AS a reporter entering the ‘early veteran’ stage of my career, I’ve seen my fair share of dreadful press releases and poor photographs, writes David Tooley.
I wouldn’t be so cruel as to mention anyone by name but these attempts at PR can come from businesses keen to tell the world how good they are.
You know the kind of thing. Company makes a donation or does some voluntary work at a local school.
Then they get everyone to line up, wearing false, gummy smiles, and hand over one of those gigantic cheques and think they should have it used as the main story on a page.
And if the paper doesn’t use it, it means the newspaper has a policy of only writing about the bad stuff that happens.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has a lot to do with it. Because companies feel they must do something, they don’t put much thought into what to do or how to do something useful.
The chief executive of a children’s charity I know told me he dreads being contacted by companies who want to send round teams of people to dig holes or paint things because it actively gets in the way of the day-to-day running of the charity.
Dacorum is very lucky indeed when it comes to businesses and charities getting together to do the right thing.
The borough has a group called Connect Dacorum – which puts firms in touch with companies at its regular networking meetings and gives them some good advice.
The latest Connect Dacorum meeting was at Shendish Manor, on September 6. The subject was Giving Money and one of the issues it tackled was how to decide who to donate to.
Margaret Kingston, of Dacorum Community Trust (DCT), said her organisation offers a Business Solution to help firms make the most of their money. She said: “Our team can scrutinize requests for money. We look at their accounts and can tell if they really need it or if it is a request they issue because it is something they do at a certain time of the year.
“We also have a knowledge of local needs and we ask the questions that you might feel unable to ask. But we’re happy to ask them.
“We can also say ‘no’ on your behalf so your £50 donation can go to making a small difference.”
Annette Yates, of the Tring-based performance improvement company Grass Roots Group, believes having fun and getting everyone involved are keys to productive corporate social responsibility.
“If you do the work and have fun, you will make money,” she said.
Grass Roots Group sponsors all kinds of local groups and projects – including Spirit of Tring – and makes £300million a year. So who’s going to argue with that? Well, some do, as David Furnell of Hemel Hempstead-based Furnell Transport explained.
The DCT trustee said the Spirit of Dacorum Historic Vehicle Tour, which brought an estimated 15,000 people to Hemel Hempstead Town Centre on a Sunday earlier in the year had been shunned by retailers, despite the fact that cash registers had been jingling as a result.
“They didn’t donate a penny. I am disappointed with the reaction from retailers in Marlowes,” he said with more than a note of bitterness.
“It is important that we all become involved. I would rather have 100 people giving one pound than one person giving £100 because it keeps things going.”
And Linda Petrons, of Iain Rennie Grove House Care, added there are all kinds of benefits to donating to the hospice, not least that they have good links to the local press for good PR.
We’re happy to help – as long as the picture tells the story, though!