“Britain must learn to earn its way in the world” to “a budget taking another big step from austerity to prosperity” – ring any bells? From his first budget to his most recent one, slick soundbites have been at the heart of George Osborne’s economic communications strategy. But in this “age of authenticity”, what is the role of a soundbite and does it really resonate with people?
If his conference speech yesterday is anything to go by, Osborne clearly believes the soundbite goes beyond just securing a front page headline – to being a vital piece in the comms puzzle. Today’s line, “the devolution revolution” was all about signalling the shifting of spending decisions from Whitehall to local authorities. It is Osborne’s latest chapter in the “long term economic plan” narrative.
This perfectly symbolises Osborne’s ability to communicate memorable phrases encapsulating a big picture vision, before linking them to concrete policies. By doing this, he avoids baffling, bemusing and losing people with macro jargon. Instead, he is constructing a clear and progressive story about where the nation’s finances are heading and crucially, the average Joe doesn’t need an economics degree to understand it. After all, it is easy to get your head around paying down the budget deficit when it is compared to a real life situation such as paying off a credit card debt.
Some may argue that in a world which craves authenticity, it can take more than just a catchy line to convince people about a government’s economic credibility. And they would have a point. After all, Osborne is the only chancellor to have a game of “budget soundbite bingo” attributed to him. But the point isn’t that soundbites symbolise Osborne’s entire economic strategy, it just makes it easy for people to better understand what he is saying because they can relate it to their daily lives. As a result, more people (the electorate) take on board his message which then leads to votes come election time. When advising clients on how to get across complex ideas simply, comms professionals – regardless of the sector they work in – could do worse than take a leaf out of the chancellor’s book of soundbites.