I love it when two passions combine. Adam Stones’ recently published Influence does that for me. Changemakers take note: this book is filled with expert advice, guidance and tools to improve the communications for your cause or business (as a third sector communications leader this resonates with me) but not only that, it takes on an almost coaching approach to the subject, empowering readers to take control of their own influence (as a trained coach, I love the connectedness between comms and coaching).
To describe Influence as a ‘book’ almost does it a disservice. Yes it comes on the printed page, but it’s much more experiential than this.
The author invites you to create your own Influence Canvas designed specifically to help you capture your own insights as you progress through the pages, with the aim of having your communications plans for the year ahead pinned to your own wall.
Influence is essential reading for anyone with a big idea who is determined to change the world, and who needs a hand getting their message right knowing where to start. Charity leaders, business owners, campaigners, entrepreneurs and disrupters would all benefit from reading this book and experiencing it.
As more people get disillusioned with the corporate world and instead choose to set up alone and turn their passion into a business, Influence has come at just the right time as a useful companion for anyone needing to get a message out there and take on the world.
The 5 Traits of Influence
The book’s author Adam Stones is an award-winning writer and communications strategist working with people and brands making a positive impact. He has combined this depth of experience with his research into people and organisations that are powerful communicators to produce five core traits that every successful leader uses to enable them to influence.
In brief, these five traits are:
- Purposeful. Being driven by a bigger cause vision for a more positive future
- Personal. Their message is not about ‘them’ but ‘us’ – as the audience for their message.
- Distinct. Having a consistent, recognisable profile and clear and accessible message to share
- Active. Powerful communicators ‘walk the talk’, they back up their words with actions, use their knowledge of how change really happens and learn from their mistakes.
- Skilled. It may sound obvious, but they are skilled at what they do, exude confidence and possess the essential communications skills to get ahead – persuasive conversations, public speaking, writing, and speaking to the media, to name a few.
The author guides you through these five traits and asks you to take on practical tasks and challenges that will allow you to excel as a communicator for your own message.
Influence is rich in its insights and resources, which means it is hard to give it justice in just one book review. But for me, there are a few distinct highlights:
Finding your sweet spot
When it comes to finding your purpose, the author highlights that ‘no one-size-fits-all’ and it can range to the epic to the everyday. He uses a model as a way of finding out where your purpose is – essentially the overlapping part between ‘what the world needs’, ‘what your passions are’ and ‘what you are great at’.
This is very similar to Japanese concept of Ikigai, which is often used in coaching when clients are at a crossroads in life and want to find more meaning – often tied into quitting the rat race to set up something more meaningful to them aligned to their values. The concept of Ikigai invites you to look at where your passions are, what you are competent at and what the world needs (essentially allowing you to make an income from what you are good at). It is this ‘sweet spot’ where you will find your purpose or cause – be it championing better mental health or advocating for governments to take climate change more seriously. Another great example of the overlap between comms and coaching.
Brands are more than shiny logos
As someone who has worked within in-house comms teams for many years, I often smile a familiar smile when organisations talk about ‘brands’ and automatically the conversation turns to the logo you use on your website and print materials. I was therefore delighted that the author explains that brands are much more than this. Brands are connected to your vision, mission, your story (how you and your organisation came to be), what your core offer is, your style of communicating and the clear positions you have on the issues of the day.
Why, how, what
Anyone who knows the British-American author and popular TED talker, Simon Sinek, will be familiar with his book Start With Why which challenges people to understand their own why – ‘Most leaders know “what” their organisation does, some know “how”, but very few know “why”.’
Influence suggests that these three aspects connect to your brand:
- Why. Your purpose and your vision for the world.
- How. Your mission, values and USP (unique selling point).
- What. The offer that you have (services, campaigns etc.).
Do not be mistaken, this isn’t a misspelt pasta sauce, it actually stands for: Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned and relates to how you categorise and prioritise the comms channels that you use to get your message across to your audience.
- Owned refers to things you have control over – for example, your website, events and emails – which allow you to clearly share your message in your own language.
- Shared refers to things co-owned by you or what you have contributed to – for example, we own our social media channels, but they are shared as a result of interactions with others.
- Earned refers to activities that are a result of relationships or influence – taking part in media interviews, blogging on someone else’s site, speaking at conferences or events – these are all examples of Earned opportunities.
- Paid refers to thing that, you guessed right, you pay for. Ads on social media and sponsored opportunities are all examples of this.
Time to fly
At the end of the book, the author invites readers to crack on with developing and delivering their own communications plan for whatever business they are in. To take risks and learn from mistakes. To build up their influence.
Influence is something I will keep by my bedside and continually dip into, particularly useful for those 4am moments of inspiration that we all have.
Influence by Adam Stones is available to buy at Waterstones.
Mike Findlay is a senior communications professional, freelance writer and life coach. He is the book review editor for Psychreg. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeFindMedia.