Influence communication: communication strategy?

22 October 2018
Influence communication communication strategy

Influence communication as a communication strategy?

Communication, through the modern relays it finds today, has become an essential tool for the successful development of companies. Targeted, measured, pre-prepared communication can have positive consequences for the entire development of a company. But it is still necessary to succeed in implementing such communication, and it must be noted that this is not an easy task. On the other hand, poorly prepared and thought-out communication can put an entire company or even its stakeholders through bad times. This issue is now at the heart of the challenges facing companies operating in our modern society.

Today, it is important to distinguish between several types of communication. We can no longer talk about communication in a basic way as we have in the past. Depending on the type of activity of the company, its objectives and aims, and the company’s wishes, communication must be widely adapted. Crisis communication, institutional communication, promotional communication… Throughout this article, we will focus on influence communication, a communication that is really on the rise these days.

What exactly is influence communication? What is influence communication as part of a company’s communication strategy? As a company manager and senior executive, can we develop a whole strategy around influencing communication? All the answers to these questions, and much more, in the following lines and nowhere else.

Influence communication in a few words

First, it seems essential to us to take the time to define precisely what influence communication is. Throughout this article, we will therefore do everything possible to find out whether influence communication can be the subject of a real strategy in its own right for a company, so it is more than necessary to understand all the concepts mentioned in order to understand the content of this article. The question is whether it is possible for companies in the targeted sectors to make influence a real communication strategy in its own right, which can be implemented as part of day-to-day management?

Influence communication is therefore characterized by a whole set of processes whose primary objective is to generate, legitimize or even prevent decision-making in a public or private context. The idea is, thanks to its influence actions and its current actions, to promote or defend specific interests (commercial, ideological…) The main lever to do this is therefore that of public opinion: by acting directly on public thoughts, it then becomes possible to act on decisions that concern our company. To put it simply, it is important to say that influence is therefore what allows companies to act on their environment and on decisions taken by one or more of their stakeholders, decisions that can have positive or negative consequences on the company’s activity.

Let us take a concrete example: the Government is planning a significant increase in milk taxes. To implement their influence in the context of a specific communication, companies in the milk sector or at least those that use milk as a raw material to develop their activity will therefore implement targeted actions to try to cut short this government decision. Under the influence of these companies, and if these actions are concrete and well carried out and have a definite impact on public opinion, the government in power will therefore have every interest in reversing them. Influence communication is therefore essential for today’s companies in this respect: they can act directly on their environment by guiding public opinion in their direction. There are many other examples around us, both in France and in many other countries around the world. But it is important to understand the role that companies can have in implementing a policy of influence.

The difference between influencing communication and lobbying

Be careful not to confuse influential communication with lobbying. Indeed, these are two fundamentally different concepts but they can very often be confused. This confusion leads to a lack of understanding on the part of many people about the very nature of corporate influence. Indeed, lobbying is sometimes perceived as harmful and often at the expense of clients. To successfully make the distinction, let’s take the time to study the major differences that can exist between lobbying and influencing communication:

– The target of lobbying is always political. The company, the association, the stakeholder implementing a lobbying policy seek to exercise power over the political decision-maker in order to create a climate conducive to the development of its activity or the achievement of its objectives. Moreover, these acts are direct, rarely secret, a significant difference from the communication of influence. The lobbyist acts directly on the political decision-maker to achieve his goals.

– The communication of influence, as for it and as we said, is indirect. It seeks to influence public opinion by means that can be diverse and varied, but never direct and frontal. The idea of influencing communication is to act, first, on public opinion and then to find a lever for action on the political decision-maker. These actions aimed at influencing public opinion, it is important to note, are not necessarily at the expense of public opinion. They can quite well aim to improve his condition.

Once all these things have been said about influence communication, its origins and what makes it different from lobbying, it is time to go into more detail about the very issue of this article: can influence communication be made a communication strategy in its own right?

An influential company: a matter of choice

The influence that a company can have on its ecosystem is no longer a secret nowadays. We will come back, a little further down in this section, to the notion of ecosystem, an essential notion when dealing with the communication of influence. We must acknowledge, and many examples show us every year, that companies are now central actors in our societies and that one of their decisions can have significant consequences in many areas. It is important, however, to distinguish the influence that companies can have through their actions and communication. An oil company that decides to raise its prices significantly, an important company in the agricultural sector that decides to temporarily stop the supply of wheat or cotton… All these situations show that companies can have a certain influence first of all through their actions, but also through the communication they implement. And that’s what will interest us in this part.

The choice of influencing themes

The influence of a company as a communication policy is a choice, first of all, of themes. To be influential through its communication, a company must make choices on the themes it will address, on the communication axes on which it will base all its communication. Consistency is an essential component of successful influential communication. Consistency but also what we could call the dosage. A company that communicates too much is over-represented, a company that does not communicate enough is in the absence and restraint. These issues, which are specific to the establishment of good communication in general, are omnipresent when it comes to influencing communication. It is therefore up to the company managers and senior executives responsible for their company’s communication to do everything possible to identify the themes on which their company will be influential, and those on which it will not.

The determination of the ecosystem of his company

The other essential axis for the successful implementation of a policy of influence for a company in its communication is the determination of the ecosystem in which it operates. Indeed, this ecosystem is composed of all the stakeholders who surround the company. Customers, subcontractors, suppliers, media, politicians and all other actors in the daily life of the company, with or without a contractual relationship, but who may find consequences on the company’s development in the short, medium and long term. A well-defined, well-defined ecosystem is an ecosystem on which the company will be able to act and find a certain and measured influence. In the absence of a determination of its ecosystem, the company will have to operate in an environment that it does not control, that it does not know enough to find enough to develop its influence.

