The Cambridge dictionary defines influence as “the power to have an effect on people or things”.
We're all trying to influence an outcome of sorts
- Businesses want to influence buyer behaviour either directly or indirectly, with the ultimate goal of selling more products and services.
- Cause-based nonprofits want to influence public opinion (and sometimes, a broader public agenda). However, often their more immediate need is to raise enough funds, whether through grants or donations, in order to keep the doors open and the dream alive. With some nonprofits — community or publicly-funded bodies that provide education around a particular disease or health issue, for instance — the objective is to influence people's behaviour.
- Politicians at all levels, of course, want to influence people's perceptions of them as individuals and the party they represent.
- A speaker/author wants to influence people to take action, whether that's to buy a book, register for a webinar, share a blog post, subscribe to an email list, or attend an event.
- A career professional wants to influence people within their organisation, particularly senior leadership. If they operate in a services-based business, being able to positively influence clients and potential clients will give you a distinct advantage.
Over time, a strategic content-first PR program can help a company, organisation or individual exert influence - in a good way of course - over desired target audience communities, whether directly or through a third-party such as the media or independent influencers such as bloggers, podcasters or power Twitter users. Critically, content can play a mighty hand in this regard.
Influence public opinion
Think about it. In all probability, a high-profile (visible) thought leader in the field of science will have a greater chance of securing funding for a major science-related project than a high school teacher.
A company that has spent years producing a robust annual research report on a particular industry topic will be better placed to influence public opinion on a said topic than an unknown company CEO who simply writes a letter on the same issue to their industry trade journal.
A business made up of subject matter experts (e.g. lawyers or consultants) who focus their efforts on creating content that educates an audience around their particular area of expertise will become more influential in the marketplace compared to their 'invisible' competitors who are not known by the public or the media for their knowledge and ideas.
Put simply, publishing high-quality relevant content online can be a powerful way for a company, organisation or individual to build and maintain authority, and with authority comes influence.
Growing influence through content
Influence comes in many forms and is fuelled in different ways through content, much of it focused around building reputation, credibility and authority in the marketplace, or community.
Content allows individuals, businesses and organisations to build an engaged audience. That brings with it a certain degree of power and influence, depending of course on the size and makeup of their audience and whether or not they can influence them to take action in some way.
People who have built an online platform, who have developed a public profile and an engaged audience off the back of the content they've created/curated/published, more often than not will have more influence in the marketplace than your average Joe or Josephine.
Heard above the din
While there will always be an assortment of factors at play, ultimately, much will come down to the content produced.
Sure, content produced by CEOs, politicians and business leaders might be driven by traditional media by sheer dint of the position they hold, but for the rest of us mere mortals, we need to become our own media channel to get our voice heard.
If your content is smart, relevant, insightful, cogent — you improve the chances of being heard above the din. If not, you're back with the rest of the herd.
If becoming an influential public voice is important for your business, cause, issue or career, then a savvy owned media strategy, backed up with an authentic presence on social media, should be the centre of your communications world.