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Make the most of your charity report

15 July 2011

Annual reports offer charities the opportunity to showcase their work. Gillian Daines offers her advice on how to get yours noticed

Forster has recently been working with The Children's Society, to develop a campaign to highlight the issue of children who are forced to run away from home. This week saw the launch of a report, Make Runaways Safe, which has generated national, regional, online and print media coverage. But how did the charity manage to create interest in their report? And how can they ensure media interest translates into the real action and change that they're looking for?

  • Get your timing right

I've not included a compelling subject in my list – I'll assume you can work that one out for yourselves. But ensuring your subject is timely – that you can create a media hook or make the most of an existing one – could be crucial to getting coverage of your report. The Children's Society have focused their media push on the cuts to services supporting runaways. In a climate of cuts, this gives them a natural in with the media and a platform of understanding from which the public can think the issue through.

  • Get real voices out there

Most reports have an introduction from a CEO, Chairperson or Trustee but you will get twice as much value out of that person if you also place them as a media spokesperson. The Children's Society got a post from their CEO on the Guardian’s Joe Public blog. This gives the campaign a human perspective that the public can more easily engage with. And the holy grail? Get an independent voice to advocate your campaign. An excellent Thought for the Day on BBC R4 from Reverend Dr Giles Fraser, Canon Chancellor of St Paul's, tackled the subject of runaways and referenced the report.

  • Say something memorable

If you want people to pick up on key elements from your report, give them soundbites. The Children's Society have done this by selecting some key statistics from their report, such as the fact that 100,000 young people run away every year, and have used these consistently through all their media messaging – meaning those statistics get repeated by others.

  • Have a call to action

It's not rocket science to suggest that if a charity has gone to the trouble of preparing a report, they probably have an aim beyond people simply reading it. But do ensure that your call to action is not hidden on the back page. It needs to be clearly highlighted and repeated in all your communications – and make it easy for people to take that action. 

  • Connect back to your campaign

Ensure that any mention of the report where possible refers to your wider campaign or objective and point people directly to the place where they can view your report. This is often the organisation's website. If you are still in the process of creating a campaign microsite or dedicated pages when your report goes out, ensure that your current site has enough information for people who want to support the campaign. Otherwise all your hard work getting that lovely media coverage could go to waste.

  • Use your own channels effectively

I've mentioned ensuring your website is up to scratch, but your organisation's communications channels go way beyond that. Yes, use social media, but also remember your retail outlets if you have them, your member communications and your corporate supporters and campaign ambassadors. People who already support your charity will be the first to support your new campaign, so don't neglect them!

Gillian Daines

innovation director, Forster

Gillian has worked in PR and communictions for over fifteen years, with 10 of those at Forster Communications, the social change PR agency, where she started as in-house PR, was head of creative for three years and is now a board director leading on innovation. She is also a trustee of Sexpression, a UK charity that empowers young people to make decisions about sex and relationships through information and education.