Strengthening external communications at NIESR

Phil acted as a media consultant at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research to help the communications team boost the profile of the academic think tank. During the five months from November to late March, he assisted with the existing media coverage programme and focused on expanding the range and penetration of the media’s coverage of its activities.

This has centred around using three key events – the General Election, our quarterly National Institute Economic Review, and the Budget – as a platform to push out material based on our economists’ and scientists research. This resulted in a sizeable number of articles placed in media, interviews by journalists and appearances on TV and radio news programmes as well as major take-up of social media.

The team created a microsite on our website dedicated to the Election Analysis to house nine election briefings by NIESR staff in later November and early December in the run-up to the 11 December polling day. It worked with EconFilms to produce six video-casts by NIESR staff and curated five podcasts by NIESR staff. On the back of these, it was able to pitch opinion pieces that ran in various media.

Britain after Brexit. As there was no funding for new research, the team aimed to maximise NIESR’s economists’ research and knowledge to put out opinion articles for mainstream media and make them available for interview.

February saw the publication of the centrepiece quarterly publication, the National Institute Economic Review. This was covered widely in the media following a press conference organised in media and as a result of pitches to both print and broadcast media. It also led to a number of appearances on radio, opinion columns by NIESR staff and mentions in opinion pieces written by others.

The Budget. The team planned for this set-piece event by identifying issues that were likely to feature in the Budget and in which staff had expertise. This led to placed articles ahead of the Budget and major pick-up of the new forecasts. The institute published a booklet of collated reactions on the afternoon of the Budget.

Coronavirus. Although this became a major economic issue in mid-March, the team was able to promote material written on the issue.

LatinFinance’s finance minister of the year

We worked with LatinFinance, the magazine that covers Latin American economies and financial markets, on its Finance Ministry Scorecard. This is an annual assessment of the performance of the finance ministers and their ministries over the latest calendar year.

It recognises outperformance in managing fiscal and external accounts, building sustainable economic growth, and contributing to controlled inflation. It takes into account ministries’ transparency and clarity in communications with markets, independence and financial strength. The final decision is based on a series of in-depth interviews with market participants including ratings agencies analysts, private-sector agencies analysts and independent economists.

Our assessment led LatinFinance to decide that Colombia and finance minister Mauricio Cardenas had performed better than any major economy over that period. The announcement is here. Colombia was the fastest-growing large economy in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2014. It kept its fiscal deficit limited, and attracted strong levels of foreign investment. Further, the country has a low debt ratio, at below 32% of GDP.  WE carried out an interview with Minister Cardenas in which he talked about how he had achieved strong growth in the face of the fall in the oil price and signs of weakness in the eurozone and Chinese economies. The article is here.