Spring Statement – a lesson in PR resilience

By Aaron Bass

There are many dates in the year that the PR world gets excited about. The Spring Statement and the Budget are undoubtedly two of them. They go in the diary months in advance. Corporates, charities, consumer brands and especially personal finance clients get VERY excited. “This is our opportunity to get national/trade/broadcast (delete where applicable) coverage,” they say.

Only this time around it is a bit different. Wednesday’s papers barely touched on the statement – for example, the Daily Mail had a short preview on page two with tiny mentions elsewhere in the paper. While tomorrow’s papers may be different, it is hard to argue that the Spring Statement is anything other than a side show when compared to the internal wranglings in the Labour and Conservative parties. And of course, Brexit!

Nonetheless we all tuned into the statement, knowing that we would need to work harder than ever to get our clients out there. First, we got the boring parts out the way.  The statement began with Brexit, restating the need for a deal and going on to reiterate some of the classic deficit-reduction arguments, before taking a detour into the dangers of a no-deal ‘doomsday’ Brexit before once again showing off the economic benefits of a deal.

Then we got into the good stuff.

We knew it would come. Big announcements on infrastructure, skills, technology and the environment together with hefty reports that we can spend the afternoon and the next few days working through.

Regarding housing, substantial announcements with a new £3bn Affordable Homes Guarantee scheme, to support delivery of around 30,000 affordable homes. Other set piece announcements about free sanitary products in schools and payment for small business followed. Finally, the pièce de résistance: £100m for the police to fight knife crime right now.

However, when Theresa May scheduled this week of votes, which will surely be fatal to her time as Prime Minister, she was not thinking about the Comms people who have planned for the Spring Statement for months.

This year it is not just about selling in your comment, but convincing editors and planners that your story deserves its spot in their outlet or publication. There is not going to be coverage on every topic or the point by point review we have seen in previous years.

So, how do we respond to the challenge? We are going to have to think laterally: will this insight work better as a long form written piece in a few weeks’ time? Will a nifty video or graphic better make my point? Can I target the weekend titles who may be able to give this point the attention in deserves?

More than anything it highlights the value of owned media. Organisations’ websites and social channels will be more valuable than ever. Our challenge is to create content that will cut through the Brexit noise and create attention within our target audiences. It is not going to be easy, but the opportunity is still there, it just looks different to how it has in the past.

By beginning and ending with Brexit, the Chancellor sent a clear message: “editors and planners of the UK, don’t worry about the contents of my statement they are irrelevant unless Brexit is sorted (oh, and by the way, wait until you see what’s happening in this same building later – that will be way more interesting!).”

Our message back to him is: “Don’t worry, we’ll get the message out anyway.”

Aaron Bass is an Account Director at The PR Office.

Featured image of Spring courtesy of Pixabay.

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