The exclusive news is revealed in research by MHP Communications. It will be seen as a coup for BT’s public affairs operation as ministers very rarely use set piece speeches to criticise organisations, instead seeing name drops as a vital way of endorsing projects and showcasing successful businesses.
MHP chief executive Sacha Deshmukh said: ‘Being cited in a ministerial speech is the most clear manifestation of a minister choosing to link their reputation with that of a business. For many in public affairs it is a gold standard mark.’
In recent speeches, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and others have praised BT for investment in broadband and spotting opportunities to grow their market abroad, and have made positive comments about the firm’s CSR credentials. BT’s apprenticeship programme and flexible working policies have also been singled out as best practice examples by ministers looking to encourage other businesses to do more in these areas.
The only recent negative association for BT was in March 2011 when Culture Minister Ed Vaizey gave a speech on e-privacy. The minister mentioned concerns in 2009 that a company was working with BT to track behaviour on the internet in order to target advertising more effectively.
Given the controversy in the media about the Government’s view of the BBC, ministers have also been surprisingly positive about the broadcaster in set-piece speeches. Ministers from a number of departments have praised the quality of BBC’s programming and its role in promoting the British film industry and highlighted the strategic importance of the BBC World Service as part of the UK’s foreign policy.
Coalition ministers have also proved more prone to referencing HSBC than any other major players in the financial services sector – including RBS and Lloyds in which the Government owns major stakes.
The research indicates ministers continue to use speeches to highlight successful businesses in the UK, as well as brands with strong CSR credentials. Transport Minister Norman Baker MP is particularly keen on name dropping, with car firms investing in hybrid and electric technology – such as Nissan and Toyota – among his favourites.
But a new trend is regular name dropping of social media firms – predominately Facebook and Twitter. Foreign Office ministers have highlighted the role these sites have played in toppling authoritarian governments, and ministers across departments have said public services need to keep up with changing communication methods.
MHP analysed departmental speeches made between May 2010 and April 2011.