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.
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.