Ten reasons people get annoyed about ministerial meetings (and why they shouldn’t)
Meeting a minister is difficult. Leaving a meeting fully satisfied might sometimes seem impossible. But many of the reasons people get annoyed about ministerial meetings are the result of misunderstandings and misconceptions. Here are my top 10 reasons people get annoyed — and why they probably shouldn’t feel quite so put out.
- You don’t get a meeting at all, you may just get a letter or email response
While everyone wants to meet the minister, a face-to-face meeting is often not required. It may be that in the view of the minister’s office, the issue you want to raise is easy to solve and a meeting is not necessary. Ministers and their staff can’t meet with everyone who sends in a request. Perhaps nothing can be done about your issue, or the minister has already decided the issue. Don’t get mad. Lick your wounds, review your arguments and strategy and have another go.
- You can’t get a meeting straight away
The issue on your mind might be your highest priority but that doesn’t mean it will be a minister’s highest priority. Ministers and their staff have a lot to manage and sometimes that means your seemingly urgent issue will just have to wait.
- You can only get a meeting with the minister’s chief of staff or a policy adviser
Don’t feel downhearted. Chiefs of staff and policy advisers are the key to getting decisions made by ministers. They have more time to discuss matters and are the people who triage issues and provide advice to the minister about the best course of action.
- You get referred to someone in a government department
Government departments and agencies have the ability to deal with a range of issues and often have delegated powers to make decisions. Being referred to a department might also mean your problem is actually a straightforward issue which does not require ministerial intervention.
- You only get a half-hour meeting
Ministers are busy. Most meetings are only 30 minutes and ministers need to get through a lot each day. If you get a meeting, be prepared to use it wisely and have your briefing notes, key messages and talking points refined and ready.
- Your meeting is rescheduled at the last minute
Yep, that happens. A minister’s day is spent playing ping pong with different issues, avoiding or courting the media and managing the demands of Parliament. The meeting will be rescheduled and your flexibility (and good grace) will be appreciated.
- Your meeting is at Parliament House, the bells ring during the meeting and the minister disappears off into the House for a vote.
Don’t panic. They will usually come back once the vote is finished. Use the time they are gone to reflect on how the meeting is going so far and make sure you are focussed for when they return.
- The minister talks about something else and you don’t get to raise your issues.
Ministers have a lot on their minds. Sometimes they like to talk. Make sure the minister is aware that you have other issues to discuss and get a commitment for a further meeting with the chief of staff or policy adviser.
- The minister brings someone unexpected to the meeting (a department officer or another Member of Parliament).
Just keep following through with the plan for the meeting. This could be an indication the minister has taken an interest in your issue and wants to take action on it. It will eventually become clear why the additional person is there. They might even be tasked with assisting to resolve the issue.
- The minister doesn’t turn up
Whatever the reason, it sometimes happens that a minister can’t make your meeting even after their office has confirmed. Their staff will generally still attend and take the meeting and — hopefully — apologise and reschedule if required.
Renee Wilkinson and Cannings Purple’s Government Relations team have extensive experience working with ministers and in ministerial offices. If you are hitting barriers, we can help you design a strategy to ensure you effectively use the scarce time you might secure with a minister and their staff. Contact Renee.
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