On Budget Day there is a mad scramble for ‘experts’. It has always been an opportunity for top financial organisations such as the “Big 4” Accountancy houses to place “an expert in the TV Studio” to comment on whatever the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has in store for us. 

A penny in the pound on Income Tax means the average household will have to pay £xxx more per year to make ends meet …

Getting your expert spokesperson a media interview

We’ve heard it all before, but it always results in a mad scramble to get your top Tax Partner on to the biggest media platform – whether it is live TV with the BBC, ITN, Sky, YouTube, or live radio, with Nick Ferrari on LBC – and good luck with that!

The “deal” is that KPMG, PWC or Deloitte, for instance, gets its “corporate name-check” via a graphic under the face of your expert, while “plugging” your organisation is not allowed – according to the unwritten rules, so this is not the same as placing a spokesperson with a media outlet.

Interestingly, with traditional broadcasters facing increasing competition from Social Media, YouTube and even the latest TV Channel – GB News (Andrew Neil’s version of Fox News in the UK) and not to be confused with GMB – Piers Morgan’s morning vehicle for his brand of vitriol and comment, editors and producers are always on the look-out for fresh talent.

There’s always pressure to find new media talent

We all know that people like Martin Lewis (moneysavingexpert.com) will make at least one appearance somewhere, but there is an opportunity for “challengers” to grab a piece of the action.

From my experience of working on BBC Business Breakfast, there is always pressure from “above” to find new faces and new talent.

For instance, there is more to accountancy and professional services than The Big 4. Grant Thornton has been making inroads into Big 4 media territory for years now, as have BDO.

But what about the other big accountancy houses, as listed by trade paper Accountancy Age – RSM, Smith & Williamson, Moore Stephens, Mazars, PKF UKI, Saffery Champness, Haines Watt, Crow Clarke Whitehill and UHY Hacker Young? How many of these are household names.

Baker Tilly used to be ranked in the Top Ten, accountancy houses and for many years one of their Tax Partners was used almost exclusively for giving media interviews, both live and pre-recorded interviews  – to overcome their “Baker Who?” reputation.

New media spokespeople may not be natural media performers

But not all new faces and new talent are media friendly, or, fully understand what is required of them in a TV or radio studio.

Expert Training was an idea we at Media Friendly first came up with twenty years ago, when there was very little interest in financial services reaching a wider audience. But that has rapidly changed and now nearly everyone is competing for a slice of the media action – both on traditional media outlets as well as Social Media channels. 

The main point is to say something interesting about income tax, corporation tax, business rates, or even a proposed “Internet Tax” on giants like Amazon, rather than play it safe and try and avoid upsetting a sector or a particular client – which is sadly what happens when put on the spot by a TV presenter.

Saying nothing or sitting on the fence is actually bad for your reputation. If you are going to do that, then please don’t bother playing the media game.

So what are the “rules for expert comment”?

  1.  Please try and say something significant or interesting each time the presenter turns to you. You may need some media training to actually work out if what you are saying is interesting or significant – as it is not obvious to everyone.
  2. Never mention your company’s name on television. The graphic – which viewers see – will take care of that. Radio is different. It is perfectly acceptable to say, “We, at KPMG believe …”
  3. Never sit on the fence – unless you absolutely have to and definitely never say “No comment” or “I can’t comment”. Commenting is what you are there for.
  4. Always decide in advance what you can and can’t say – so do your thinking about not upsetting specific clients before you go on air.    
  5. Remember to smile on TV (or Zoom). Visuals are as important as what you say.
  6. Don’t be frightened of disagreeing with another guest. (The media likes a little spice and controversy to liven up a dull Budget.) But please remember to be polite.
  7. Give an example – where you can – rather than simply quoting numbers.
  8. Make sure you know how much a pint of milk costs, or a loaf of bread. (This type of thing has caught out people like David Cameron in the past.)
  9. Try and enjoy the experience. If you are enthused and excited – it makes for better television.
  10. Be available, be on time, be easy to deal with and you will get repeat business from media outlets. Repeat business is the most cost-effective form of PR, or sales.
  11. Please get some media training or media coaching first. You don’t want your first appearance on TV or radio to be your last.