While recent events have exposed a dark side of staffing and ignited an important cultural discussion among the Liberal Party, the vast majority of political advisers are just hardworking individuals working long hours taking endless meetings on behalf of their MP.
In fact, government relations professionals usually spend more time meeting with advisers than their bosses. This is not just because their superiors are time poor, but because staffers are usually subject matter experts and have the political nous that gives an MP full confidence to delegate their authority.
Although political advisers are funded by the public purse, they are chosen and employed personally by the MP or their office. Although they are often typecast as hungry young party members, they are usually a mix of:
- Seconded experts
- Party members with professional expertise
- Those who've worked through the ranks as a graduate, or occasionally
- Political unaligned advisers with a public service background.
Regardless, whether it's on the job or through previous roles, advisers work hard to get across their respective fields to confidently advise their MP, so they in turn can serve their constituents and get re-elected.
Here are our top tips for effective engagement:
- A good staffer will tell their MP what they need to hear and not what they want to hear, which means they're good at sorting through the spin. Whatever message you're delivering, make it easy and honest.
- By the same token, don't be afraid to make them aware of how political decisions affect your organisation, perceived and tangible. It's important to express this as concern and hit the right tone rather than applying pressure.
- Let them know before making public comments - in most situations this is a basic courtesy and helps build confidence. Plus, no one likes to be caught off guard!
- Loyalty is expected in this line of work. Don't expect a staffer to reveal confidential information to you, and don't put them in a position that pushes that boundary.
- Cold calling is okay! Obviously if you can get in touch through a mutual connection it's a great way to build trust early, but if not don't hesitate to pick up the phone.