... but celebrities are still a key tool to gain coverage

Celebrity endorsement is still a crucial way of achieving coverage for serious issues, agreed most speakers at the Third Sector conference.

'Nine out of ten calls to our press office are journalists asking for celebrities to come and speak about an issue,' revealed Unicef's head of communications Angela Travis.

She explained how Jemima Khan, socialite and former wife of Imran Khan, spoke out against the media's obsession with celebrities when she launched Unicef's recent 'Gift' campaign.

She recalled: 'Jemima Khan was on TV and said: "You should have the executive director of Unicef here. They know far more about the issue than I do".'

Max Clifford agreed that in reality charities often needed a star who would attract media attention. 'It shouldn't be like that, but it is,' he said. He spoke of how Simon Cowell's involvement with children's hospice charity Chase had helped raise funds.

But Society Guardian editor Patrick Butler said he had an unofficial rule not to use celebrity stories. 'They don't add anything for the way we want to write about your stories,' he said.

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