Budget demands survival of fittest

Alistair Darling's Budget heralded the birth of a brutal new world for the public sector.

Whoever forms the next government, dozens of organisations will disappear - a few deservedly, many not.

The dawn of the Age of Brutality has been evident for some time. Bankers bashed. Media furore over executive pay in the public sector. The earnest young men of the TaxPayers' Alliance running neck-and-neck with Twitter and Facebook as sources of sexy news stories.

But the Budget revealed just how much resources will shrink. From now on, the only game in town is zero-sum. Every organisation that succeeds in winning funding will do so at another's expense. Battles for money, understandably, will become ever more ruthless, driven by the desire to preserve an organisation's very existence.

In this harsh climate, the effectiveness of an organisation's comms will be a matter of life or death. Bad habits built up during the past decade will have to be replaced by a single-minded politically savvy.

So an end to vanity PR, where the comms function is devoted to promoting the career prospects and hobbies of senior staff. Instead, the corporate priority will need to be survival, with maximum effort concentrated on influencing those who pay the piper.

No more explicit appeals for money. In their place, organisations will have to explain the storm that threatens to engulf them and show how they bring real gains for their paymasters' constituents.

No longer can corporate decisions be considered without thought of their external impact. However unpopular, communicators will need to force senior colleagues to wise up and block bad habits that threaten the very existence of an organisation, such as the payment of huge bonuses to executives.

With one foot planted within the organisation and the other firmly planted outside to transmit back to colleagues what the outside world sees, the role of the communicator will be more important than ever. For it will be the survival of the fittest.

Edward Welsh is programme director, media and campaigns, at the Local Government Association.

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