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AskCharity: Get your charity’s voice heard

  •  Duncan is communications officer at CharityComms. He runs the Digital Benchmark and AskCharity service. A philosophy and politics graduate of Manchester University, Duncan spent three months after university in Burkina Faso volunteering with International Service.

    AskCharity is a free service, run by CharityComms, which connects charities with journalists. Over 3,000 charities currently use the service to get their stories in the press, with hundreds of active journalists sending out thousands of emails every week.

    Its premise is simple: journalists send out requests for stories to a database of charity representatives, who then respond to any requests they think they can help with. The service sees over 20 requests go out a week and leads to stories across the media, from ITV to The Sun to The Guardian to Fabulous on topics ranging from surrogate mothers to firework phobias. And best of all, it’s free and easy to sign up.

    Through AskCharity, just a few emails can secure your charity some positive press – just look at how Rethink and Mind got positive coverage of mental illness.

     

    Now you've signed your charity up, how can you make the most of it?

    These five tips are a good place to start:

    1. Understand what journalists are looking for – read the publications you want to be featured in to get a feel for the type of stories they like. Reflect this in your response to the journalist’s request. Know their target audience and include key details to reflect it – age and occupation of case studies, their story (or a synopsis of it) and how it fits the request. There's more on what journalists look for in this interview with freelance journalist Jill Foster.

    2. Be clear in your responses – you don’t necessarily have to reveal your case study or story immediately, particularly if it’s sensitive, but do make it clear what you need to know first. So ask for their angle, if copy approval will be given (most journalists are happy to allow read backs) and anything else you need to know. Don’t just say ‘feel free to call me’ – requests are going out to thousands of charities so don’t expect to be the only person the journalist’s dealing with. Likewise, make sure to meet deadlines – this all helps to build up a good relationship with a journalist.

    3. Size isn’t everything – journalists are looking for new angles and new ideas, so small charities, who people haven’t heard from before, may be exactly what they’re looking for.Take it from Kate Hilpern, who's written for everyone from the Daily Express to Good Housekeeping: “How I would love to see some of the smaller ones getting their amazing and stirring stories out there.” You can see her wish list for how charities can help journalists here.

    4. Don’t be downhearted if you don’t get a response, but always be prepared – the requests go out to thousands of people, so it may be that the journalist was overwhelmed with responses and yours wasn't quite the best match. Rest assured, when it is, you’ll hear back. Try to have in mind a few people who might make for interesting stories so you can respond quickly and effortlessly to requests.

    5. Remember the Answer Service isn’t the only avenue to secure coverage - there’s also the search function, where journalists with a specific interest can find the charity allied to that cause. Make sure to set up a clear page for your charity with all the basic info on what your charity does (so a journalist can easily search for you) and up to date contact details (including name and job title so journalists know who they’re contacting), so if your charity happens to match a story, you’ll be the first to know.

     

    Here’s what charities using AskCharity think of it:

    “AskCharity has become one of the most useful PR resources for me in my role at DEBRA. It not only helps us pitch for slots we may not have previously known about, it’s also helped me build up a great media contact list.” Sara McIlroy, marketing and PR officer, DEBRA

    “Through AskCharity we've secured direct media coverage and worked with journalists to expand ideas for articles and features. It's also helped us make new contacts and build on-going relationships with the media.” Kellie Stewart, communications manager, Bliss

    Connect with journalists who want to tell your stories: sign up for free here.

    Or to find out more, read our AskCharity FAQs here.

     

    Found this Blog useful? You may also like:  

    The Power of Storytelling: Six Top Tips by Mike Zywina  

    A-Z of Fundraising Ideas by Localgiving

    5 free tools to share your organisation's story by Nisha Kotecha

     

     

     

    Image courtesy of Jon S/6277209256