Macmillan Cancer Support's Lynda Thomas says no to pro bono

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.'

No to pro bono: Macmillan Cancer Support's Lynda Thomas
No to pro bono: Macmillan Cancer Support's Lynda Thomas

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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