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A day in a different press office: Make-A-Wish

A day in a different press office: Make-A-Wish

Last week I chose to spend my development day in the press office of UK charity Make-A- Wish® UK, which works to grant the wishes of children and young people who are fighting life-threatening conditions. The wishes they grant for children and young people are a way to bring hope and happiness into their lives during particularly challenging times, and in the 30 years that the charity has been running, they have granted the wishes of over 10,000 children.

Make A Wish staff on the 30th anniversary

Make A Wish staff on the 30th anniversary

 

The charity has granted a wide range of wishes from helping children to ‘become’ something for a day; a ninja princess, a chef or a fireman to name but a few, to sending the children on the trip of a lifetime, and the charity works hard to enrich the lives of so many families affected by devastating illnesses.

Celebrity ambassadors play a large role for the charity, with big names signed up in support of the work they do including John Terry, Warwick Davis and Jessie J. Many of the wishes for a lot of the children are to meet their favourite celebrities, and the likes of Usain Bolt, Ed Sheeran and Helena Bonham Carter have all played a part in granting special wishes.

You can read some of the children’s stories here.

My day was spent in the press office of the charity, which is manned by Joanne Porter, a relatively new addition to the team and who had made the move over from a career in journalism and working for BBC Children in Need. There’s a great emphasis on digital engagement at Make-A-Wish and press coverage for the charity is largely case study placement across regional press. They also focus on events and special projects across the year including their annual sports dinner, which sees a wealth of top sporting stars attend the dinner in order to fundraise for the charity and celebrate the work they do.

We spent much of the day discussing strategy for journalist outreach, and how best they can maximise the case study stories they have, as well as coming up with new ideas for how else to raise awareness of the charity. We also spent quite a bit of time discussing ways in which the charity could maximise the relationships they have with celebrity ambassadors, in order to generate further press coverage, and we explored the pros and cons of different PR databases such as Gorkana and Celebrity Intelligence.

Sadly, and much like so many other charities, Make-A-Wish is up against the issue of a lack of funding. The work they do wouldn’t be possible without the work of their volunteers and fundraisers so it felt really beneficial to share ideas and strategy between myself and Jo, sharing experiences from two different press offices, and we were in agreement that we both took away valuable learnings from each other.

When I asked Joanne about the most rewarding part of her job, she told me about a little girl called Amelia who had a wish to be a zookeeper for the day. Joanne said: “After her wish was granted, I spoke to Amelia’s mum and she said Amelia didn’t think it was remotely possible that her wish would happen. So when it did, she started thinking that other things might be possible too – including getting better.”

With that kind of feedback from the children they are helping, it’s clear to see the positive impact the charity is having on so many families across the UK who are enduring some very painful times.

You can read Amelia’s story here and if you are keen to find out more about becoming a volunteer you can view the options available here. You can also donate here.

 

 

A nation's hopes resting in Roy Hodgson's hands?

 

Image Courtesy of godin2017, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of godin2017, flickr.com

On Tuesday night, ‘boo’s swept round Wembley for the second time in five days. Two defeats at home is hardly reason to be optimistic as we look towards next summer’s World Cup. When the shortcomings are this obvious – and with the World Cup draw just round the corner on December 6th – one thing is for sure; Roy Hodgson has plenty to consider with just one game remaining before he names his preliminary 30 man squad.

I suppose the only consolation is that, unlike in previous years, nobody actually expects us to win the World Cup this time around. And so at least we will be saved the embarrassment of a nation heaping unrealistic expectations on an England team ahead of a major international tournament.

Just over a month has passed since England secured their qualification with a win against Poland and the team’s performances in the last two games are certain to leave Roy Hodgson with a pounding headache.

When you’re playing teams like Chile and Germany, first and foremost you need to be competitive. And, in phases, you have to say that England were. That said, as is often the case in international football, the winning margin was decided by such a fine line.

The concern though – aside from both results – was the lack of ideas, imagination and creativity that England displayed in both games. Surprisingly their vulnerability at the back has also been exposed, which is strange, given that only Spain conceded fewer goals than England’s four during qualification.

