In the last decade we’ve seen a Casanova-style, back-door return to Keynesian style economics (a central role for the state in pump-priming the broader economy), and yet hardly anyone is talking about it and what it means for those seeking government funding.

The re-birth of Keynesianism has been a largely silent affair, and yet it grips both sides of the political landscape. Mid-century nostalgia and a grasping for certainty in an age of social and economic turbulence has seen the rebirth of big C political conservatism; from Trump to Abbott to Morrison, while Labor remains wedded to wealth circulation via the state.

And so now, on both sides of the political spectrum, the state has an important part to play in economic life, as evidenced by a large slate of projects. The Andrews Government for example is rolling out $44bn worth of infrastructure projects, but not to be outshone, the Morrison government has earmarked $100bn for road and rail.

With the state back as an arbiter of economic life and dispenser of stimulatory largesse, there will be an increase in the number of PR agencies and lobbyists helping the government figure out how to cut the pie. Peak bodies that understand the art of political lobbying and public relations will prosper in this new environment of public-private relations.

There are peak bodies out there who are failing to shape government policy or secure funding commitments despite the enormous potential they have to do so. Of note is the university sector that regularly get the knife in spite of the fact funding is needed to transition to a new economy, the crucial role in the current economy, and its enormous impact in the community.

A familiar cycle

Every budget the tertiary sector is lined up for austerity measures and predictably they issue a budget response decrying the proposed cuts. The response is duly noted in the media and a week later it’s forgotten about.

Where are the allies of the University sector?

The friends, partners, ambassadors, and case-studies supporting the sector should be legion and yet no campaign is activated. Despite having terrific stories to tell, there is little general media or social media engagement or campaigns with clear calls-to-action that run through the year.

The coalition government, steeled in delivering cuts to the tertiary sector for several decades now, knows how to position the university sector as undeserving; a bastion for obscure ruminations and useless doctorates. Why should the public fund that is their underlying message?

What they should be doing is rolling out a year round campaign not just talking about research and development breakthroughs through their media channels, but getting case-studies galore for a relentless campaign for earned and social media coverage that speak to the central importance of university education for all Australians: rural doctors that service the outback, engineers who build our infrastructure, rock stars and actors that entertain us, business leaders who create jobs – the whole kitchen sink.

And what about the key messages? How about these? Australia is no longer a manufacturing nation, so what are the jobs of the future? Education is a massive dollar spinner with a multiplier effect. Do we want to be a banana republic? Don’t we deserve the world’s best everything?

A public relations campaign that aims to bring awareness to their plight in a public campaign, win allies, engage stakeholders, and to develop a political engagement strategy is crucial to the university sector and other peak bodies hoping for government funding and to shape policy.

Does it work?

That is the type of campaign that we not only know should work, but does work. The pathology sector faced a similar situation only 5 years ago in Australia. A 2013 Ibis report suggested that because the pathology sector had no friends, no public profile, and no government connections, they were ripe for funding cuts, as indeed turned out to be the case.

The report spurred the formation of a pathology peak body with a public awareness, stakeholder outreach, and political engagement campaign.

And so in 2016 when the federal government did attempt to cut pathology subsidies for Medicare, the sector was ready and rolled out the third largest petition in Australian history, which cause Malcolm Turnbull – mid-hustings – to spike the policy and leave funding as it was.

Three years later in the 2019 federal election campaign, Labor promised to increase funding to pathology testing by $200 million. So from the spectre of funding cuts, through a strong and sustained PR campaign, those cuts were reversed and then pledges made to increase funding.

To get an understanding of what such a PR campaign looks like and can do for your peak body, contact Good Talent Media today.