The nation woke up in a foul mood the day after finance minister Nhlanhla Nene’s maiden budget speech. Everyone hated the man who delivered his budget speech to a waiting nation. Although he was affable and very exciting in the way he delivered the budget,the fact is he delivered bad news.
Nene, unlike most of his predecessors, had nothing but a sombre budget to present. Anyone who has had their eyes open in recent times would have and should have known that this week’s budget was going to be the official announcement that the good times are over.
As we speak, we know that personal tax is being increased for good earners, there will be another levy on fuel, expensive houses will attract much steeper transfer duties and the Gauteng e-tolls are not about to be tolled.
We need more energy, but we have no capacity, so we will be charged more for electricity.
We have nothing in our coffers but our needs are growing, so we will be charged more for fuel and it will be used it to spend.
But there is something to be said about a government budget that is strangely admirable. It is the most honest statement any politician or government can make. We all know that politicians are not renowned for honesty or modesty, but a budget presentation is different.
Through this budget, Nene, and by extension government, is saying this is the pot we have and these are the mouths we have to feed. And with what is in the pot, we will not achieve our goals. So, we are going to take more from you more so that we have enough to distribute.
So like him or hate him, Minister Nene told us the truth. Yes, most of it was uncomfortable and hurtful, but it was the truth we needed to hear nevertheless. We can kick and scream, but it is what it is.
And thus, I argue that the budget is the best public relations tool in the government’s hands. It is the only time that the government can tell the truth and take all the insults and criticism on the chin, knowing that it has told the truth.
The budget is a reminder that you can only please some people but not all people at the same time. It is the only time that you can give while you take.
Not all PR is about winning hearts and minds. Or put differently, sometimes, the best way to win hearts and minds is to be brutally honest.
Sometimes PR is about delivering the bad news, but most importantly, showing what you are doing to solve or assuage the situation. And that is exactly what Nene did this week.
Sometimes, whether forced by circumstances or voluntarily, all we are left with is to tell the truth, whatever the outcome.
The truth is the best form of public relations. Even if people hate you for it, ultimately you are freed by the conscience of knowing that you were honest and those that are unhappy have little choice but to make do with the reality.
The Kingmaker Rams Mabote is a PR coach, radio host, connector, businessman, lobbyist, propagandist, strategist and media trainer. Follow him on Twitter @RamsByTheHorns
IMAGE: Finance minister Nhlanhla Nene arrives at Parliament ahead of his maiden budget speech /SAnews.gov
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