As a sector, PR is facing many reputational challenges – some just, some misconstrued, some historical (Max Clifford), some not so historical (Bell Pottinger) – and not least, perhaps, because there is such a broad spectrum of views around what we offer – from lobbying on global issues to noisy stunts.

One thing for sure is there is a widespread need for us to up our game as socially responsible citizens and at the same time demonstrate some of the integrity that is so often evident in industry leaders’ opinion pieces.

Given our skill set, we have loads to offer the not for profit/charity sector.

One Black Bear has been doing pro bono work for St Basils – a leading Midlands’ youth homelessness charity – for five years. Examples include the Donate Your Homepage initiative from founders Richard Elwell and Jon Harrison which persuaded businesses to reskin their home pages for one day to raise awareness of St Basils.

Donate Your Homepage was award winning, as was the St Basils annual report, but we’ve also done lots of routine jobs either free of charge or at a reduced cost. In fact, over the last year we’ve donated or written off £80k of costs and time for them. We are not one of those agencies who will do the odd high profile piece of work but disappear once that jury friendly project has been put to bed.

St Basils has an incredibly talented, energetic marketing team – led by Barrie Hodge – but they are very stretched. This scenario is replicated across the sector, as we all know.

Here are some of the ways that practitioners can make a contribution – but the key is to ask the organisation concerned: “How can we help?” A large bank transfer or legacy would of course be nice, but failing either of these, here are some of the things that seem to work:

– Getting interns to work on a proper project – under guidance, of course. This gives the individual real purpose with something tangible to put in their portfolio, as well as helping a good cause/organisation. Maddy McCrann Smith created this schools’ pack for St Basils during her two week placement with us as a B-Hive winner.

– Having let employees choose a company charity, let them do pro bono work for the organisation once a month in work time – helping with social media, creating content, setting up partnerships etc. We played matchmaker by introducing St Basils to client National Express, who are now a paying, lead sponsor for the SleepOut calendar.

– Offer to sit on relevant forums.

– If you do not have the resource to donate much time to a charity that could benefit from communications’ expertise, get in touch with Kelly O’Hanlon at BCU. Kelly is a senior lecturer responsible for the next generation of practitioners and is in genuine need of ‘live’ briefs.

– Fundraising through sponsorship of team sporting activities is apparently a great way to bond (if you are not as lazy as me).

– As is practical hands on work, if that is what the charity concerned wants. Barrie Hodge would advise that no assumptions are made here. One team of eager employees once built a fence to ‘help’ – but without getting the basics right. When the fence fell down, the resulting remedial work required actually cost the charity money! And they didn’t really want a fence in the first place.

– Spread the word about charities’ work through all available social media channels, of course.

– Input whenever possible to make sure those you are representing have a robust, credible and active CSR policy that delivers real outputs.

– And if nothing else, bake cakes and raise some cash.

Whatever you do, do not do it for the PR.

For all sorts of reasons, it should first and foremost benefit the charity/not for profit organisation concerned in a useful, genuine and ideally sustainable, way.

Finally, a special thank you to CIPR Midlands for naming St Basils as its charity for this year’s PRide awards – a very good call.