Liberty's director offers media advice

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti has advised third sector communicators on how to deal with the press.

PRWeek's Communicator of the Year 2008 was speaking at a meeting of the CIPR's Fifth Estate's group for voluntary sector PROs last Wednesday.

Chakrabarti said that the best way to work with the media was to always stick to your values and not be afraid to turn down press requests for quotes.

She said: 'I have met press officers who strut around on mobile phones pretending to be Alastair Campbell, who think they will make up a policy or sound bite on the spot. That is death to the serious NGO.'

Chakrabarti added: 'We will never trade our values for a headline. Our press office had to learn to say no to giving a quote, which was painful for them, but then you become an authoritative voice on a subject and journalists trust you.'

Chakrabarti also advised organisations to make sure they were working together: 'I have learned that 25 people working on their own might as well be one concerned citizen. But 25 professionals pulling together on a campaign is powerful. That is what works.'

In response to a question about US President Barack Obama's successful election campaign, she said he was careful in portraying himself as 'not too chippy or too angry'.

She said Liberty had similarly spent time becoming 'organised rather than just angry' to avoid playing up to a left-wing stereotype.

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