The power of influence and persuasion in internal communications

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Influence and persuasion

What do you think of when you hear the term influencer?

Chances are social media is the first thing that springs to mind, and your feelings around the word aren’t necessarily positive.

But the ability to influence and persuade is a crucial one for anyone working in internal communications, no matter what role you’re in.

In this blog I’ll look at the chaos that can happens when influence and persuasion are not being used in the right way, and I’ll explore the key things you can do to help you become more influential.

“I can’t be influenced”

Most of us like to think we can’t be influenced. Or, that if we are, we’d know when it was happening.

Research, however, suggests this is not the case. The way we make decisions, the role of bias, and our own memories are all powerful forces that come into the equation, often without us ever realising.

One of my favourite books of the last few years is You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney. It opens with the idea of ‘priming’ and the misconception that we know when we are being influenced and how it’s affecting our behaviour. The truth, he explains, is that we are unaware of the constant nudging we receive from ideas formed in our unconscious mind.  

The negative consequences of influence

Done in the right way, influencing and persuading helps create an efficient and engaging organisation. It helps motivate employees and instils a sense of purpose and unity.

Done badly and there’s a risk you’re simply papering over cracks and failing to address the real issues.

There can be chaos inside organisations when: 

  • People are influenced by those working against the organisation  
  • Influencers are used in the wrong way  
  • Leaders don’t know how to influence or persuade 

How do I influence someone?

One of the most talked-about models when it comes to this topic is Robert Cialdini’s Six Principles of Persuasion, which you can find in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. It’s widely-used in advertising and marketing, and is really helpful in understanding the techniques that persuade and influence our decisions.

The six principles are:  

Reciprocity: If you want to get something, give something 

Authority: We follow experts 

Consistency: Stick to one message 

Consensus: We follow others – we are a herd so if others do it we will do it 

Scarcity: We want what is rare 

Liking: We say yes to people we like 

So how does this play out in the workplace? And what is the risk? 

We’re all influenced all the time so when it comes to leading a team or organisation, or if you’re working in communications, you have to be mindful of the power that comes with that role.

I talk a lot about the importance of grounding your communications in what you want people to think, do and feel. The power of words, the power of communication is heavily linked to behaviour change.  

When does influencing become manipulation?

It’s so important to be aware of this, and to know when you’re straying into the wrong territory.

If we start to leverage emotions to gain something, that is manipulation.

Influence is the power to have an effect on people, manipulation is controlling something to your advantage.  

For me, influence and persuasion come back to some of the core themes of good communication – relationships, trust, accountability, change and listening.

As an individual, I have a duty to check in on myself and understand where I am influenced. I must remain self-aware so that I can know whether or not I’m exerting a good or bad influence and I have to check that my behaviour is something I am happy to be accountable for. If I’m leading a team or leading an organisation I need to make sure I’m aware of the impact and influence I can have on others.  

Five steps to building influence

I believe there are five core areas to focus on if you’re looking to build your powers of influence and persuasion.

  1. Are you credible? In this episode of my Chaos to Calm podcast I discuss three things that demonstrate your credibility – goodwill, expertise and trustworthiness. This is all applicable to influence too because it links so closely to trust. 
  2. Are you going into conversations to understand rather than win? We cannot persuade people if we are trying to win. If we go into a discussion with the view that we’re trying to understand their point of view, we can have a good conversation about a different perspective. If we go into the conversation to win, it’s likely to become a challenging discussion.  
  3. Be respectful of people’s time and attention. The best gift you can give someone is your time. It’s our most precious commodity. Be present with them, be interested in them and if you cannot make the time, tell them when you can. 
     
  4. Are you listening? And, by this, I mean really listening. In this episode of my Chaos to Calm podcast I talk about how to listen to employees. This is so important when it comes to persuasion. If you’re not listening, you cannot persuade.
  5. How are you solving their problems? I’ve spent a lot of my career within organisations as an internal communications manager, up to communications director level. During that time, I was always focused on how I could help other departments or help people get things done or do things differently. I might not have always got it right, but that focus on solving other’s problems lends itself to the goodwill element of credibility, which in turn leads to influence.  

Influence and persuasion in internal communications are indispensable tools for anyone leading an organisation or department, or working within communications. They enable us to build trust, inspire action, and drive engagement, but we must be mindful we’re using them in the right way.

To learn more about the subject you can listen to this episode of the Chaos to Calm podcast and if you’d like to chat about developing your influencing skills, just get in touch and we can arrange a call.

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Join our community

Subscribe to join our community and we’ll be in touch with helpful advice and updates about how we can take your organisation from chaos to calm. Our community gets invited to a quarterly 90-minute Ask Me Anything online session with Jenni Field, as well as early access to events, discounts and research.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.