The media needs you! - Refugee Council
May 25, 2011

The media needs you!

A report from an event with Claire Horton (19 May 2011)

By Helen Todd

Claire Horton is the editor of Society Guardian online – the part of the Guardian’s website focusing on social issues, and a ‘Society Daily’ bulletin. As with much of the mainstream media, the Guardian’s website is an increasingly important part of what they do and reaches wide audiences. It shows a wide range of ‘multimedia’ (meaning videos, photos, audio etc.) from many sources. Showing multimedia content on line can be a great way to raise awareness of the big issues facing your clients, and the impact of the work you are doing.

The biggest message from Claire was that she is really interested to profile interesting multimedia content from charities, but that few are sending it to her at the moment. Some examples of charity content featured on the Guardian Society Online include the Family Holiday Association, Connections St Martins (a homelessness charity) and Carers UK. I chatted to Claire after the event and she was really interested in refugee issues- and said she would like to hear more from the refugee sector and RCOs in particular.

The top tips I took from the session were:

  • Charities should have confidence in their material in sending it to journalists – Claire said that often ‘raw’ content that is taken with quite basic equipment can be good in communicating a story or message if used well. Often material from small grassroots organisations is as good as or better than that from big organisations.
  • Claire (and other journalists in the room) voiced a real enthusiasm for stories that come directly from people working at the grass roots and service users. Claire said it would be great to see the work of people who have been through a difficult situation and are now leading on finding solutions for others in that situation (like many RCOs!) They said they are less interested in charity Chief Executives talking about policy changes etc.
  • Some charities with fascinating stories don’t make materials which do justice to the content. For example she mentioned a really interesting project with activities with young people – but the photos showed them standing posing in front of the camera rather than doing the activities, so were really boring.
  • Claire said she gets most of her content through Twitter / Facebook etc. or phone calls rather than press releases.
  • Multimedia content online can have a long ‘shelf life’ compared to printed news. For example, the Family Holiday Association material mentioned earlier we highlighted in a relevant story four years later.
  • Online journalists are often interested in ‘on the ground’ stories that illustrate the news. For example Guardian Society Online is doing a lot of work about public sector cuts at the moment.

Helen Todd is Project Initiatives Manager for the Basis Project – if you would like to talk to her about issues and tips raised in this article call her on 020 7346 1084 or email Helen.todd@refugeecouncil.org.uk. Huge thanks to Sound Delivery for putting on this free event for charities, and Christian Aid for hosting it.