In my opinion too many players were used. Yes, Roy Hodgson wants to review players like Lallana, Henderson and Rodriquez on the international stage but with just one friendly game remaining against Denmark in March before Hodgson must name his initial squad, it’s clear that he still doesn’t yet know what his best starting eleven is. And that, to me, is worrying. I wonder if the same can be said for the likes of Spain, Germany or Brazil.

Will Joe Hart be England number one? Does Roy Hodgson go with Leighton Baines or Ashley Cole at left back? Who partners Phil Jagielka at centre half?

Phil Jones struggled against Chile and the same can be said of Gary Cahill. Meanwhile on Tuesday night Chris Smalling didn’t perform at his best.

Who plays at right back; Glen Johnson or Kyle Walker? For me Kyle Walker is fantastic going forward but he leaves the side exposed at the back. Before a major international tournament it is crucial that a manager settles on a back four. Roy needs to make this decision and whoever he picks needs to play together to develop an understanding in advance.

To me, though, it is clear that England’s defence at the moment is missing a big name like John Terry or Rio Ferdinand; someone who is going to be the leader we need and will bring experience. But would a call from Roy Hodgson change either of their minds about coming out of retirement?

 

Image Courtesy of danae47, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of danae47, flickr.com

Put simply, there are too many questions and not enough answers.

In the Germany game, England did not even manage a shot on target; the first time that has happened at home since the Scotland game in 1999. In the absence of shooting accuracy, a solid defence becomes even more crucial.

In midfield England were certainly left exposed against Germany. The likes of Toni Kroos, Mario Goetze played well and showed their class. And with players like Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger not even on the pitch, Germany has creative midfield match winners in abundance. Alexis Sanchez offered a similar threat in the Chile game.

England, on the other hand, benefit from the pace of Andros Townsend, who did play considerably well in the game last night. And when Theo Walcott is fit he can strike fear into any defender….but question marks remain in place around the quality of the final ball. Yes, we can call upon the experience of Captain Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, but both player lack that added creativity and explosiveness that we became accustomed to seeing earlier in their careers. That creative spark over time, could, I believe, come from someone like Jack Wilshere but a lot will depend on whether he can stay fit.

Wayne Rooney, on a good day, remains one of the world’s best players. He is by far one of England’s most important players. With Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck injured, Jemain Defoe benched and Rickie Lambert relatively inexperienced, the question of who partners Rooney up front remains unanswered.

 

Given his form so far this season Daniel Sturridge is in the best position to wear the number 9 shirt in Brazil. But for me, he needs to offer more in an England shirt and he lacks consistency. Playing alongside Suarez week in week out should certainly help here!

I think that, as a nation, we realise that we are no longer part of the world’s elite and that, more realistically, we find ourselves part of a group of second tier teams that, with a favourable draw, could make the quarter finals at best. So do we accept that we are not going to win the World Cup (in all honestly many of us already have!) and opt to give younger players vital tournament experience, building for the future?

One thing that Roy Hodgson has learned in the last two games is that the task facing in him Brazil is going to be incredibly tough. Unlike in previous tournaments though, when England were expected to win, this England side is a work in progress and the expectation of the nation remains grounded; all be it firmly in Roy Hodgson’s hands.

Who knows what will happen in Brazil, but all eyes will now be on the draw on December 6th. Let’s hope for a group of hope rather than the dreaded group of death.

Put yourself in the shoes of Roy Hodgson now and pick your England team for the World Cup. Here’s mine:

Joe Hart
Fraser Forster
Ben Foster

Ashley Cole
Leighton Baines
Kyle Walker
Glen Johnson
Gary Cahill
Phil Jagielka
Phil Jones
Chris Smalling

Theo Walcott
Andros Townsend
Alex Oxlade Chamberlain
James Milner
Steven Gerrard
Frank Lampard
Jack Wilshere
Michael Carrick

Wayne Rooney
Daniel Sturridge
Danny Welbeck
Jermain Defoe