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Lisa Palu, Senior Consultant

You’ve just received confirmation of a time and date to meet with a government Minister key to your company’s business.

Congratulations! It may have taken a while and been difficult to get this meeting, or it may have taken just one phone call and a follow up email. Either way, you now have at least half an hour of one-on-one undivided attention from somebody who can make a real difference to your company’s future.

It seems pretty straight forward. Turn up on time, look the Minister squarely in the eye as you give them a firm handshake, tell them all about your company, your issues, your ideas about what needs to be done (assuming you have them and they are realistic), and in due course things will happen.

This might work, but in our experience, it is extremely rare. In the first place, getting the meeting can be challenging, depending on your company, the issues, the Minister, your relationships, the government they belong to, and where the political cycle is at.

However, securing a one-on-one meeting is a good start, and much can be achieved if you prepare well. When it comes to Ministerial meetings, the adage that proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance is absolutely the case.

Right from the outset, it is important to understand just how many meetings Ministers participate in each week and how diverse the people are that they meet with. In Queensland, Ministers are required to publish their diaries. A quick check of the Cabinet website shows that Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk conducted 98 meetings during the month of October 2018. If you want results, you really need to stand out from the crowd! A verbal download about your situation to the Premier or any other Minister for that matter just isn’t going to work. And remember, your meeting will be published on the Cabinet website too for all the world to see.

Because they are involved in so many meetings with so many different people and exposed to so much information, Ministerial attention spans can be quite short. Your first couple of sentences are critical.

Fortunately, even if the Minister is having a bad day, there will be at least one advisor participating in the meeting and during your planning, you have carefully worked out how to engage them to help you achieve the outcomes you want.

Even more fortunately, the sort of day the Minister is having is largely irrelevant because you have provided succinct, high quality briefing material to the Minister’s Office beforehand. This has enabled the Minister and their relevant advisors to become familiar with you and your company, and the Minister’s department to provide a detailed brief about your issues, including what’s possible, and what is not.

And your team has thoroughly briefed you about the Minister, so you can quickly build a rapport with them, a necessary first step before you start delivering carefully crafted and rehearsed messaging about your company and its issues, according to your strategy.

What’s more, even if it doesn’t quite turn out the way you planned, your well thought through one-page brief (different from the brief you provided beforehand), which you leave with the Minister and their advisor at the end of the meeting, will make sure they get your messages. And because you leave nothing to chance, your carefully crafted thank you letter to the Minister which they receive within days after the meeting, reinforces your messaging and outlines the follow up actions.

And so your journey has begun! Rarely is this meeting a one-off engagement, after which you can cross an action item off your to-do-list. Depending on the complexity of your issues, there will need to be many more engagements with the Minister, their advisors, their departmental officers and possibly their colleagues, in a range of different settings, both formal and more casual.

The one thing which is outside of your control is how much time you have on your side. You need to get through the process to achieve your outcomes before there a Cabinet reshuffle or an election, which might mean you have to start all over again because there is a new Minister who doesn’t know a thing about you and your issues.

If you feel the team around you doesn’t have the skills to successfully take you on this journey, have a talk to the SAS Group. We work with companies like yours every day to make sure they get the results they need from the increasingly sophisticated and fast paced political world. 

The SAS Group is your trusted partner for government, media and corporate engagement.