While the Budget is a huge event in the media calendar, it is also an extremely stressful one. The entire media supply chain is under tremendous pressure on Budget Day – in fact, the print order across many newspapers almost double from their regular order on this day. With the pressure of deadlines weighing down on them, the sub and design teams of print publications have to race against the clock to ensure that they meet their timeline, while the reporting team also faces tougher deadlines than usual.
For PR professionals, this scenario can be a boon. On such a high-pressure day, the media would appreciate any prior research as well as relevant quotes, opinion pieces, or interviews of relevant industry leaders. This can serve as an ideal proposition for the savvy PR pro to get their clients substantial media space during the budget.
In our competitive media environment, however, this is easier said than done. Yet paying attention to certain basic rules can go a long way in earning your client the reward in terms of column inches. The following are 5 must-dos for PR professionals during Budget season.
1) Understand the Budget’s hot topics – Especially when it comes to the Budget, it is important for PR professionals to have a good sense about what the budget will entail. Much like industry leaders and financial experts, public relations professionals should also know what hot topics to expect in the budget. This will not only let them identify the key sectors that will get media mileage in the Budget’s aftermath, but will also let them effectively identify and select which of their clients can leverage this media coverage. In this regard, simply identifying key industries is not enough – PR professionals should go above and beyond in terms of research to identify specific media talking points in advance.
2) Engage the Media at all levels – We can’t stress this enough – if you want your client’s quotes and interviews in the media, it is essential that you have a good grasp of the media landscape around the budget. Speak to journalists and reporters about story ideas and send a list of your clients to them. Also, compile a strong understanding of what these journalists like to write and report about – perhaps they favor certain sectors or types of stories that may work to your client’s benefit. Additionally, it is also essential that PR pros engage with Editors, Business Head desk, Producers, and Guest Coordinators of various media outlets to identify special budget-related media activities, shows, and columns – this will help you plan for how your client might get those valuable column inches or TV time.
3) Be Quick and Responsive – Don’t waste time in summarizing the Budget into a neat two-pager that your mother will be proud of – understand that the media will draw large conclusions and summaries anyway. Instead, focus on your client’s particular industry and have a system in place that allows your client to comment on the Budget as soon as possible. PR pros should not underestimate the media-mileage advantage that an early response can give. By preparing exhaustive research that includes going over all the tricky questions that your client can face – and by encouraging your client to watch the budget and take notes in real-time – you should try and get your client’s thoughts on paper within a few hours of the budget ending. The quicker your response is ready, the happier the media will be to feature it on a busy news day.
4) Brief your clients to be relevant, not sycophantic – As a PR professional, you should cringe every time you see a client “congratulating the Finance Minister” or thanking him for his “populist budget.” Such flattery quotes are only seen as bland page fillers – your client’s quotes should be incisive, to the point, and designed to help showcase your client as a thought leader in their industry. This means that if your client wants to criticize something in the budget or raise objection to a new policy, they should go ahead. A well thought-out, reasoned rebuttal to the FM’s points will get much more media traction than a quote filled with nodding and passive agreement. The other issue is in terms of relevance – your clients should not try to become financial experts commenting on the macro ramifications of the budget. Instead, ask them to focus on their industry and emerge as strong thought leaders in that regard – here, they can much easily leverage their credibility, experience, and achievements to earn the right to comment on the budget.
5) Finally, don’t forget the brand or product – Unless your client is an individual solely looking to raise the personal profile, the ultimate aim of emerging as a thought leader through budget commentary should be `to highlight their organization, products, brands, or services. While commenting about the budget and impressing the media with their understanding of the financial world, they should not forget to subtly include references to their own brand, product, or services to highlight what the budget means not only to their industry, but also to their own company’s future.