Communications

Influencing influencers

Etymology does fascinate me, as words we use daily are so rich when you consider how they’ve taken hundred of years to form. I myself, and I’m sure many other communication folks too probably spend some time thinking about the word influence. Here’s how is was formed:

The word originally had the general sense of ‘an influx, flowing matter’, and in astrology terms ‘the flowing in of ethereal fluid (affecting human destiny)’. How lovely is that?

When we talk about influencing, it’s often far less ethereal. It’s a business competency that measures how effective you are at ramming your own ideas down the neck of other people. As communications professionals, we often go search for our elusive ‘influencers of the business’, whoever they might be.

The easy (and lazy) way to get your influencers in a business is to put a note out and ask folks to volunteer to be communications champions – that’s champion the verb, not adjective or noun. Do you remember back at school when the teacher might need a hand with something? There’d always be a person who’d stick up their mitt and be a good little student in helping out. However, I’d put my pension on betting that person wouldn’t be able to influence the rest of the class.

The same applies to business. Often the proactive people in the business will demonstrate the traits we’d need for an influencer, however in reality they’d be no more effective than sending an email to all.

I’ve recently recruited a project psychologist who has the developed the science for identifying the true influencers in the business. I’m very excited to be able to share some of the results on the type of person an influencer is and how we best utilise them to enact change in an organisation… Watch this space.

Are we in a moral crash?

I worry very deeply about separatism. I guess it’s in our DNA to want to commune with people like ourselves, and to form tribes. Our inherent distrust of things we don’t know is an in-built defense mechanism from times when civilisation wasn’t so… civilised.

But we’ve come a very long way since then. We walk upright, we cooperate, share ideas and understand concepts that look to serve bigger things than those of a single person. We work together collectively to solve problems and make enormous advances in every possible discipline that we humans touch, and some things we don’t. We put ourselves out of pocket financially or with other resources to help drive the things that matter for future generations. We finally seemed to be changing course on the Titanic reference to looking after our planet. But in 2017 we took a monumental step back.

I’m no hippy. However I do subscribe to some of the ideals they have, the differences individuals can make. Being diligent with recycling, conserving energy, not being part of the ridiculous consumerist culture and eating more sustainably sourced food. I am aware though there is a selfish motivation too – I want the world to be as pretty tomorrow as it is today, if not for me, for Jasper and his kids to come.

In 2017 the most developed nation on the planet appointed an insular, selfish, Neanderthal as its leader. Someone who casually discounts all the things our species has been doing for the good of mankind and the planet we call home. It makes me so incredibly angry that this horrid example of our species can lead the free world, but also that a fairly large wedge of society put him there. I’m also so angry that despite a constant stream of news that 10 years ago would have caused outrage in the prestigious corridors of the white house are now, fittingly, white washed into oblivion and that the morally blind continue to support this lesion of society.

However, in my last job working in stockbroking, a phrase that was thrown around quite a lot was the idea of a correction. Where advancement has taken place too quickly (in this example, with the price of an index or exchange) it would self correct – the price would fall to a price that more accurately represents the underlying value of the asset.

To turn that into an analogy, I wonder if Trump is our correction. Are we progressing too quickly along our path to moral enlightenment, so much so that our tiny minds can’t keep up? For four years we head backwards and then we can pick back up again. This gives me some hope, especially when you look at the corrections on the global markets, in this instance represented by the Dow.

To keep the analogy going, I wonder if these crashes are the financial versions of our species’ own lows, and we’re just in the latest one. I do hope so.

Wanderlust

It’s something I’ve been plagued with for a very long time. Plague is probably the wrong word, but you get the gist. This is what I’d like to do with my life, and to an extent that’s what we do. I can’t help feel that might not be in exactly the right balance as it is though. We need to be travelling far more.

Useful tool – https://traveltip.org/countries_visited.php

How the communication role changes with seniority

Entry-level communications jobs are all about delivery. You turn up, do the things that have been set out and if it’s done on time and accurately, you’ve done a good job.

Then you’re at a mid-level role where your ideas are key. Not all of them will fly, but often derivatives of them will. The thing that makes you stand out from the crowd is the inherent ability to be creative and innovative, to think of different ways to do things, and for them to be done cheaply.

Then you’ve managed to get to a level of seniority within communications, you find you spend very little time trying to help people communicate. We’re now no longer here to communicate an idea, or even come up with those ideas in the first place. Instead we’re in the business to facilitate people in finding out how to communicate themselves, and to help them come up with the idea in the first place.

