The word most used and perhaps most apt in terms of describing the relationship between the community and voluntary sector and the media was ‘underdeveloped’. Although there are many examples of where community and voluntary organisations have successfully used the media to influence public opinion and ultimately lever social change. It is also the case that some organisations have had negative experiences with the media which has made them wary of further engagement.

Discussions with people from the media led to the identification of a series of practical suggestions to enhance the sectors engagement with them.

Suggestions to enhance the sectors engagement with the media



Identify spokespeople

It is useful to have a clear, easily identifiable spokesperson. It is important to remember that there is also fatigue with ‘paid’ spokespeople, and if possible it is useful to have people who have/are experienced the issues speak.

React to the issues in emerging news items

If a breaking story is relevant, react with your messages, providing commentary that can then be incorporated into existing coverage, rather than trying to generate new news items.

Build relationships

Cultivate particular media contacts, keep in touch and where possible provide off the record briefings and information to keep them up to date on the issues.

Target news

Exclusives are still important, as is targeting a story. It may well turn out that other news outlets will pick up a story that has already been published.

Use the power of the individual voice/story

Use the media’s need for individual stories to leverage social change.

Supply pictures

Photos are important, particularly images that tell the story, sending multiple images can be helpful in securing news coverage, particularly for online outlets.

Be passionate

Passion is important for ‘newsworthiness’ and credibility.

There is clearly scope for the sector to enhance relations with media personnel and use the media more strategically.

Trade Unions

Consultations found a shared social purpose between the trade unions and the community and voluntary sector, ‘with more to unite than to divide’ particularly in terms of giving voice to an individual or a group/s, in order to represent their views and promote equality and positive change. However, the consultations also found tension leading to limited levels of cooperation between the sectors.

The tensions identified related to the complexity and diversity of the community and voluntary sector, which can make it hard for unions (and others) to relate to and work with the sector and in some cases resulted in the dismissal of the sector by some unions. There was also a view that some in the community and voluntary sector were trying to take the space of the trade unions, although often with different agendas.

Some union representatives also believed the sector could be insular with individual organisations focusing on their particular issue rather than the broader picture. While it was possible to identify examples of positive collaboration between the two sectors, the examples were limited and there was a sense that even these initiatives had not realised their full potential. Therefore there is a need for both groups to develop a better understanding of each other and to identify and develop allies and organisations that they can work together with to enhance collaboration.

General Public

Among the general public there was generally a negative view of ‘lobbying’, but notably advocacy by the community and voluntary sector was generally seen as a good thing. In fact 72% of those we polled believed it was important for charities to campaign and lobby government, while 51% recognised campaigning as part of the ‘cause’ of charities and non-profits.

Interestingly 25-30% demonstrated they had a reasonable understanding of social justice advocacy and the public’s most common involvement in community and voluntary sector campaigning activities was adding their name to a petition. They were significantly less likely to attend a public meeting or demonstration. Only 15% of the public believed that the social justice advocacy work being undertaken was influential, while 46% though it should be.

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