A media release is NOT a budget response…
24 May 2021 at 4:48 pm
Neil Pharaoh makes the case for not for profits to call it quits with their post-budget media releases.
With budget season upon us, federal, state and territory governments are handing down post-COVID budgets. Just like budget surpluses have become a thing of the past, so too we should abolish the media release budget response and consign it to the history books.
Many social purpose organisations and peak bodies feel the need to reply to government budgets with a media release. When I have queried them as to why, most reply that their stakeholders expect it. Sadly, nobody reads those media releases; the media does not publish them, nor do political stakeholders pay attention to them. In 2021, it’s time to step past this historical quirk of the social purpose sector and make your responses meaningful, deliberate, and strategic.
A number of organisations I work with had substantial wins in both state and federal budgets, so for many there was a favorable mood. For others, the budget was part of a bigger plan and strategy, securing pilot or incremental funding, or securing a change of position that should lead to funding in the future. All of these are the types of outcomes you should be managing around government budgets; however, these outcomes commenced almost a year ago, and the budget was just one of many events and engagements throughout the year.
So, what do good organisations do, if not send a media release? They plan. They map out the key lines around the budget – when do departments put their budget bids up, when do various committees meet, what is the final timeline to be included in the budget. In short, they work backwards – typically by a year – and plan their approach accordingly.
After the budget is handed down, they undertake targeted, direct communications; utilise social media; and activate their events activities to ensure that political stakeholders – be that ministers, members, policy departments, central agencies, or political parties themselves – feel they have been recognised and appreciated in the budget. Handwritten notes, appreciative social media posts, and local media stories are the way to win hearts and minds.
If you missed out on anything in this year’s budget, today is the day you start planning for the next budget – even more so with federal and Victorian elections in the near future.
There is a famous quote that said, “you can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting something different.” The same theory applies to the click and repeat media releases which follow the federal budget. Go through your media release history and if you have said similar things in your post-budget media releases for the past few years, then perhaps it’s time to try a new approach to government engagement in 2022?
If you are a member of a peak organisation, make sure you lean into your membership dues and ask for their strategic advocacy strategy for your sector – how are they educating members to improve their advocacy, and at the same time become sharper in their campaigns?
Just as COVID brought in a new era of fiscal spending federally, now is also the time to call it quits with your post-budget media releases. Dedicate time, talent, treasure, and efforts into other, more pressing areas of your engagement strategy – for nobody likely reads the media release.
About the author: Neil Pharaoh has spent most of his voluntary and professional life in and around social purpose organisations, government, public policy and advocacy. Neil has been behind many leading social policy and advocacy campaigns on gender rights, equality, medical research and education, and ran for Parliament in Victoria in 2014 and 2018. Neil is co-founder and director of Tanck, which focuses on better engagement with government, and regularly runs workshops and advocacy sessions and advises leading social purpose organisations on their government engagement strategy and systems.
Happenings on the hill is a fortnightly column focusing on all things politics, policy, campaigns and advocacy. Stay tuned for updates around political trends and elections, lobbying and advocacy news, and hints, tips and ideas on government engagement that are specifically written for the social purpose/for purpose sector.
If you have any ideas, suggestions, tips or questions, please feel free to email Neil Pharaoh at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to him via social media at LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @neilpharaoh.