With a few things I’ve worked on recently, I’ve noticed success is not in delivery, or in the ideas themselves but the quality of the interactions I’ve had with the people around me and measured in getting people to agree. Anyone at any level in communications will know that “everyone is an expert in communications”, but now managing the near continuous onslaught of opinion and debate is what makes a comms person function.

At this senior level, while great ideas do get people excited, they just won’t come to fruition without convincing people that while there will always be other ways of doing things, that this is the best way forwards. My role therefore is no longer about coming up with great ideas, but instead I’ve become an internal salesman for communication techniques.

Consumerist Christmas

Being a consumer has for some time caused me some amount of angst, as I can’t help but feel complicit in someone else’s plan. I’m not the type to say the government or large corporations are controlling us into becoming drone-consumers, but I do think that’s where the collective conscious might be heading – most behaviours are rewarded by the acquisition of material things.

Perversely, I’ve been a marketeer, so I was one of the people whose job it was to prize money from the hands of consumers. Again, I’m not doing that to control people, but because the company I worked for had the ambition to be profitable (and you can kind of understand why) it was my job to think of ways to extract money from folks. Me doing my job well meant – you guessed it – reward!

This is all part of the ever so gradual shift in mindset amongst a gaggle of generations. It was this Christmas that got me thinking about all of this. I sat watching my house full of gifts and happy people, and I should have been very happy. I was to be honest, but because of the people. However the overriding feeling I had, and still have is one of guilt. In our house we’re successful as most definitions would have it. We want for nothing, and yet we still strive for the next thing or event. We can’t sit back and think “Yep, this is enough”. Everything has to be geared towards growth and acceleration.

I wonder if me fighting this mindset is fighting the very thing that made humans as they are today. If it’s the in-built desire for improvement that has borne our advancement. If that is the case, I wonder if it’s all part of a closed system, and that it will be our demise too. Like a virus we’ll consume every ounce of the planet and then perish ourselves.

I wonder then if the next really big development in how we evolve won’t be technologically or politically, but instead spiritually? I’m not about to start preaching to a magic sky man, I haven’t made my mind up about religion just yet, but instead I mean our ability to understand life itself. I certainly couldn’t answer the questions – “What’s the point of life?”. The capitalist culture we live in is doomed to fail – I have no doubt whatsoever about that. They say that share price should always reflect the value of the underlying asset so the constant drive for more will of course fail. The Earth is a closed system!

After the over indulgences of Christmas we all hopped in the van and fled for the basics. We camped in a couple of freezing fields with only a small fan heater, no Wi-Fi, technology or even an ECU on the van and I felt so happy and relaxed. It was this very excursion that made me want to write this piece in the first place. What’s funny though, as soon as we got home, dependency on technology and the desire to be a good consumer goes up and would you believe… stress goes up too. Funny that.

Relation-ship

–METAPHOR ALERT–

In work we’re obliged to spend as much time fostering relationships as we do with actually doing work. And I do mean that for everyone. Whether you’re in an office job, out on the tools, running a business or in the creative industry. More than half your time is spent building relationships. That can feel like a burden sometimes, and other times it can get in the way of actually doing the things that earn our keep.

But there’s the flip side. These relationships pay the bills. From the most obvious – our customers, or the more removed – people that help us deliver the things for our customers. Everything comes back to relationships.

Today I heard an interesting thought, a metaphor if you will, on relationships. Consider ships. They’re built in a harbour and that’s where they’re safe. While it’s in harbour it’s moored and at home. It’s got all the support systems necessary to sustain it close to hand. Fuel pumps, paint, mechanics, spare parts, joiners. The lot. When it’s in harbour it’s got everything it needs to sustain it’s keep with exception of one thing. Money.

Everything needs the Benjamins to keep afloat. While it’s sat in harbour, it serves no purpose to the wider cause. Ships then are built for a wealth of reasons, fishing, patrol, tourism, travel, and transport to name a few. The ship needs to be well built and well maintained enough to endure the voyages it must therefore make to guarantee it’s own survival financially.

Consider then our relationships and how they’re not dissimilar to ships. Each one must be built and maintained. Each one must have a purpose and contribution to port. And all ships must be able to weather big storms and high seas to complete their goals. Only great ships can deliver, and only great relationships help us serve our goals.