Budget night doesn’t have to be a nightmare for PRs and journos

Budget night. These two small words induce a sense of utter panic for many journalists and PR professionals – but they don’t need to, writes Filtered Media’s PR executive Rosie Scott.

At a recent Meet the Media event I attended, one of the panelists described the annual federal budget announcement as the journalistic equivalent of Christmas.

It’s a flawed analogy I’ll admit, but one that I’m willing to work with for the sake of this article. After all, who doesn’t want to envisage the nation’s journalists as a group of giddy children in a state of lockdown while they await a visit from a Santa-esque Scott Morrison with visions of tax-cuts dancing in their heads?

But what is the role of the publicist in this analogy? As someone coming off my first (self-imposed) budget lockdown, I’ve concluded that we — in solidarity with our clients — are the parents.

PR professionals spend the lead-up to the big day in a bit of a scramble, cobbling together tidbits of information and cryptic clues that have been leaked to us at some point or another, hoping that the gifts we bring will delight our beloved media dependants on Christmas morning.

So what are the secrets to ensuring that your media contacts don’t wake up to a lump of coal in their stocking?

The importance of fact sheets

A good opinion is an informed opinion – the more you know, the easier it will be react to the budget with newsworthy responses on behalf of your clients.

Pull together a summary of your sector’s most pertinent issues and research key statistics around them. Deliver it all in one handy fact sheet you can share amongst your team and with your client well in advance.

The budget also provides a good opportunity to review brand messaging ahead of the announcement.

Get your admin affairs in order

There’s nothing like an incomplete media list, or ill-formatted template to bring your budget night momentum to a grinding halt. Allocate some time in the days before the announcement to make sure your media list is on point. Call around your target media to find out who will be covering the budget, and make sure they’re on your list.

Have the backbone of your media release drafted so you can insert whatever new information comes to light in a timely fashion. The lock-down means that PR teams have a limited amount of time to react, so preparation is key.

Listen live and all together

I know, I know – the budget announcement happens during what one would consider “home time,” but it’s imperative your PR team is together during the telecast and the hours that follow.

Having everyone in the same room boosts efficiency, helps keep everyone on the same page, and when you throw in a pizza, makes for more a more dynamic experience overall.

The debrief

While it might be tempting to go into PR overdrive the moment the treasurer finishes speaking, it’s wise to take a moment, gather your team, and discuss your strategy to make sure you’re all on the same page.

Make sure the organisation’s main spokesperson is available to provide comment and review drafts as needed. These steps will help you establish a smooth workflow for the rest of the night, and ensure there’s no double handling of the tasks that need to be carried out.

Command F + focus

The onslaught of information on the night can be overwhelming. After the speech, PR professionals are tasked with sifting through pages upon pages of budget documents in search of the entries that affect them. Typing key terminology into the find function of your word processor will save you loads of time, and allow you to navigate those budget papers like a pro.

Try to condense the press release into no more than five clear bullet points. Double check any numbers that are in the press release (especially decimal points) and don’t forget to spell check before you hit the send button.

Rosie Scott is Filtered Media’s PR executive.


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