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We’ve got the budget: now what?


30 March 2022 at 12:52 pm
Jo Scard
With years of political and public relations experience, the founder and CEO of Fifty Acres, Jo Scard, breaks down what this year’s budget means for the for-purpose sector and why engagement efforts must continue.


Jo Scard | 30 March 2022 at 12:52 pm


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We’ve got the budget: now what?
30 March 2022 at 12:52 pm

With years of political and public relations experience, the founder and CEO of Fifty Acres, Jo Scard, breaks down what this year’s budget means for the for-purpose sector and why engagement efforts must continue.

Last night, many of us watched on as the nation’s finances were outlined for the next 12 months. Frydenberg’s 2022-23 federal budget was unveiled and, as expected, cost of living pressures took centre stage.

In the lead up, the budget was promised to be an “improvement”. In turn, we all braced ourselves for cuts to critical areas. The for-purpose sector, which has experienced immense strain, burnout, rising demand and growing complexity since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, prepared itself for disappointment.

After years of political and economic turmoil, the federal budget deficit currently sits at $78 billion, our unemployment rate has fallen to 3.75 per cent – the lowest it has been since 1974 – and our gross government debt is expected to reach $1.2 trillion by 2026. 

From fuel excise cuts to cash payments for low to middle income earners, some cash splashes and one-off payments were promised as a way to ease the surging cost of living. However, it left the likes of state schools, first home buyers, the arts sector, sporting programs, the underemployed and climate change initiatives needing more.

Some people will walk away feeling content post-last night’s announcements. Others will feel forgotten. But it is important to remember that this is only one point in the political cycle and there is now so much opportunity for organisations to engage political influencers, both pre- and post-election. 

As we brace for a federal election in May, and each of the parties scramble to pitch their promises, budget time provides for-purpose organisations some new opportunities for communications and outreach.

Ask yourself: what do these decisions mean for the for-purpose sector? How can we use these announcements to redirect attention to our vital work? How do we capture the attention of political influencers and decision makers? 

Importantly, now is not the time to halt your engagement efforts completely. When you regroup with your team today, consider some of these steps forward. 

1. Focus on what can be achieved in the short term

It is time to make your mark and it’s time to make your move. Now is the time to outline your priorities for the next few weeks and get moving – you can’t afford to stop now.

Do you have the capacity to reach out to MPs and communicate your goals? Could you run an event in a marginal seat to drive awareness and generate talkability? Whatever you do, it needs to be focused and achievable in the time available. With mere weeks until an election, if you are hoping for pre-election engagement: rally your troops and start now.

2. Be specific about the significance of your work

We have said it before and we will say it again: your key messages need to perfectly execute your vision and purpose for existing. Use this time to consider why your work is so vital and, more specifically, why it deserves attention and support from political stakeholders. 

Now is a good time to watch the media closely, analyse the language that is being used in political conversations, and tailor your messaging to achieve cut-through and infiltrate into existing narratives. 

3. Identify gaps in the budget and outline why they need to be filled

If you’re one of the sectors that have felt neglected by this year’s budget, use this as a focal point in all of your communications. What are the gaps? Why do you think these gaps exist? Why is it so important that these gaps are filled? What will be the impact on the government’s decision not to invest at this time?

These kinds of questions will allow you to connect with MPs in a way that is meaningful. Don’t be scared to ask for more support – governments have money to spend during the election campaign, with this year’s budget perceived as an expensive pitch to voters. 

The Coalition has additional money to spend during the election campaign – make a pitch for some of that money, a campaign visit or a sign of support for your programs. Ditto with the Opposition – they, too, will be looking for chances to expose missed opportunities. 

4. Strategise with consideration for different outcomes

Short-term and long-term strategies are absolutely crucial. We know that an election is looming, with whispers of a 14 May election date, but no one can predict for certain what the outcome will be. The Liberals’ recent loss in South Australia indicates a serious political volatility but, at the moment, it’s a guessing game.

You must prepare for different outcomes in the upcoming election so that you are able to act quickly and engage within days of the election. We cannot know for certain who will win, so we need to be prepared for either result and map out long-term targets accordingly. 

If you take anything away from these words, let it be this: no matter how deflated you might feel, or how late in the game you think it is, it is imperative that you don’t stop communicating and engaging. Government and public engagement can feel like a gruelling and non-stop mountain climb, but persistent, tactical, and focused efforts always pay off. 

 

If you need help with government engagement pre or post election, assistance with a strategic communications strategy or PR outreach, get in touch with Fifty Acres on 02 6281 7350 or visit fiftyacres.com.au/


Jo Scard  |  @ProBonoNews

Jo Scard is the founder and managing director of Fifty Acres.

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