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Atalanta hosts a masterclass on effective advocacy with Senior Advisor, the Hon Mike Rann AC CNZM

News and insights > Thought Leadership

Atalanta hosts a masterclass on effective advocacy with Senior Advisor, the Hon Mike Rann AC CNZM

11 June 2024 · 2 min read

Last week, Atalanta hosted an exclusive masterclass with our Senior Advisor, the Hon Mike Rann AC CNZM, on effective advocacy strategies for businesses and NGOs. Reflecting on his four decades of experience across politics, government, diplomacy, and business, Mike spoke to a room of leaders from the public, private, and third sectors, sharing examples of effective advocacy and disastrous own goals by leaders who really should have known better. 

Mike began by emphasising the importance of message discipline, not only in media communications, but also in lobbying and policy advocacy by businesses when dealing with governments. Stressing the need to simplify advocacy jargon into plain language, he warned leaders in the room that "if you cannot simply define your business or cause, let alone what outcome you are seeking, then you have already lost the battle." 

Mike also made clear that a critical requirement for any organisation looking to achieve an outcome from their advocacy with governments is only to ask for one thing at a time, an oft-overlooked aspect of message discipline. He told the room that leaders should consider their counterparts on the other side of the table and only ever "go into meetings with one outcome in mind, not a wish list that will simply ensure you will get nothing". Here, Atalanta's CEO, Elizabeth Ames, added that by keeping their key asks clear, organisations are better able to have a coherent narrative and simply tweak their messaging as needed, rather than extensively redraft, when the political situation changes.  

When engaging with non-Anglophone countries, Mike explained the need to develop an in-depth cultural awareness of the places where you want to do business, including understanding their politics, culture, and customs. In Mike's experience, too many Anglosphere companies and NGOs expect 'instant answers' rather than understanding the importance of developing relationships and, crucially, building trust deep enough to withstand the stresses and strains of day-to-day advocacy. To reinforce their engagement, he urged companies and NGOs to engage with countries' Embassies and High Commissions in their country of operations in advance of meetings. 

Moving from the cultural to the personal, Mike advised leaders to spend time discovering common ground with their counterparts in politics and policy, whether through shared interests, networks, or colleagues. 

As 2024 has been nicknamed the 'Year of Elections' and with the UK's own election fast approaching, Mike advised business leaders and NGOs alike to plan ahead and meet with opposition parties, regardless of who forms the next government. Not only does such forward-thinking stand an organisation in good stead in the event of a surprise election result, but reflecting on his own political career, working relationships fostered in opposition often develop to become the most successful once in office. Neither civil servants nor special advisors should be overlooked, he advised, as they often function as the gatekeepers to those in ministerial positions. 

If you would like to find out more about how Atalanta can help you define your narrative and engage successfully with stakeholders click here. If you would like to find out more about who we work with and how we support our clients, click here.


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Atalanta Limited is a private limited company registered in England and Wales, with company number 10924770. Registered address: First Floor, 5 Fleet Place, London EC4M 7RD, United Kingdom.

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