Engaging the Public Service

The bureaucracy is one of the most fundamental players in any government's decision making.

If you work in government relations, chances are you're fairly comfortable working with Ministerial staffers and MPs. You've worked on building relationships through various stakeholder engagement strategies, or have crossed career paths at some stage.

However a lot of government relations work falls short of its full potential by overlooking one of the fundamental players in any government's decision making process - the bureaucracy.

Every government policy decision makes its way through a government department: before a brief reaches a Minister's desk, it has passed through the watching eyes of their public servants. And there are few better ways to prime a Minister to your point of view than making sure they heard it from their department first.

It's therefore important to make sure you build a good working relationship with relevant departmental staff. Here's how:

They're professionals

Firstly, it's important to remember that departmental staff are not cloistered hermits hiding away in impenetrable government buildings. They're professional advisers, tasked with providing the most relevant information to government on any given policy issue. They're often keen to meet with companies and organisations, especially if they provide a good source of information.

Get the inside info

If you don't know where to start, ask the Minister's office. If you've already spent time building a decent working relationship with Ministerial staffers, they're usually happy to let you know the most relevant people to engage with in their department. Otherwise, if you've subscribed to a departmental data pack, save time and look them up in your Advoc8 account!

Ask for a meeting

It's often as simple as dropping an email asking departmental staff for a meeting to brief them on your issue. Seems obvious, however it's amazing how many people leave departmental staff out of their government relations strategy because they never think to ask for a meeting.

Build from bottom to top

You're likely to have more success if you start off with the worker bees within a department. Trying to get a meeting with the Secretary or Deputy Secretary of a particular department is not only likely to take a long time to secure, it may be met with a great deal of caution. Having a solid relationship with those who work directly on your issue and report up the chain is a good way to eventually meet the head honcho.

Come bearing solutions

Some make the mistake of using their meetings with departments to simply highlight problems with particular regulations or policy. While it's useful for them to hear your perspective, the 'problem only' approach simply adds your voice to the cacophony of other opinions. You're far more likely to have your perspective elevated, if you provide a tailor-made solution to the problem at hand. And if you're really smart about it, you'll be suggesting the kinds of policy improvements the government is after.

Invite them to your world

Everyone likes to feel that their perspective is important. A simple way to ingratiate your organisation to the head of a government department is to invite them to address one of your (COVID safe) functions or facilities.

Did you know Advoc8 tracks government departments and public servants? Get in touch with us at to find out more.

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