Say you need advocates for your cause, how do you find them? When you are faced with a complex crisis situation that needs an immediate resolution strategy or when you are trying to get your opinion heard across many different platforms, who do you turn to?
Often than not, you’ll randomly pinpoint friendly individuals to speak on your behalf. We do this naturally ever since we were able to determine our influence as humans. If our mom said no, we would go to our dad or our grandmother and lobby on our behalf to get what we wanted. Get them to talk mom out of that crazy idea of saying no to me traveling around the world with a backpack and her credit cards (can’t say I always succeeded but I certainly always tried).
As you develop your communication strategy, you need to apply these basic networking concepts to your plan. But it’s really not as simple a task to accomplish as we think. Here are some basic steps you need to keep in mind in order to meet your objectives:
1. Identify your target influencers. At this stage you simply make a list of individuals you believe could speak on your behalf and that have enough visibility to make a difference with their opinion. This initial list is just a brainstorming exercise. Select journalists, prominent blog writers, social activists, consumer advocates, labor leaders, regulatory bodies, your congressman, senator, actors, publishers, C-suite individuals, media and digital gurus, religious leaders, diversity leaders, etc.
2. Determine level of prominence. Research each one on your list extensively. This is a step often overlooked but so crucial in determining who to reach out to. You must look for any public records on printed material authored or sponsored by your target individuals. Find out how much can this person really contribute to your cause. If the person has not written anything, published anything, has no exposure, does not speak at conferences, well, they are not influential in terms of outreach. As you gather more information, rank your prospects and organize them. This list should also diminish in numbers, so if you started with an original list of 200, narrow it down to 60 or less as you go along.
3. Determine level of opinion. Find out what your target influencer has publically said on the topic before or where does he/she stand on similar issues. Find out what their preferences are, how they like to communicate and how likely would they be to advocate on your behalf. Make sure they align with your mission, your goals and your objectives as closely as possible. You must also determine how accessible they are, since it’s important to rank the level of willingness to devote time to your cause from their end.
4. Develop a matrix. All your target influencers must belong to a category depending on the level of influence and opinion they have in relation to your cause or issue. The more they align with your goals and objectives and mission while maintaining a high level of influence, the more you may consider them your “friends”. The lowest category in the list must belong to those individuals that have no influence and really don’t align at all with your ideas. The ones you particularly want to focus your efforts on are those individuals that already believe in your cause but lack much influence. These target influencers could benefit your project if their visibility and reach increased. How can you help them do this? Could you promote them as speakers? Could you help them start a blog or get published? Find ways to collaborate and raise their visibility level. Also keep an eye on the influencers that are directly opposed to what you do. These people can reach out to many folks and speak badly about you, causing a great deal of damage to your reputation or delaying your project considerably. Create a lobbying effort around them before you actually make contact.
5. Reach out and touch somebody. Find out how your influencers like to communicate. Find what motivates them and search for ways to build a mutually beneficial relationship. Perhaps they want an email, perhaps they prefer to leverage social platforms or an introduction from their executive admin or direct report, maybe lunch with one of your C-Suite execs, or active support for their cause or a donation of resources to their own efforts. Once you know what the best approach is, you are ready to leave your comfort zone and make contact.
Finally, never forget that people thrive on relationships. No one wants to feel used or abused, but rather searches for that common ground that creates fertile land on which to expand business opportunities. Make sure you are aligned with their goals and objectives as well. Create partnerships and collaborative efforts that benefit not only you but everyone else around you as an ultimate result.