Home Estate Planning Dear business leaders and PRs, here’s what not to do this Budget day

Dear business leaders and PRs, here’s what not to do this Budget day

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It’s Budget day and everyone wants a piece of the action – which can lead to some fool’s errors. Here’s what do avoid, according to Simon Neville

Dear business leader. Today is Budget day. I know. It comes around sooner every year – or twice a year if you count the Autumn Statement, which used to be in the spring before it was switched back for reasons that have been lost in the annuals of time (or the vaults at the Treasury).

Jeremy Hunt will no doubt be polishing his red box and the country’s political journalists will be getting ready to cosplay being economic correspondents.

But you, business leader, may well be thinking how can I get a piece of the action?

As a communications advisor, each Budget or Autumn Statement I get asked by clients how they can best land their message in the acres of space devoted to the set piece economic event of the parliamentary calendar.

Having been on the other side as a journalist for many a Budget, my answer is always the same – unless you’re the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Resolution Foundation or a chief economist from one of the Big Four accountancy firms, don’t get your hopes up.

Journalists typically hate Budget days. On a non-budget day, I could expect to receive between 100 and 200 emails from PRs desperate to get coverage for their clients.

On budget day, my inbox would swell to closer to 500, all with companies, trade bodies and advisors telling me how much they welcome the news or are disappointed that their special interest was ignored. It is tiresome and does nothing to help the poor hack on the receiving end, beyond the risk your email address ends up blocked.

Today, I tell clients that the one and only way to even think your views will make it into ink or
pixels is by offering something above and beyond what is already known and adds value to what’s been announced.

Is there something in the Red Book or Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that has been overlooked in the main speech? Can you see from the projections that what was promised from the despatch box, might not be all it seems? Can you add some colour on how much a new policy will cost your industry? Those are the angles the media are looking for.

Look back a decade ago at the famous “pasty tax” debacle under George Osborne’s budget. What looked like an innocent tweak to the VAT rules on ambient food was spotted by wily-eyed advisors at Greggs.
Once it was pointed out to the media just what this change would mean for the consumer, it led headlines for days and forced the government into a U-turn.

Today, with live blogs and instant stories being published, the need for speed and brevity is also key.
Keep your quotes succinct. A journalist writing a 400-word story is far less likely to wade through your 500-word opinion to pull out a comment.

And, finally, if you do think your organisation has something to add to the discourse, do get it sent no longer than two hours after the Chancellor has sat down.

Your business may need every word signed off internally by a byzantine labyrinth of advisors and lawyers before being sent to a journalist, but sending out a quote three days after the event will make you look silly.

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