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Getting your Message Across

(or: Dealing with Media and PR)

Updated 16/9/13

Follow the trail

This page


  • Lobbying contacts (governmental, political parties, Freedom of Information), Campaigning Resources.
  • Our Marketing briefing (basic).
  • For organisations concerned about press freedom and responsibility, go to Areas of Concern front page.
  • Media Services page includes video, slide or multimedia production and photographic resources, PR and communication agencies.
  • Some starting points on using internet/web facilities are on WebTips.


This is a mixture of briefings and listings style, within the Taking Action grouping.

Communicating the issues

Communication skills are a much under-rated area, whether used for managing staff or getting a response from the public. Knowing your intended audience and how to reach them is important, but so is remembering that others outside those you are targeting are likely to come across what you are saying too. Do you, for instance, want to convey to health professionals the urgency of some concern, without creating wider panic? Is a contingency plan necessary, in case the message gets scrambled by the media?

Most of this page is about the mass media, but presentations (at events, conferences) can be a way of getting to key people. Try Presentations magazine's web site (which is American but still useful).

Public speaking really needs to be practiced if you want to improve your skills. While reading up on techniques and common problems may help you identify what needs improving, there is nothing like a live demonstration, practice and feedback offered in good courses. There are quite a few around - check out the Management Centre, DSC etc on the Training page. Our Media Services page has some sources of technical training and advice, as well as 'handling the media' stuff.

Communication Resources

See Marketing and Communications publications page for useful books.

See Comms and Campaigning section of Functional Support page.

Clarity and access

The 1999 Plain English Awards demonstrated that complex research findings do not have to be explained in a complicated way. Using a magazine format that combines clear language and pictures with audio tapes, the University of Bristol series of 'Plain Facts' publications makes research messages accessible to people with learning and literacy difficulties. The topics covered include employment, training, welfare benefits, housing, and crime. Launched in 1997, magazines and tapes are published jointly by the Norah Fry Research Centre in Bristol and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. See Plain English Campaign website.

Reading Effectiveness Tool is a Canadian web facility, to assess if your draft is at the right Grade Reading Level for your intended audience, based on the Simple Measure Of Gobbledegook (SMOG) readability formula (!).

On the Web

Media Trust has some online guides on PR, marketing, communicating, filmmaking etc.

VolunteerGenie (link problem Sep 2013) has a wealth of material to help charities use the media to recruit more volunteers, produced by Voluntary Action Media Unit. Much of this is applicable to any charity or campaign promotional activity, but has a volunteering slant. Their Introduction to Media Handbook is available from NCVO's Volunteering England website.

SAVO (Suffolk Association of Voluntary Organisations), as partof its online Practical Toolkits range, has a Marketing and Media Toolkit, developed with BBC Radio Suffolk.

MediaWise (a charity) provides advice, information, research and training on media ethics. Check the Dealing with the Media section.

Sample Online Communications Strategy.

Institute of Race Relations has produced a guide on working with the media, aimed at anti-racist campaigners and refugee rights activists. Download Working with the Media (pdf file, 697kb).

Charity Contact Services

AskCharity is a database of charity contacts (run by CharityComms) to help journalists contact appropriate sector sources of expertise and knowledge for breaking news.

Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom (an independent voice for media reform) can offer advice on the 'right of reply'. Phone 020 8521 5932.

Community Newswire is jointly run by the Press Association and Media Trust, to get voluntary organisations' news releases out to press contacts.

CSV Action Network works within BBC local radio stations, to get charity and community organisation messages across in their area.

Sector support bodies may have web sites which accept press releases or other news, for example Community NI in Northern Ireland. How well this is then picked up by the media will vary - you may want to check who else is/has used the service - but any cost should be low.

Our own VoluntaryNews site has a facility to submit your news, whether it is aimed at an audience of other charities or the general public/press.

Also see entry on Campaign Resources page.

The BBC is well-known for Charity Broadcasts (not just disaster appeals).

Making Contact

Finding the right person, address, even title for a publication you want to target to cover your message, can be tricky.

You may know all your local publications, but no harm in checking at the library - getting the right person, job title and a feel for what stories they are interested in will pay dividends. The specialist trade press, such as Farmers Weekly or Nursing Today, are good places to start researching an industry, for relevant organisations to contact or watch.

While nothing can beat personal contacts, there are a number of 'press guides', with all types of media contacts indexed in different ways:

Magazines, newspapers, radio and TV with an online presence are all on the 'independent online media directory' Media UK.

Press Resources

Before sending out a press release, make sure you have asked yourself 'why (and when) is this news?', 'who might be interested and what will they want to know?', 'what media do they look at/listen to?', 'how do we make contact there?'. A scatter-gun approach may yield results if you have a really hot issue, but otherwise background research helps. A good hook, correctly baited and in the right place, should catch the fish you want!

Press Releases, photos, newspaper sites

PRNewswire has an archive of press releases under various topics (don't just look under Charity). May provide some useful pointers and background for your own releases. Check out PRWeb too - they can distribute your press release via the net for free (but it is US based).

Press Association is the main national news agency for UK and Ireland. Their Mediapoint online newswire has a list of free-to-use UK news web sites, as well as their own editorial contacts.

Media UK reckons it can get you to any section of an online newspaper in 4 clicks.

Also check out the Press Guide websites listed above, such as Pims, for the additional services they are increasingly providing.

Press Cuttings and Media Monitoring

Press Cuttings Bureaux usually work on searching for key words (often your organisation's name but it can be whatever you specify). Some charge for a period, others for a set number of items found.

Press Association Library, 85 Fleet Street, London, EC4P 4BE, phone 020 7353 7440. Holds over 14 million news cuttings, starting from 1926!


PR Week is the trade mag for Public Relations people, which covers charities and public sector in amongst the rest.

Chartered Institute of Public Relations is the professional body, providing training, PR toolkit and other relevant publications.

See Media Services for some specialist agencies.

Alternative and Community Media

Community Media

Community IT info is covered under Voluntary Sector and the Internet, including local technology centres.

Full-time 'Third tier' community radio stations licences have been issued in stages from 2005. See Ofcom for information on the process - also details of the Community Radio Fund, designed to help such stations get going. To contact community radio stations, try Commedia or check local developments via our Local Contacts page.

Commedia - Community Media Association. News, information, services and a gateway to community media organisations in the UK and worldwide, especially community radio and webcasts. Community television and film too.

Community Media Council (website under cosntruction, Sept 2012) is the umbrella organisation for the community radio sector across Northern Ireland.


Check out Undercurrents - Video Activism.

SchNews A weekly update on the "real" news.

Institute for Alternative Journalism is US based - may be of interest to journalists.

INK (Independent News Collective) is a 'trade association of independent periodicals which tackle issues of social, political and personal change, ... helping its members in areas like distribution and publicity'. Links to member sites and there should also be access to the publications too (still being developed?).

Indymedia UK 'is a network of individuals, independent and alternative media activists and organisations, offering grassroots, non-corporate, non-commercial coverage of important social and political issues'.