Bypassing obstacles through awareness
National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) was founded in 1931, celebrating its 90th birthday in 2021. It is the country’s leading sight loss charity serving approximately 55,000 people who are blind or vision impaired to live confidently and independently. They offer programmes that provide practical and emotional support, rehabilitation and open pathways to education, employment, and full participation in community and public life for the visually impaired.
June Tinsley is Head of Advocacy and Communications for NCBI. June began her work with charities in 2005 at Barnardos where she was Head of Advocacy & Supporter Engagement until joining NCBI in 2019. She is responsible for leading the Advocacy and Communications agenda within NCBI to raise awareness, influence and educate the public and stakeholders on issues affecting people who are blind or vision impaired. June oversees political and public awareness campaigns by mobilizing people who are blind or vision impaired across the country.
‘Proactive PR is vitally important to raise the profile and increase public understanding of the work that NCBI does. NCBI aims to create change at both a societal and political level so that people who are both blind and visually impaired have equal access opportunities.’
Tools for success
National Council for the Blind of Ireland has been a client of MediaHQ since 2019 and has since distributed over 260 press releases. They use the platform to identify and get in touch with media contacts, build media lists, create, schedule and send press releases and create release reports to get insight on their releases. The MediaHQ database helps NCBI to communicate their mission to enable people who are blind and vision impaired to overcome the barriers that impede their independence and participation in society to the Irish media.
As an experienced PR practitioner, June Tinsley knows that having the right tools for the job will get results. MediaHQ allows NCBI to scale up their media outreach in an effective manner and has helped them to secure coverage in major media outlets including RTÉ, The Business Post, The Independent and The Irish Times. The speed at which MediaHQ can help June to send out their press releases cuts down on time and enables her to invest time in other important elements of the role.
Identifying the correct journalists and publications to send press releases to brings a major benefit to June’s work. June used MediaHQ’s topic search function to refine her search to journalists who cover motoring stories and the audience location filter to find local news media in Kildare.
‘Recently we ran a campaign called ‘Zero Limits’ which gave the opportunity to people who are blind and vision impaired to drive a dual control race car, in collaboration with Mondello Park. I used the MediaHQ topic search to find motoring journalists and identify who in that catchment area would also be interested in the story. It’s a useful tool to make sure I pitch the story to the right people.’
MediaHQ – another member of the team
NCBI has been a user of the MediaHQ system since 2019 and since then, they have taken advantage of access to over 50,000 contacts to build relationships with the media and enact real change. Identifying and pitching to the correct journalists is a major benefit and allows June to build relationships while providing a greater understanding of the work of NCBI to her media contacts. June uses the topic search and audience location search functions to find the journalists she wants to target.
‘MediaHQ has extended our reach across different media platforms because we’ve been able to identify and sort the right journalists to target with different stories. It’s really useful to use the search function if we’re running tailored and unique stories. It has reached dividends by raising the profile of NCBI and securing coverage in outlets that we wouldn’t previously have appeared in.’
June reflects on the ‘Clear Our Path’ and ‘Change Your View’ campaigns, which intend to educate the public on the temporary obstacles that can affect people’s ability to navigate safely.
‘Only through PR can it help to bring public awareness and understanding to the issue which helps to remove barriers and allows people to be more empathetic to the situation.’
In the long term, raising funds for both the charity and those who benefit from its services has been a challenge. COVID-19 has prevented NCBI from running in-person events and fundraising. It has perpetuated obstructions for the visually impaired with increased outdoor seating on footpaths and changes to shop floor plans. Getting messages of awareness and fundraising across to the public via the media has been an integral part of the work that June and the communications team at NCBI have done throughout the pandemic.
‘PR can help to overcome barriers by increasing public awareness. Going virtual has also helped us to diversify our efforts of communication, with more availability of videos and podcasts.’
On life during COVID-19, June praises MediaHQ for allowing the NCBI communications team to work remotely and safely, while continuing to share campaigns and raise the profile of the organisation. ‘We can use MediaHQ wherever we’re based, even while working remotely.’ MediaHQ allowed the NCBI team to continue to raise funds and awareness, even while working from home.