“Get me the Premier!”

demandingMany prospective clients start by saying “I need you to get me a meeting with the Premier”. Or it might be the Prime Minister, or a particular Minister.

They’re usually frustrated at blockages, and they are nearly always wrong about how to deal with it.

Our first response to that kind of proposition is “Why?  The Minister has an appointments Secretary – you don’t need us for that.”  (Or maybe we just think that, rather than saying it out loud.)

Talking with a Minister can be useful if there is a decision being made that is against the Government’s interests or policy, but that is rarely the case.  And the Minister is rarely the real decision maker.

It’s important to focus on dealing with the real decision maker.

The most common cause of a demand for Ministerial intervention is poor communications – public servants who think they are communicating effectively with business, or business people who think they are communicating effectively with public servants: both driven by systems and imperatives that seem incompatible.

In our experience both ends of the engagement are often mistaken – they don’t understand one another well, at all – and engaging a lobbyist who understands both ends of the discussion can help the parties translate and communicate.

It’s often enough a junior or mid-level public servant who is dealing with your issue, and it is normally far better to sort out the issue with them, rather than making enemies for life by calling down the Minister upon them.

A public servant (and their managers) on the receiving end of a Ministerial inquiry, don’t think to themselves “I must change this decision” – rather, they lock into justifying it, often making things worse for you.  On top of that, they are distracted by the (resented) workload burden of having to respond quickly to a Ministerial inquiry.

A good lobbyist will be able to maximise alignment between your needs and those of the Government – both the public service and the politicians – without having to bring the Minister into things; but they can do this only if they discover why the public servants are doing as they propose, and if they can then understand how to shape the case for a change in direction.

Lobbyists who focus on introductions, and getting you in to see Ministers, sometimes don’t have very deep experience in this latter, complex, role.

About Mike Smith

Partner in Ethical Consulting Services: www.ethicalconsulting.com; sometime University lecturer; previously Government Relations consultant; before that Labor Party State Secretary in Northern Territory; union advocate with LHMU/United Voice in NT and NSW; hobby – election campaigns!

Posted on November 12, 2014, in Communication, how to lobby, Lobbying, marketing, Planning, Public service, Strategy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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