What: Philanthropy Ireland’s Spring Networking Event

Where: Davy, 49 Dawson Street, Dublin 2

When: 22nd March 2018

How: Round table discussion, led by Susan McKay

Who: Members of Philanthropy Ireland

Philanthropy Ireland’s first members’ event of 2018 kicked off with some networking, providing a great opportunity for our new members to link in with our existing network, and share knowledge and experience from the sector.

The theme for the morning was Philanthropy and the Media. A discussion led by Susan McKay, focused on Philanthropy’s relationship with the Media and how we can work to ensure more coverage of the positive impacts the sector is delivering.

McKay brought to the discussion her own experience of working with Atlantic Philanthropies on their recent publication looking at the organisation’s impact in Northern Ireland.

Starting with identifying a story, she highlighted the importance of knowing- What is the story you want to tell? What impact do you want to share? She also stated the importance of a good press release, and this is something that organisations should consider investing in training for.

As an industry that is developing around the rise of social media, newspapers tend to no longer provide photographers to cover stories. With this in mind, organisations should consider hiring their own photographer and accompanying any press releases with photographs, particularly ones that have not been published elsewhere (e.g. on social media).

Of greater importance is the ability to respond to follow up questions from journalists relating to the story, your work, and the organisations and causes you support. McKay was very clear that inviting the media to cover a story, can and often does invite scrutiny and integration of your work. And this is something that you must be prepared for before engaging with them.

There were four takeaway lessons from the session:

  1. Media coverage is not the same as PR

Susan McKay emphasized the difference between pitching a story to the media, and partaking in PR activities. She called for organisations to take a different approach to engaging the media than they would when promoting a PR piece.

Likewise, when pitching a story to the media, organisations should consider that their story must interest the journalist covering it, and press releases must be clear, presenting the appeal of the story early on- usually within the first two/three lines. Accompanying the press release with a compelling headline will further emphasize your story’s appeal.

  1. The importance of finding the personal story

From her own experiences, McKay highlighted that media pieces that share the story of an individual are very appealing to journalists covering philanthropy. This may mean that the philanthropy element of the story plays a secondary role to the personal story of the individual(s).

Applying this approach could include the personal story of a service user, donor, or fundraiser involved with your organisation, or the causes that you fund.

Again, you must be aware that both you and these individuals may be exposed to both positive and negative coverage, and this is something you should pre-empt and be prepared for.

  1. Regional coverage can be as effective as national coverage

 Many organisations target national media outlets for coverage. However, depending on the story you are looking to promote, regional coverage can be just as effective, and in most cases, is easier to secure.

Organisations could begin to look at the stories they want to share and assess whether these are appropriate for regional coverage, or if a new angle could be taken to secure coverage at a regional level.

4. Timing is Everything 

Even though you may have identified an excellent story, written a compelling press release, and accompanied it with high quality photographs, you will still be faced with one final hurdle- timing.

Unfortunately, newsworthiness is relative to the other stories breaking on any one day. As such, your story may get lost if a major news story breaks or if the media’s attention is preoccupied by specific events occurring. With this in mind, regional media outlets might be of more value to you as they tend to be less reactive to specific stories and more concerned with a wide range of regional issues affecting their readers.


Following the plenary session, Philanthropy Ireland members met to discuss how Philanthropy Ireland is engaging with Government to promote philanthropy in Ireland. The notes from this session will be shared with members shortly.

Thank you to Davy for hosting the event and for their continued support of and engagement with Philanthropy Ireland.

Philanthropy Ireland’s Summer Networking Event will take place on Thursday 21st June. Invitations will be share with members nearer the time.