Government Relations: Succeeding with the ATTIC Model
Government relations and public affairs can often seem daunting and complex. However, government relations is more of a science than an art when it comes to influencing decision-makers. The truth of the matter is that government relations relies on a deep understanding of business frameworks and the execution of a strategy to achieve a particular outcome.
Successful government relation firms utilize a variety of approaches aimed at influencing members of the government and public policy to achieve a specific set of objectives for a client. This may include arranging meetings, developing briefing notes, contact plans and company overview presentations to highlight a client's issue, request or business offering.
To better frame this process, we at Samuel Associates use the “ATTIC” model (or framework). ATTIC stands for:
These elements form one of the core systems of our government relations and public affairs strategies. The framework helps to guide our clients through the seemingly complex maze of government departments, agencies, and Crown corporations.
Agent of Influence
The Agent of influence is an individual who is hired to communicate on behalf of a client, often a professional lobbyist with a keen understanding of government processes. They may also be anyone who, in the course of their work for a client, communicates with or arranges meetings with a public office holder.
The Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada further defines the role of a Consultant Lobbyist here.
The Agent is ultimately responsible for the management and successful execution of a full government relations campaign. For a campaign to achieve its objectives, selecting the right Agent is essential. In general, an Agent is someone who can exercise diplomacy and political acumen within a network of relevant relationships. These relationships are intended to focus on the right target audience.
Moving from the Agent, successful identification and verification of the key Target or Targets becomes imperative. Typically, an Agent's Target is someone who has decision making authority or exercises influence in the decision-making process. According to the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying, a Designated Public Office Holder includes “ministers, ministerial staff, deputy ministers and chief executives of departments and agencies, officials in departments and agencies at the rank of associate deputy minister and assistant deputy minister, as well as those occupying positions of comparable rank”.
Once a Target has been identified, this individual will be added to a contact plan. A basic contact plan includes a person’s name, position, role and area of responsibility within a particular government department or agency. The idea is to tailor the client’s communications so that the information received is relevant to the Target's position or rank, as well as the organization's mandate.
Once the Targets are defined, creating a set of Tactics is the next step in the ATTIC model. These Tactics help advance the client's overall campaign. Examples of direct Tactics used on Targets may include:
- arranging private meetings or contact with policymakers or public servants,
- attending events organized by policymakers and relevant associations representing industry interests,
- responding to public consultations,
- appearing before regulatory and parliamentary committees to provide expert advice,
- creating a specific event to drive the campaign and inviting policy and decision-makers to attend.
Next, it is essential to define what Interests matter to the key Targets. These Interests may differ from those of the client but are vital to engaging the Target audience. Therefore, benefits and responsibilities that are of concern to the Target need to be aligned on a single issue or amplified by several interrelated issues.
For example, a single issue can take on the form of a discussion where parties are either in favour or against one policy direction, such as free-trade agreements. An example of an interrelated set of issues can take on the form of economic growth, social change, and environmental consequences associated with development. Engaging the key Targets may sometimes reveal unknown Interests or unintended issues related to the client’s campaign.
At this stage, it is important to ensure that Interests are clearly articulated and delineated. To be successful, the client and the Agent must have an ongoing relationship based on trust and respect to ensure that all communications going out to key Targets are accurate and aligned with the Interest of targeted decision-makers. If the Target audience and their Interests are selected correctly and well defined, decision-makers and key officials will be motivated to take appropriate action and expend political capital in support of the campaign.
To operationalize and implement the ATTIC model, it is critical to frame the influence campaign within an overall strategic Context. The Context helps explain, at the highest level, the reason for the client's lobbying efforts. Context creates a bridge between the client’s specific requirements or petition and connects it directly to the Designated Public Office Holders, whose powers and responsibilities are required to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome.
When done right, government relations should result in a win-win solution both for the client and the public good.
ATTIC in Practice
An effective government relations firm plays the role of a strategic advisor and, by extension, becomes part of the client’s management team for the period of engagement. The ATTIC model creates accountability between the firm and the client with a clear set of objectives and deliverables. Using the ATTIC model will ensure that your organization or business can fully benefit from our experience and approach in helping clients navigate both the complexities and opportunities that the government provides.