Dale Carnegie wrote one of the first self-help books in 1937 on the subject of “human relations,” with advice for winning people to your way of thinking.
I’ve been thinking a lot about influence lately. In my personal life, it’s mostly in regards to the power exchange that is inevitably traded with two daughters under age 12. And then there’s thinking ahead to what kind of influence – if any – I’ll retain once they enter their teen years (give me strength!)
Often the subject of influence comes up with our clients, either in the form of how to influence media, how to find influencers (media, analysts, prospects and customers), and what new forms we see influence take. Let me say that the non-traditional influencers are not always obvious, and are hard to find.
Companies today want to reach and influence customers, partners, investors and/or prospective employees. But there’s a higher layer of influence. PR is not always a direct 1:1 journey; more often than not, influence requires in-depth research to determine: 1) who we need or want to ultimately influence, and 2) who influences them.
We need to go one level deeper. It all begins with asking the right questions around: What are they thinking about? What challenges are they facing? What keeps them up at night? Who are they reading, streaming and following? Here are some steps to keep in mind when approaching influencers:
Step 1: Understand your user. What is their job title and in what size company? What do they do all day long? Where do they turn for advice? What are they accountable for?
Step 2: Empathize to discover what truly matters to them and why.
Step 3: Find the influencers this particular profile trusts, follows and listens to.
Step 4: Do your homework to determine where those influencers hang out and exchange ideas.
Step 5: Leave marketing at the door and engage in a value trade that’s meaningful to both sides. At the end of the day, you don’t buy influence (we’re not fans of that anyway). You have to earn it.
Finding non-traditional influencers does take digging and turning over rocks as well as reading and listening. Keep in mind that authenticity matters. Often this means getting to know community members, bloggers, vendors and other technical users out there.
But that’s the point.