Richard Siddle: comment, February 24, time for us all to stand up over responsible drinking

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David Cameron's warning last week that his government is looking to introduce much tighter drinks legislation, including potentially a minimum price for alcohol, resulted in the industry taking another beating from the national media. Yet other than the obligatory responses from our much called upon drinks trade associations, where was the reply from our major drinks companies?


The drinks industry's defence on Newsnight was led by the actress and comedian Helen Lederer. Credit to her for putting herself in the firing line, but is this the best the industry can do to defend itself?

Too often the national media is left with little choice other than to go to what it regards as the vested interest mouthpiece of a trade association, rather than a big hitter from the industry itself.


Why? Because the major news channels can't find anyone else willing to appear. Compare this with how other sectors represent themselves in the national media. The likes of Wetherspoon's Tim Martin, Topshop's Sir Philip Green, or Next's Lord Wolfson are all regulars in our national media. High street guru Mary Portas is even helping to shape the government's retail policy.


Yet when it comes to the issue of responsible drinking, all too often the media coverage is weighted heavily in favour of a much-revered health professional putting the boot in against what comes across as a lily-livered response from the drinks industry.


It is time for our big industry leaders to stand up, stop hiding behind corporate press releases and PR teams and get on the national media channels to make a business case for the industry.


We all know who those big business leaders in our sector are. But they are mostly unknowns to producers and booking agents of programmes like BBC Radio 4 Today, Newsnight or Sky News.
We need to make a hard-hitting, professional business case for the big steps being taken by the drinks industry around responsible drinking.


But we should not just leave it to our business leaders, we can all play our part in ensuring the industry gets a better press. Remember if you are running any kind of business then you are potentially an important ally for your local MP and a good news story for the local media.


Whatever steps you are taking to tackle or promote responsible drinking in your company, you need to make sure your efforts are being heard in the right circles.


If you have not yet signed up to the Responsibility Deal then as a responsible drinks company you need to. And when you have make sure you write to your local MP and your local MP to tell them that you have.


Why not invite your local MP to come and see you and your business and you can talk to them first hand about the steps you are taking and the pressures drinks legislation and duty has on you and your staff.
Remember you are all their constituents and potential voters and they have a duty to represent your interests.


If you do persuade your MP to come and see you then invite the local media to cover it. This is the kind of business story, local media love to cover and having their picture taken with a responsible local business that appears in the local paper is worth its weight in gold to a local MP.


So let's not leave it all down to our trade associations and plucky actresses to stand up for what the drinks industry is doing around responsible drinking, we all have a duty to stand up for ourselves and tell the stories, be it on a local level, that will help make a difference to the national debate.

*If you want to take action yourself, go to our Responsibility OK section of the website or click here for tips on what to do

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