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Queensland State budget 2019: How to create comprehensible content out of complex material

A few days ago the Treasurer, Jackie Trad, handed down the Queensland State Budget. As with the recent Federal Budget, the budget release was followed by  piles of content, analysis and commentary, including our own Budget Snapshot. However, while businesses across Queensland jostle to provide unique perspectives on the content of the budget, the budget process itself is a fascinating piece of communication.

Australian budgets are unique political events, the opportunity for the government of the day to both develop a detailed policy offering and convert that into a clear political message to sell to the electorate. It is an exercise in turning highly complex information into understandable, and marketable, messages. So, what lessons can businesses learn from Australian budgets?

Simple, clear messages

Whether you think about Jackie Trad’s ‘budget for regional Queensland’ or Josh Frydenberg’s ‘Back in Black’, budgets benefit from having a strong, digestible message at their core. These messages signpost the government’s focus and give voters a clear understanding of the simple intentions at the heart of complex budgets.

Businesses communicating complex information can also benefit from this approach. Whether you are preparing a report, giving a presentation or meeting with a client, finding and communicating a central takeaway from the information you are presenting can ensure your audience receives the right impression, and understands the basics of what it is your telling them.

Make it personal

Politicians are adept at identifying key stakeholder groups and using them to personalise a message, to put a face to the impacts of a particular policy. Think of the communication of the instant asset write-off program which was marketed towards ‘Tony’s Tradies’ – small business owners and subcontractors who would stand to benefit from the ability to instantly write off depreciation on newly purchased assets for their businesses. While this policy may have had benefits for a broad range of stakeholders, the government identified a key demographic to make an example of, giving their message a personal character and thereby adding clarity and weight.

While some things cannot be reduced to personal impacts, businesses can nevertheless learn from this approach. Look for a case study, quote an expert, offer examples of the real-world impacts of the issues you are communicating. Making your message personal gives your audience a way to connect it to their lives and improves the likelihood they will sit up and pay attention.

Stay across the detail

While you need to ensure that your messages are clear, that can’t come at the expense of a deep understanding of the detail. Given the complexity of a state or federal budget, treasurers and ministers are challenged to understand, and be able to communicate, a huge amount of information – sometimes leading to cringeworthy public gaffes.

While you may be under significantly less scrutiny than a federal minister, it still pays to learn the lesson that, no matter how strong an orator you may be, if you don’t know the facts you won’t be able to communicate them effectively. Stay across the detail and ensure you have the information to support the assertions you make, regardless of the communication platform you choose.

Hating politicians may be a popular Australian pastime, but businesses and organisations would do well to learn whatever lessons they can from the political class. When it comes to communicating complexity, there are many lessons that can be gained by looking at both successful, and unsuccessful budgets, and the way they have been communicated.