Meet Brent Knevett, our Government Relations Consultant

The three ways businesses can build effective relationships with government to progress their mission.

Brent Knevett has been in and around the public sector for the last 35 years, working with and influencing policymakers. IMPACT has been working with Brent for the last three years, using his skills as a Government Relations and Business Development Consultant to advise on strategies for our clients’ commercial projects that require engagement with the government.

Upon completing his Honours degree in Economics and Politics at the University of Tasmania, Brent spent nearly two decades in the public sector, working for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), both in Canberra and overseas, as well as in policy for the Tasmanian Government. 

Four years later, Brent moved into consulting, which saw him working with some of Australia’s leading companies, including Accenture, Macquarie Group and Virgin Australia, to name a few.  

Running his own business, Forsius Technology Advisory, over the past ten years, Brent is currently assisting a number of Australian and international clients to position for opportunities in the digital health sector to improve the efficiency of Australia’s health systems after the COVID-19 pandemic.

We spoke with Brent to learn the three ways businesses can build effective relationships with government to progress their mission.

Finding common interests

As with all relationships, working with the public sector is a two-way street. It’s important to remember the needs and motivations of the other side, as well as your own strategic objectives.

“Make sure you’re considering the interests of the person you are meeting with. Think about why they are meeting with you, what they want to get out of the meeting, and how you can facilitate that with the solutions you are offering,” says Brent.

Being aware of whom you are pitching to and articulating why your ideas are important to them is key to getting cut through − especially when dealing with a new government with a strict agenda.

“After the meeting, you want them to be glad to have taken the time to speak with you, and to have walked away with a clear understanding of how you can work together,” states Brent.

Choose your friends strategically

With a new government sworn in, the faces of power in Canberra have changed − hundreds at a time − with new diary managers, ministerial staffers and policy makers. Getting to know each and every new member and their staff in an impactful way is an impossibility.

“When navigating the election of a new government, don’t try to get to know everyone,” advises Brent.

“Instead, choose 10 to 12 people that stretch across the ministerial office system − people that will always answer your call, and refer you to the most relevant person.”

When identifying your contacts, choose people across different departments of interest to your organisation. Having one good relationship within an office is often no less impactful than five, and allows you to create a wider, more diverse network.

Make it face-to-face

In a time-poor and tightly-resourced working environment, online meetings are the default medium of choice. However, Brent advises against virtual meeting options when building rapport.

“We’re all zoomed out,” says Brent, “and one-on-one meetings are definitely appreciated when first establishing relationships,” says Brent.

While the days of flying interstate for a single meeting may be over, Brent recommends booking several meetings in one day when planning work travel.

“If you’re organised in advance, you can get a number of face-to-face meetings within the same day, ensuring you get the most out of the trip while making valuable connections,” concludes Brent.

To find out how Brent can help you to develop your government relations and business development strategy, get in touch today.

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