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Are you measuring what matters to your business?

Tired of us marketing/PR types using the word 'engagement'? Good news. We've got a new word to obsess with now. It's called influence. And Philip Sheldrake...

Tired of us marketing/PR types using the word 'engagement'? Good news. We've got a new word to obsess with now. It's called influence. And Philip Sheldrake would have you believe, "If you are in business, you are in the business of influence."

The first book I read on the subject of 'Influence' was by Dr.Robert Cialdini. He wrote on the psychology of persuasion that explains why people say 'yes' and how to apply these understandings to everyday life. Philip Sheldrake's book on the 'Business of Influence' moves the conversation from influencing individuals to how organisations exert influence over stakeholders, are influenced by them in return, relative to the manner in which competitors influence and are influenced by those same stakeholders. Early on, Philip sets out the definition of influence as, "we've been influenced when we think in a way we wouldn't otherwise have thought or when we do something we wouldn't otherwise have done."

In an age where the marketing and public relations industry are trying to make sense of the plethora of tools and methodologies available to measure success, the Business of Influence helps question the accepted norms of measurement and instead, offers a new way of shaping an organisation's structural and cultural design by focusing on the business of influence.

True to the spirit of the book and influenced by recommendations, I purchased it from iBooks and read it on my iPad, tweeting my progress to my followers and occasionally reaching out to @sheldrake to show off my digital suaveness and freshly acquired digital prowess. The books offers a rethink, drawing attention to key influence trends around mobile, privacy and data ownership, buyer marketing and trying to make sense of it all; particularly to many in the C-suite, disillusioned by the false promises and unfulfilled expectations of social media and its impact on propelling business' forward. In this post, I have, at the risk of over-simplifying, attempted to share three key takeaways:

1. Measure what you should, not what you can
Marketing and PR remain largely unscientific disciplines where measuring outcomes remains the holy grail. There's a well known story often recited at industry conferences that compares the industry's attempts at measurement to that of a 'drunk searching for a lost key next to a streetlight, not because that's where he/she thinks he/she may have lost it, but because that's where it's easiest as there's light!' My colleague and CEO of Ketchum Research, Dr. David Rockland (who is cited in this book) has been part of a taskforce at AMEC (International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication) that has attempted to give the industry's approach to measurement teeth by developing a common set of principles, commonly known as the Barcelona Principles. We, as communications practitioners have a responsibility to demonstrate and align the objectives of our profession to organisational and business goals. This also means steering clear of well-intentioned but superfluous measures of marketing and PR activity like Klout that offer a limited perspective on true influence. I love this quote by Katie Delahaiye (author of Measure What Matters), that Philip uses to drive home this point, "Ask 'So What' three times in a row and see where you get to".

2. The emergence of a new type of 'influence' professional
Having started his career as an engineer, before moving over to the dark side of communications consulting, Philip is trying to bridge the gap between the 'creative' profession of marketing and PR and the analytical rigour often demanded of a CMO by his boardroom colleagues. Acknowledging the seismic shifts effected by the emergence of social media that allows organisations to listen and engage with customers directly like never before, but also allowing consumers to coalesce powerfully while removing geographical and time constraints (think the 'Occupy movements', the Arab Spring and the Russian Winter of 2011 as examples), Philip recommends the creation of a new role called the Chief Influence Officer (CInflO) to help organisations take the best advantage of social media, integrate market research systematically across all business functions and drive the business forward. Building on the largely popular and accepted business measurement tool, the Balanced Scorecard, he also offers an 'Influence Scorecard' to help the C-level understand this new 'influence' paradigm thinking in a structure and format they are familiar with. According to Philip, the new influence professional will have an ambidextrous mind - equally happy working his/her right brain led creativity and empathy skills alongside left brain driven analysis and synthesis capabilities.

3. Measuring influence is a business discipline, not just marketing or PR
Perhaps his most unique contribution in this book is to question the blinkered approach most organisations apply to measuring ROI from advertising, customer services, media, marketing, PR, human resources etc. as if these units are somehow, expected to peacefully co-exist while working to different goals. By using influence as a common denominator across these groups, Philip aims to straighten out previously held imbalances between silo-ed operational units and harmonise their working into an interconnected network working to deliver specific and common business outcomes.

While I doubt that many CEOs will appoint a CInflO after reading this book, the marketing and PR industry would do well to consider its messages and take another look at the way in which we plan and deliver campaigns for clients that will allow them to 'influence' their publics in meaningful ways.