Influence Is Everywhere: February 2014

Influence in the news

Spent some time the other day reading February 3—9 edition of BusinessWeek, and was struck (once again) with the reality that the desire to influence others is everywhere! And I won’t even comment on the low hanging fruit that is Super Bowl advertising.

One article is titled “A Farm Bill Only a Lobbyist Could Love,” talks about 350 companies spending $150 million on Senate farm bill lobbying in 2013. Yikes. Reciprocity? Bribery? You decide! “In the past, lobbyists armed with millions of dollars might have expected to walk away from the fight with fistfuls of special tax breaks and other incentives. This time the goal was merely to keep their pet programs from getting cut to the quick.”

In our class, Influence Without Authority, we talk about building trust, which increases credibility, and is directly related to the amount of influence you have with others. One way to build trust is to be accountable, particularly when things don’t go well and how apologies impact credibility in a good way.

The next article I'll mention was about a major university attempting to minimize an academic corruption scandal—apparently it’s bad to change (an estimated 500) grades without authorization or to offer class credit for (“hundreds of”) fictitious classes in order to keep athletes eligible for their sports. “Eight campus officials have either been fired or resigned under pressure…the executive vice chancellor and provost travelled to New York to meet with Bloomberg Businessweek. ‘Horrible things happened that I’m ashamed of’…Yet at the same time [he] expressed contrition for the scandal, he continued to attack the person who brought [this series of violations] to light.” This kind of defeats the purpose and impact of the Mea Culpa!

Another article explains why MillerCoors has come out with a new beer named Miller Fortune. “With a malty, complex flavor hinting at bourbon,” this brew is intended to be sipped on ice, like spirits. Since 1999, the hard liquor manufactures have taken 6% of US market share away from beer makers. MillerCoors’ head of innovation commented, “We asked, ‘How would Jack Daniel’s or Maker’s Mark do a beer and why?’” If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, this would be social proof, which says that we learn how to act by observing the behaviors of others. Historically, beer companies have done all sorts of things to create influence, both differentiating their products and showing their products in a unique light. Freshness dating is an example; the logo that changes colors when it’s cold; the wide mouth can; the can with the key-hole punch that makes it flow faster or slower out of the can; AND NOW…the screw top beer, because you’re going to cap it until tomorrow to finish it. Really?

Finally, right after the beer as booze article, comes one about Sony Music Entertainment, hoping the get a bump in music sales by focusing on jazz. There’s an accompanying graph showing that as a percentage of albums sold, jazz has dropped from about 3.5% (15 million units) to close to 2% (3 million units). As a result of this, most music labels are dropping jazz from their line-ups. Sony hopes that be being one of the few music companies willing to promote jazz (records, discs and downloads), more people will be attracted, and purchase other music forms while shopping for jazz. That’s scarcity—people put more value on items that are less available.

Then, there’s BMW building bobsleds for Team USA, but that’s low hanging fruit as well. Influence is everywhere. Open your eyes and you’ll see it. Better yet, create a plan and get some for yourself!

Joe Friedman highlights the four major components of influence in a broad overview of the skills and types of information participants in the Influence Without Authority course learn.