New member of media team spills the beans on setting up the Big Issue and sleeping with the FA Cup!

Self-confessed football nerd, newshound and persuasive PR professional of 25 years standing, Mark Bushell, has joined our News and Media team to add weight to Caudwell Children’s drive for increased media coverage in 2014.

FA Cup image

Mark joins us from Brathay Trust, a national children and young people’s charity, based in Ambleside, where he was Head of Communications.

He has worked with news desks throughout the UK, and overseas, during a career that has seen him deliver communications for, amongst others, the Manchester Evening News, The Big Issue and The National Football Museum.

But the appeal of Caudwell Children was too much, for the father of two, when he recently happened upon an advert, on our website, for the post of PR Manager.

As Mark explained: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my career to date and I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve worked for some fantastic causes. Although I began in newspapers, with the Manchester Evening News, I really cut my teeth with The Big Issue. Along with a handful of colleagues I helped to establish the magazine, in the Northwest, and I have to say we pretty much learnt what we were doing as we went along.”

However, he had many challenges in changing the perception of homelessness in the region: “In the early 1990s there was no real understanding of homelessness and our vendors used to get real abuse. It was part of my job to make people realise that those selling the magazine were working and not begging. However, we needed to get the public’s attention so we devised a campaign to photograph as many celebrities as we could wearing Big Issue merchandise.

The sight of Sir Alex Ferguson, Eric Cantona, Ben Elton, John Peel, Anthony H Wilson (of Joy Division and Hacienda fame) and the cast of Coronation Street wearing Big Issue hats and T-Shirts, really caught the imagination of the news desks. Within days the plight of our vendors had been legitimised and, suddenly, we had a staggering amount of positive column inches written about us.”

But what of the National Football Museum? Surely the dream job for a self-confessed footie fan!: “The thing about the Museum was that it had little or no financial support. So it was vital, for its survival, that visitor numbers were driven by PR.

I remember that for World Book Week we surveyed all the Premier League managers, and a selection of players, to find out what their favourite book was. The intention was to put copies of their chosen books on display within the exhibitions. To my amazement nearly everyone asked replied. We had hand written letters from Jose Mourinho, at Chelsea, telling us that his favourite book was The Bible, whilst Wayne Rooney claimed that any of the Harry Potter series was his chosen tome!

The press couldn’t get enough of the story and even came down to film the books, delicately placed in their cases, for regional TV.”

With tongue firmly in cheek Mark explained one of his more difficult jobs whilst at the Museum: “We secured an all expenses paid trip to Dubai to attend Soccerex, football’s global convention, with the intention of promoting ourselves to the great and good of the game to attract funding. The only issue was that in return for the flights and hotels, we had to take the FA Cup to display on the UK Trade and Investment stand.

The plan was that the trophy would go into a large safe each evening but rather worryingly, on the first night, the safe jammed. I ended up with the FA Cup in my bedroom with a security guard placed outside. A difficult job but somebody had to do it!”

So what is it about Caudwell Children that attracted Mark?: “The stories are so utterly compelling. Without our support what help can the children get? The fact that we can directly improve the life chances of the children that we work with is a very powerful message and one that I want to disseminate as soon as I can.

I want to hit the ground running in order that the media team increase its impact on fundraising. At the moment I’m immersing myself in everything Caudwell Children to enable me to work swiftly, and with purpose, to drive the results that we need.”

And what football team does Mark follow?: “Ah, football trivia is a bit of a hobby of mine, I’ll give you a clue. My club last won the trophy, which I slept with, in Cardiff, in 2004.”

Answers on a postcard please!

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