The choice of targets to be influenced

The last point on which it is important to think before implementing an influence policy for a company: the choice of targets to be influenced. Indeed, a communication whose primary purpose is influence will not be the same if it is about the company’s customers or if it is about suppliers or even political decision-makers. It is essential to take all the time necessary to determine what targets my company wants to reach, what stakeholders I want my company to influence. This reflection is truly essential and deserves all the time it needs, in order to have, in the long term, the most concrete and convincing influence possible.

For example, a strategy of influence on my company’s customers can be implemented through social networks. Indeed, customers are fond of all these media and they happen to be omnipresent on the Web and on the networks. On the other hand, if I want to have an influence on my suppliers or subcontractors, I should then implement a communication that is perhaps more institutional, more targeted, using more professional means. It is all a question of identifying targets and efficient ways to achieve them.

Influence as a communication strategy

Now that the more theoretical aspects have been established and discussed, it may be interesting to take a look at the concrete and recent examples that we can find around us. Companies, using social networks and all the technologies at our disposal, now have the opportunity to exert a certain influence on their environment, on their community. And a company that would not have this opportunity is necessarily a company that is lagging behind all its competitors. This is why it is essential to consider influence as a component that should not be overlooked in corporate communication. Be careful to note one thing: the company’s sector of activity determines, in advance, the influence it can have on its ecosystem. Indeed, a secondary sector company, the industry sector, has little interest in committing time and funds on social networks to communicate. The potential influence is only too small. On the other hand, a company in the quaternary sector, that of communication technologies, has a clear interest in being as present as possible on Twitter, Facebook and all other social networks to influence its ecosystem. In the next section, we will come back to this notion of assessing influence.

The Bagelstein company: a case study

Let us take a very interesting example when we consider the case of a policy of influence in the context of corporate communication, that of the Bagelstein company. This chain of restaurants specializing in the preparation of bagels now enjoys a reputation that is well established on social networks. The company’s community managers, i.e. the people in charge of the company’s digital communication, apply a very specific strategy. Indeed, to have influence on its community, the company implements an offbeat communication, to be taken at the second level, and which does not hesitate to bounce back on the news. Recently, the company communicated on the current case involving François Fillon by publishing an illustration depicting an empty bagel and with the following statement: “Fictive trim. 900 000€. #Fillon”. A humorous mention, however, very committed and incriminating to the politician at the moment in a complicated period.

Clearly, this well-thought-out communication implemented by the fast food chain is currently proving to be a great success. The entire community mobilized around the company is constantly sharing the content published by the company and the success is there. The number of followers on social networks is constantly increasing and the company’s turnover is even going up. A complete success for a company that has been established in France for only a few years. All this to highlight one and only one thing: the strategy of influence in its communication can take different forms, sometimes even that of humour if we believe Bagelstein’s example, but in any case, if this communication is well felt and well implemented, success is guaranteed.

Measuring the influence of your company

The last part of this article is about assessing the influence of your company following a specific communication or even before implementing such a type of communication, such an influence strategy. Thanks to all the technologies we have around us, it has never been easier to measure the impact that the actions of our companies can have. A poorly marketed product, negative customer feedback, a service that does not live up to expectations… We now have all the necessary tools to have a quick and reliable feedback on our company’s actions. Be careful though: our tools are not perfect, but they already provide a measurable and measured return, which was not the case only a few years ago.

To measure the influence of your company, the influence it may have as part of its daily communication or as part of a specific campaign, it can then be interesting to have an effective and above all efficient tool. This tool must collect all information and comments related to your company, monitor the Web as a whole and ensure all content that involves your brand or one of your products / services. The most widespread tool currently in use is “Influence Analytics”, a tool developed by Rumeur Publique. It allows you to listen and measure the audience that your company can find on all channels of influence but also on all the media you want. The more important the data collected, the easier it will be for you and your entire team to take the temperature on your customers’ reactions and comments. Of course, we all know the marketing adage “For better or for worse, the important thing is that people talk about us”. But in the context of a policy of influence, it is still essential to focus on positive comments and good reactions against your company. And this type of tool then becomes your best ally in achieving this objective.

Influential communication: a strategy like no other

As you will have understood in these few lines and paragraphs, communication aimed at increasing a company’s influence is now a popular type of communication, put forward regardless of the sector of activity. In the age of social networks, the Internet and all the connected technologies that revolve around us, companies have never had such an opportunity to influence their environment and influence decisions that affect them, regardless of who is behind these decisions.

Thus, whether you are a company manager or a senior executive, it becomes essential for you to fully appreciate the importance of a communication strategy aimed at improving your company’s influence. On social networks, in points of sale, in the markets in which your company operates… The influence has repercussions everywhere and all the time. The war is raging right now, so don’t miss out and give your company every chance to gain the influence it deserves.

In conclusion, we would like to emphasize a point that we consider essential: the consideration of influence. Indeed, generally, influence is perceived as something negative, something bad. The influence that one person can have on another may be the possibility for him or her to influence the behaviour of the other and derive substantial benefits from it. However, in the management of a company, influence can and must be perceived as the possibility of achieving a societal objective. It is by positively influencing its environment that the company can earn the trust of its stakeholders, customers and business partners. The days when companies could have a negative influence without fear of minimal media reactions are over. Today, the average customer is able to know, to obtain information about the actions of all companies. Clearly, the influence of companies as it can be promoted as a strategy and/or communication model is the true reflection of our world. This is the same world in which major brands and companies must influence their ecosystems and fully assume their societal role. This is what is important to remember about the influence of companies.

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