Tuesday, 8 March 2011

How George Osborne should communicate the Budget to business

David Cameron's speech at the weekend about getting on the side of "go-getters" and "taking on the enemies of enterprise" was a powerful precurser to the forthcoming Budget.

That Labour attacked it for a lack of detail was hardly surprising but a Spring conference speech was never going to give a line by line summary of the government's growth plans. This I hope will be the main thrust of George Osborne's Budget on March 23rd. What I'm also interested is how these plans will be communicated.

I know from experience that the story of the Budget is often confused, based on claim and counter claim, the IFS assessment and the lack of economic knowledge of the average Lobby journalist. Due to this, communicating some of the more important measures (the classic 'small print') is often nigh on impossible to achieve. This is potentially damaging for the government who are not getting their message across to a very important group in society.   

For example, imagine you are a small specialist manufacturer based in the English shires. You will be listening out for news on R&D, tax, investment in business support schemes, enterprise zones, regulations, government procurement rules and the like. News on these potentially business boosting, or breaking, measures are all too likely to be drowned out by rows over cuts or growth projections, leaving struggling businesses feeling unloved even if substantial measures have been introduced in the Budget.

Therefore I believe it is essential that the government looks toward finding new ways to communicate to cut out the debilitating role the traditional media plays in reporting the government's policies.

Once again, for an example of how it can be done we look to America. Since the State of the Union address in January the clarion call from President Obama's administration has been to get America to "out educate, out innovate and out build the rest of the world". What they have done particularly well is providing tangible examples as to what policy changes they are developing that will build the right economic environment to achieve these aims. The key thing is that they make policy relevant.

The video below, available via the White House  website as well as on You Tube looks at the patent laws and what the White House is doing. It is a simple but effective video which, even if you only look at the hand-drawn chart for 10 seconds, communicates how Obama's administration is looking to take steps to help business.

I love the way Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, refers to his Blackberry and specifically an e-mail from someone who has written in with an idea. This kind of interactivity is increasingly expected by people used to communiucating via social media.  A simple story, comparing the patent process from the days of Alexander Graham Bell to today's system, is used to drive home the key message: President Obama is all about growing jobs and boosting innovation.

I would love to see George Osborne and his team communicating the measures aimed at boosting enterprise in this way. Have a look at the video below and see what you think:

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