I love a reshuffle and, as a public affairs professional, so should you

As the dust settles on last week’s reshuffle, I’ve been thinking about how the regular moving around of the ministerial deckchairs impacts those of us with the professional responsibility to help our clients understand and navigate the ever-shifting sands of government relations.

A reshuffle is an opportunity for public affairs professionals to shine, argues Marc Woolfson
A reshuffle is an opportunity for public affairs professionals to shine, argues Marc Woolfson

If you ask most public affairs consultants how they feel about reshuffles, you will undoubtedly get a torrent of horror stories.

Perhaps about the time when the client’s global c-suite executives flew in for long-planned ministerial meetings, which were then cancelled at the last minute; the high-profile industry summits, months in the making, suddenly left without a government speaker; the all-but-signed-off ministerial decision sent back to the drawing board by a new minister with a different set of priorities.

We all have these stories.

However, for most public affairs consultants, the thrill of indulging their inner political geek overcomes any worries from these cautionary tales. In most cases, we all know it’s coming, with rumours aplenty of potentially seismic changes. You can try to predict and pre-empt what will happen, but there are almost always surprises, and this latest reshuffle is no different in that regard.

Ultimately, when the moment comes, it’s all hands on deck as each client needs to be simultaneously updated and advised as to how their specific set of interests is being affected – for good or bad – and what the best course of action is to ensure they emerge with their position strengthened and with a plan to capitalise swiftly.

Personally, I love a reshuffle.

Reshuffles are the moment when the strength of a client’s case is put to the test. It’s a chance to demonstrate why a strategic public affairs and communications programme is so much more than the strength of a relationship with an individual minister or special adviser.

They are an opportunity to demonstrate why building a broad set of advocates for your client’s cause, from officials, influencers, parliamentarians and industry experts willing to go on the record publicly and in private discussions, is so important, so that when the new minister seeks advice, the client’s case gets the hearing it deserves.

Reshuffles also offer the opportunity to look afresh at campaign messages, sense-checking them in light of what the reshuffle has revealed about the Prime Minister’s thinking and where the political and legislative priorities lie for the remainder of the Parliament.

All political developments and changes provide both opportunities and challenges, not only in terms of personnel but in terms of policy and regulatory direction. It is our job to recognise and respond to these changes and help guide our clients through them, ensuring that their commercial and reputational interests are protected and enhanced.

Marc Woolfson is partner and head of public affairs at WA Communications

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