Lisa Ahmad

By Lisa Ahmad

The Prime Minister, Cabinet and Ministerial team have all changed, and that means that communications teams are faced with building relationships with a whole new set of public affairs stakeholders.

I spent over seven years working in central Government as a policy adviser, press officer, and then leading Ministerial Visits. We travelled the length and breadth of the UK as Ministers launched new solar panel arrays and offshore windfarms, visited energy efficiency projects in social housing developments, and met with local community groups.


Visits are often overlooked by corporate communications teams, but they have a crucial role to play in building relationships between the Government and companies; in addition to a broader public affairs strategy, they provide a valuable opportunity to get a message directly to those at the heart of policy making.

If you’re considering a Ministerial visit as part of your public affairs plan, here are five golden rules to keep in mind:


1. Get the basics right. Ensure your idea for a visit aligns with Departmental policy priorities, and target the right Minister.


2. Put yourself in the Minister’s shoes. Think about what they would get out of a visit –potential media hooks, and photo and social media opportunities.


3. Work closely with officials. Make sure you understand how much time the Minister has and what they definitely want to cover, then create a detailed and tailored programme to suit.


4. Make it interesting. Remember that a Minister has taken time out of a packed schedule to do the visit, so ‘death by powerpoint’ isn’t going to go down well. Plan interesting activities, and give the Minister the opportunity to meet a variety of people - not just the Senior Management team.


5. Be adaptable. Ministers may not arrive on time, and they may have to take an urgent call during the visit or return to London earlier than anticipated, so build in contingency time and be ready to adapt the programme at the last minute.


Visits enable Ministers to see the impact of policy decisions first-hand, and they give businesses a valuable opportunity to shape Government policy on your own turf.


Taking time out of Whitehall is increasingly difficult for today’s Government, with Ministers tied to Westminster for Parliamentary votes. But Ministerial visits still have a powerful part to play in Government relations and, by following these five golden rules, you will increase your chances of getting a Minister to say ‘yes’, and of the visit delivering the value both you and the Ministerial team need it to.