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The Top 6 Influence Lessons

My colleague, Dr. Kelton Rhodes and I inaugurated our list of “Influence Lessons.” They are influence tactics and /or campaigns that caught our attention and our brief insights on each.

Stealth is Better

We were intrigued that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced their campaign to promote free enterprise. While a laudable goal, it’s never great to announce what you’re doing because it gives your opponents time to ramp up very quickly.

As Kelton observed: “Usually you don’t pre-announce an influence campaign; it’s not S.O.P. to forewarn people you’re going to try to persuade them, because that causes people to resist persuasion more vigorously. Think what “shock and awe” bought us…stiffer resistance. Also, that gives the opposition plenty of time to organize and act. I noticed the SEIU sprang into action shortly after the announcement, damning USCC preemptively with a campaign of their own.”

Taking Stakeholder Heat

We’ve had several clients who are experiencing an increase in disgruntled PAC members, grassroots volunteers, etc. because of their organizational position on health care reform. The groups that have handled it most adroitly have put a very high ranking official on the front lines with the upset members and took the heat.  You can’t solve an emotional response with logic, you’ve got to go to your people, listen, and take it. Yes, it can be a “tension convention,” but it has to be done.

Dr. Brad Sagarin will teach the psychology of managing stakeholder hostility at Innovate to Motivate® 2010: www.innovatetomotivate.com. Click on “Program Agenda” to read more about this great workshop and to register.

Spin vs. Values

In an example of why just changing words does not change minds (“spin”, anyone?) health care reform advocates tried to win more public support  by using the phrase “health insurance reform” instead of “health care reform.”

However, wasn’t it interesting to see how the public didn’t catch on to that language? It quickly reverted back to health care reform vs. health insurance reform. Even the media didn’t use it. Just shows you that spinning is different from values-based message development.

Recognize the Little People

I submitted comments to a newspaper regarding WalmartWatch.com.  I didn’t comment whether it was good or bad organization, but simply that other groups would emulate their approach to grassroots organizing against particular companies.

Again, I wasn’t complimenting their work or taking one side or the other. I received a thank you letter and a t-shirt in the mail from WalmartWatch.com.  It certainly got my attention, especially since I don’t belong to the organization or pay dues.

Who’s out there talking about your organization that you should recognize?

Be Nice to Gain Attention

I am not discounting or denigrating the concern and frustration expressed by voters during the August Town Hall meetings. I am always encouraged when people get off their computers and on the streets.

But it  reminded me of Samuel Butler’s observation on this topic: “A man convinced against his will holds his own stronger still.” No matter how legitimate the anger or frustration, your grassroots volunteers will never, ever, change a legislator’s mind ‘cussin and ‘fussin over an issue. In fact, they can be disarming and get attention when they are nice yet persistent.

Don’t Manipulate Me

We noted that the physicians who appeared with President Obama to show their support of health care reform made sure to wear their white lab coats. It’s not a terrible tactic; the white coat and the M.D. title are automatic authority signals, and doctors do still have high trust with the public compared to other professions.

The only problem was that prior to the press conference, they were passing out the white coats and the press snapped a picture of that.

As Kelton reminds us, “A recognized influence tactic is at risk of becoming a failed influence tactic.”