Live: Q&A with Simon Rushworth, head of media at GiveToLocal

Simon Rushworth, head of media at GiveToLocal, explains how targeted PR support is adding value to a bullish new brand and a growing business network

How did you get involved with GiveToLocal?

For nine years I was the media manager for Northumbria University Sport. I worked closely with the former director of sport, Colin Stromsoy, and last year he contacted me to tell me about an exciting new sport organisation called GiveToLocal. Colin and I are passionate about sport at every level so he knew I’d be keen to hear more. But I was blown away by his enthusiasm as he explained how an innovative web-based service had the potential to revolutionise community sport. I joined GiveToLocal on a part-time basis towards the end of last year and have just accepted a role as head of media. Colin leads the organisation’s strategic partnerships team so it’s just like old times!

What’s your background?

I started as a cub reporter on the Evening Chronicle more than 20 years ago and rose through the ranks to become chief sports writer and Assistant Sports Editor on The Journal. For almost five years I worked with Sir Bobby Robson, travelling the world reporting on Newcastle United as they challenged Europe’s top clubs. Can you imagine that? After leaving The Journal I joined the Newcastle-based Wardle Agency and realised my dream of writing for every national newspaper in the country. It was towards the end of that period that I co-founded the digital media agency paperclip.it with my friend and former professional basketball player Adam Barnes. Our clients include Newcastle Eagles, the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) and Newcastle College. I also managed to squeeze in a decade of teaching at Northumbria University – delivering sports journalism and crisis media management modules – and I taught sports media at the much-missed Press Association training centre in Newcastle. In 2018 I returned to the North East Times as a contributing writer for the first time since the late 1990s.

What does your role with GiveToLocal entail?

It’s a varied role with no two days ever the same. And that’s just one of the reasons I love working with GiveToLocal. Prior to the pandemic, there was a focus on building relationships by staging high-profile media events and we were able to showcase the organisation’s work in local, regional and national media with primetime slots on the BBC and ITV. This, coupled with the creation of unique content for our own website and our partners in business and the media, helped to get the message out that GiveToLocal is serious about generating an additional £10m per year for community sport. In the last few months I’ve been actively involved in establishing partnerships with the Eagles and North East Times and building the foundations for a growing media team tasked with ensuring that our corporate partners benefit from the added value of increased coverage across platforms. I’m fortunate to have built up a strong contacts book – within sport and the media – and I’m always keen to introduce those contacts to GiveToLocal, its partners and the powerful work that we’re doing together.

How closely do you work with GiveToLocal’s corporate relations team?

I have a fantastic relationship with our head of corporate relations, David Broom and his growing team. David and I hit it off straight away and we share the same core values and the same ideas when it comes to brand awareness and ensuring that there is genuine benefit to joining GiveToLocal’s growing business network.

When the corporate relations team bring a new corporate partner on board one of the first things my media team do is work together to ensure the relationship is reinforced with a thorough understanding of the partner, what makes them tick, what makes them unique and how we can add value through positive messages and promotion shared through the media. It’s an added benefit to the business and an opportunity for us to ensure ongoing public recognition goes hand in hand with our thanks for their invaluable support.

Why does GiveToLocal’s offer to corporate partners include bespoke media support?

GiveToLocal is all about backing sport, boosting business and building networks: creating positive content to complement those aims is absolutely key.

We are asking our national and regional partners to help facilitate change in order to secure the long-term funding of community sport at a time when many businesses are feeling the full force of the pandemic on the global economy. It’s a tough ask but those firms which can find a way to support our work know that our service has been designed from the ground up to provide them with tangible benefits in return.

The GiveToLocal network is built on the idea of mutual benefit – whether that manifests itself in the creation of new content, proactively facilitating introductions or brokering new business. We’re always looking at ways in which we can disrupt the traditional perception that corporate social responsibility and results-oriented marketing are always two distinctly different things.

How does GiveToLocal maximise its reach – and that of its partners – across media platforms?

First and foremost the media knows best. It’s my job to find out exactly what my contacts in the media require from a proposed written feature or a media event and ensure that we deliver against those requirements, professionally and on time.

There are no guarantees that external media will find the space or air-time to support your story – however good the promotion or the overall package. But understanding the needs of the media, the aims of the partner organisation and working to bring them together goes a long way towards gaining positive and powerful coverage across platforms.

I’m a huge fan of traditional print media and love nothing more than pouring over a well-produced page showcasing GiveToLocal’s latest work. But I also understand the value in taking a blended approach to coverage and there is no doubt that digital and social media platforms represent a huge opportunity if the pitch is right and the tone is appropriate.

If you would like to discover how your business can contribute positively to the local community – and at the same time increase brand awareness and build networking opportunities – contact David Broom, head of corporate relations, via david@givetolocal.com or visit www.givetolocal.com/corporates

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