Tristan Blythe: Don't believe what you've read - not all publicity is good publicity

03 May 2022 Voices

In the first edition of Charity Finance of this year, I wrote that much of the widespread anger at the news of Downing Street parties during lockdown was due to a lack of fairness.

Now prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak have been issued fines for breaking lockdown laws by attending these parties.

Even if the police had not fined them or had found that no laws had been broken, the parties would have been an uncomfortable issue and angered a lot of people. They would have still been a PR disaster (to say the least).

Indeed, this government seems to have a talent for hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Recently it emerged that Sunak’s wife was revealed to be claiming non-dom status, meaning she avoided paying millions of pounds in UK tax. This is entirely legal and she has now pledged to pay tax in the UK, but this isn’t a great image when the cost of living is increasing rapidly and the chancellor has increased National Insurance contributions. Many people are struggling to make ends meet.

As with the lockdown parties, it just doesn’t project a sense of fairness and being in touch with the lives of the vast majority of people living in the UK. Plus, it all seems a bit self-inflicted.

Of course, it isn’t just this government that has had problems with its PR image – nor will it be the last.

And it is not just governments either. Charities too have had their own fair share of PR scandals in recent times.

Some charities have even had issues around the investments they hold. In this edition is the annual responsible investment supplement. As the war in Ukraine continues to rage and the climate crisis becomes ever-more urgent, careful consideration of charities’ investments is more crucial than ever.

However, some of the media coverage of the charity sector comes from external pressures. For example, a particular cause becomes prominent for one reason or another. Or, especially in recent times, charities find themselves under attack from the media or politicians for political reasons.

Under these circumstances, it is important that charities are able to put their side of the story across in the media, and in this issue we also look at how this can be done.

Tristan Blythe is the editor of Charity Finance

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