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Thursday, 3 June 2021

Lisa Palu, Senior Consultant

Companies and organisations often contact the SAS Group because they have a ‘problem with the government’ (any government, any political colour).

During our first discussion, it’s common for a frustrated CEO to tell us a Minister just isn’t listening. 

There are a familiar series of events that leads CEOs to this unhappy conclusion. The pathway generally includes a trip to Canberra, meetings with the portfolio Minister and several others, a lot of talking to explain the situation, followed by optimism on the flight home that the government listened, things will change for the better.

Then nothing happens. CEO frustration grows, and the response can be to embark on another round of Ministerial meetings because the government ‘doesn’t get it’. Skilled staff spend countless hours ensuring the messaging is coherent and crystal clear, on the assumption that if the portfolio Minister can be educated, the problem will be fixed.  

As the CEO flies home from another trip to Canberra and reflects on their Ministerial engagements, there are often nagging doubts. Did the portfolio Minister really understand our position this time? Will the other politicians we spoke to become our advocates in case the Minister is a slow learner?  What about those Ministerial staff? Why weren’t they very engaging?  But wow, what about the Shadow Minister? That person is smart, if only they were in government!

Of course, the Minister has a large team of personal advisors, thousands of highly skilled and knowledgeable public servants and consultants giving them advice. Chances are they ‘get it’, they simply don’t agree.

At this point, companies and organisations start thinking about media strategies, devising Opposition/Cross Bench campaigns, and contacting organisations such as The SAS Group.

One of the approaches that can turn things around – sometimes quite quickly in our experience – is less talking to explain and more time listening.  It can be difficult to do, particularly when you only have a small window of time in which to outline your case.  But if you listen, potential synergies will often present themselves, providing an opportunity for a relationship reset. Often Ministers will set out the conditions or requirements for success.

This can be a challenging time, and most likely needs other strategies operating in parallel to achieve success, which is where the SAS Group can help. And if you contact us early – rather than after you have exhausted all your options – we are much more able to help you.

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

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