How press officers can use the Freedom of Information Act to create publicity

Storified by FOI Directory· Thu, Mar 07 2013 06:18:25

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) have recently ran a media campaign using the Freedom of Information Act that has gained a lot of high profile attention for their cause. 

Their campaign has focussed on the levels of child abuse committed by other children. 
As well as an incredibly worth campaign they have been able to gain a lot of media coverage for their issues by employing a proactive press strategy. The whole event has been a PR success and should show public relations teams how they can use the Freedom of Information Act to easily publicise their causes. 
To begin with they have found a newsworthy angle, on a subject which is not often covered by the media and will also have figures higher than most people would probably expect. 
By using their advanced knowledge of the subject they have been able to use FOI request to authorities to extract the information they would not otherwise have. This is a huge advantage for charities and campaign groups. They will know more than a member of the public, or journalist, who submits a request. So why shouldn’t they spend some time to send out requests for information and make their own publicity? 
Then their campaign team will have created press releases for local and national journalists, where they can push their own message, and include quotes from their organisation. This is a wise move as it gives the (most likely) overworked journalist an easy story, which is newsworthy, they can publish with very little extra input. 
There will have been a fair amount of administration in sending out multiple requests to public authorities, including corresponding with the officers, collating results, and collecting quotes but the results speak for themselves. 
The figures can work on a national level. 
‘Child on child’ abuse warning – ITV NewsRead ‘Child on child’ abuse warning latest on ITV News. All the Monday 4th March 2013 news
Thousands of under 18s are sexually abusing children every year warns NSPCCThe charity found there were more than 5,000 cases of abuse by under 18s reported to the police in the last three years. In some instance…
There’s also the potential for huge coverage on a local level with the figures for each area targeting local media. I only picked a few as you quickly get the point. 
Over 100 under-18s are sexually abusing children in Kent, warns NSPCCMORE than 100 offences of under-18s have committed child sex abuse in Kent over the last three years, according to new figures. The Kent …
Children Sexually Abusing Children: NSPCC Blames Access To PornNorthumbria Police dealt with 273 cases of children being sexually abused by other children in a three-year period, according to figures …
Figures show 69 cases of children sexually abusing children reported to policeALMOST 70 children were reported to Northamptonshire Police for committing child sexual abuse. Figures obtained by the NSPCC from the for…
NSPCC reveals horror of child sex abuse – by childrenNEW figures obtained by the NSPCC under the Freedom of Information Act reveal the scale of child sex abuse by other youngsters in Herts a…

I am a journalist and author. I am a journalist at the UK edition of WIRED magazine. In 2015, my first book Freedom of Information: A Practical Guide for UK Journalists, was published. My second book Reed Hastings: Building Netflix, was published in March 2020. I created FOI Directory in 2012 and have maintained it in my spare time ever since.