Charity communications '08 conference

Charity PR professionals urged to take more risks.

Davies: conference speaker
Davies: conference speaker

A top investigative journalist has urged charity comms professionals to go 'off the record' more often.

The Guardian's Nick Davies, author of the controversial book Flat Earth News, said: 'In the past I have been used as a stick to beat the Department of Health. Work with me. I get a great story and you help your organisation,' he said.

Davies was speaking at the Charity Communications '08 conference in London last week. He identified two types of press officer - the 'loyal' and the 'maverick'. Mavericks, he said, would help him to expose their employers or the government.

To loyal press officers he said: 'Have the courage and imagination to take me further. Go off the record. Our objectives might coincide and I can help your organisation.'

Davies was joined by The Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee. Both journalists agreed that PROs should take advantage of media insecurity, which makes newspapers happy to fit in with consensus ideas.

Davies advised delegates that if they wanted to control the angle of a story, it was best to give it exclusively to a trusted reporter on a Sunday paper. Such a reporter would be more likely to take the given angle on a story, he claimed.

The insecurity of news editors, he argued, meant other papers were likely to report the story in the same way.

Toynbee said that, in her experience, 'news editors are all afraid of each other'. She said there was a sigh of relief in the morning meetings when they discovered they had followed the same news agenda as each other. She said it was 'rare to be comfortable' when they had done something different - unless the paper had a big scoop.

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