Ignoring questions from the media can make a bad situation worse, charities hear

Charities need to be transparent and up front in their communications with journalists, particularly during times of crisis or stories about their accounts and Effective Media Relations Bookfinancial practices.

This was one of the recommendations to emerge from a roundtable of journalists and charities, held in Dublin yesterday (Monday 9 May 2016), hosted by Davy in partnership with Slack Communications and Social Partnership Marketing.

The roundtable, which featured representatives from the Irish Examiner, the Irish Times and a number of Irish charities, looked at how charities can develop more effective relationships with the media. Irish charities have experienced a number of negative stories over the last few years, which are believed to have resulted in a reduction of up to 40 per cent in fundraised income*.

Claire O’Sullivan, a senior journalist with the Irish Examiner who writes predominately about social affairs said: “The minute you start avoiding or not responding to legitimate queries from journalists, alarm bells sound. It’s better for your reputation to be transparent – it’s better for you in the long run. We’re aware that the charity sector is professionalised and that it needs to be [professionalised], so if you could act in that way in terms of the media, it will work in your favour.”

Peter McGuire, a freelancer who works with the Irish Times among other publications, was also at the table. He recommended the following:

“It’s really important for charities to research who is writing about their subject area and then develop relationships with them. Don’t always just go for the mainstream – local and smaller publications can be just as helpful.”

He added: “The email subject line is hugely important but totally under-rated. I get 20 to 40 releases a day. Unless the subject line jumps out at me, I might not read it.”

Olivia McGill, PR and Media Manager at Slack Communications, and based in Dublin, said: “Be aware of the news agenda and figure out how you can fit into that. This means thinking about anniversaries, forthcoming events and other on-topic issues that you comment on. And when you do comment, be bold, be opinionated.”

Donnchadh O’Mordha, Senior Investment Adviser within the Charities and Not-for-Profit Group at Davy said: “The Irish charity sector is very conscious that it is subject to increased scrutiny, and off the back of a number of tough years and the introduction of a new regulator, it is bracing itself for more scrutiny from the media over the coming years. It is incredibly important for the sector to have effective media relations strategies so that it can deal with negative coverage but more importantly can promote itself.”

The roundtable was held to mark the launch of Becky Slack’s recent book: Effective media relations for charities: what journalists want and how to deliver it, and co-incided with the opening of Slack Communications’ new Irish office in Dublin.

Becky Slack’s book, Effective media relations for charities: what journalists want and how to deliver it, draws on more than 20 years’ experience within media and charities to present a clear and compelling case for all charities becoming much more media savvy.

The book can be ordered here: 


Special Offer  for Members of The Wheel 

Members of The Wheel can avail of 15% discount off the book's cover price. Your special discount code will be included in the May issue of NewsWheel, or contact gert@wheel.ie for more.