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Charity comms 'embracing crisis'


One area that has exploded for communications professionals in recent years is the charity and voluntary sector, with social media and other technological developments making it easier than ever before for these organisations to engage with stakeholders and - most importantly - potential donors.

However, the high-profile public status of major charities and their reliance on goodwill to generate funding mean they are particularly vulnerable to crises, meaning this sector can be a challenging one for communications or PR workers.

National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) chief executive Sir Stuart Etherington recently raised this issue, criticising the Charity Commission's handling of the Cup Trust affair (an organisation that spent most of its funds buying bonds later sold for much less than their value).

"This whole affair has brought damage and disrepute to the sector as a whole, putting us at serious risk of losing the trust and confidence of the public," he declared.

Much as in the baking industry, PR and communications workers have got a major job on their hands when it comes to improving public perceptions of the important and useful work done in the sector.

According to Brian Lamb, consultant and chair of the NCVO campaign effectiveness advisory board, dealing with these problems effectively can turn them into a positive for charities.

When life hands you lemons turn them into an opportunity to drive up public engagement and create a better understanding of your organisation, as the old saying (sort of) goes.

Writing in PR Week, Mr Lamb said: "A crisis can also be a great opportunity to restate your positions and bust any myths that your opponent is trying to lay at your door."

Listening to any public criticism and making swift and obvious changes to your operating model can help bring people back onside, the campaigning expert added.

Working in the charity sector does bring its own set of challenges, but it also presents specific rewards, and talented PR professionals could see a swathe of new jobs created as organisations look for help putting their best face forward.

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