Myth or Reality

Two separate but connected events combined this week to get me thinking about a politically generated myth and a political PR agenda that was reinvented; some would say stolen.

Sitting at home watching Secret Millionaire I was sincerely moved by Charles Allen, the Chief Executive of ITV and his openness in admitting he actually knew very little about charities, how they worked and what it was like at the coal face delivering the services that charities across the country provide on a daily basis. He was frank in his admission that he had no idea just how many of them rely on volunteers.  Like many other benefactors he has previously used his cheque book to evidence his support for charities and subsequently his corporate social responsibility. Granted he was using his cheque book again but this time he was getting his hands dirty and pitching in alongside people who are not motivated by mammon to achieve their goals.

Here was forthright evidence that David Cameron’s “Broken Britain” is indeed a myth and that his “Big Society” already exists – indeed has existed for a very long time in this country. I felt myself very fortunate to be able to see the three charities featured in the Channel Four programme, to witness the commitment people have to achieving change in their communities and contributing to other people’s lives.

I was also fortunate to be attending the 2011 Chad Business Awards (the Chad is our local weekly newspaper) to collect the award for Community Contribution of the year.  To be recognised for the work I do in support of community initiatives is fantastic, but nowhere near as satisfying as seeing the impact of the work I do alongside many others and the difference it makes to the lives of people it touches. There were three other organisations nominated for the award and none of them were there because of their cheque book power. They had all committed, like many of my peer members of Business in the Community have, to providing their time free in order to support organisations in the voluntary and community sector. Here was further evidence that Britain is far from broken in the way our political leaders would have us believe.

Charles Allen is quite right in that charities need cash, and with so many of them now facing cuts in funding thanks to current government policy, they need it more than ever. However, if every business in the UK committed to giving an equivalent 5% of its turnover in pro-bono time to local community projects, many of them would not be quite so needy and Britain’s existing  big society could show just how un-broken the country really is – with or without political PR.

Making a contribution to your community is not simply good Public Relations sense; it gives you the chance to stretch your thinking, to be creative in various ways that can be taken back to your work, it’s a free training exercise of the best order; and it makes you feel good about yourself. It also allows you to step back and look at what you can do if you work with others to achieve a common goal – that’s not just good PR; it’s good business sense.


Written by Graham Parker MA MCIPR

Graham Parker MA MCIPR

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