to deal with the recession and make sure green issues are not seen as luxury or peripheral to the political debate.'

The economic situation will also lead to greater scrutiny of the voluntary sector, said Charity Commission's head of news Sarah Miller. 'It is vital that charities are absolutely clear in their comms about what they do, how they do it and how they use their money,' she said. 'That's the basis for increasing public trust and confidence in the sector at a time when funders and individuals may reassess their giving.'

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