It’s no question that brands have long held significant influence in culture. Throughout modern history, society has elevated brands to embrace them as more than product makers. They evoke meaningful responses, changes in behavior and even create associations with tribes of people. Whether for good or bad, brands have risen to iconic places of influence – determining consumer behavior, shaping values, and defining quality. Coca-Cola, Salvation Army, Nike, Apple, St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Netflix… household brand names that have inspired people for decades.
Every brand desires to be influential. Whether the goal is to influence an audience to purchase, to participate, to make a decision, or to donate, something must move them to action. But it’s important to remember that influence is earned. And it’s not guaranteed.
Remember, you may be making content widely available, but it does not mean it’s influencing your audience. A high-level examination of published research across multiple industries has revealed some common denominators that determine influence.
- Trustworthiness and Integrity
- Emotional Intelligence
- Effective Communication
- Relationship Building
In our pursuit of effectiveness, we run the risk of getting loud before getting excellent… of expecting a return before earning trust… of chasing influence without actually being influential.
But how should we go about building influence?
I have heard it said that as content creators we build boats and it’s the Lord who puts the wind in the sails – choosing how far it will go and wide its reach will be. So, as we cultivate our abilities, where should we focus? We can build expertise and effective communication. We can increase our ability to listen to our audience and build meaningful relationships. And we can be more consistent in our message and in our quality. All factors in growing influence.
We can also examine some principles of how highly influential brands operate. Here are a few to consider:
- They know that they don’t know everything. Through outside partnerships, they can be sharpened- reducing blind spots and elevating talent.
- They listen. Really listen. Through testing, measuring and research, they are in passionate pursuit of what their audience actually thinks. Not what they suspect or wish they thought.
- They are adaptable. No model lasts forever and relevance means reimagining.
I suspect that in the next 24 hours multiple brands will have your attention. And they will be experts in their field, consistent in their quality, and have effectively crafted communication. None of which will be saying “God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.” Instead, they’ll be telling you to look your best, explore the open road and binge watch the next docuseries. And they’ll present those messages with an incredible amount of influence.
While Christianity is not a brand – it’s so much more than that – it does reflect the influence that brands have: determining behavior, shaping values, and defining quality of life. Your station or network is a brand, your shows may be a brand, your platforms may be a brand. But how influential are they?
People are being influenced by brands who know how to reach them with content that moves them. And we can learn from that. As Christian media professionals, we have an opportunity to take the Greatest Messageand position it in the center of our culture – not expecting influence, but earning it through quality, compelling, carefully crafted content. Let’s do that exceptionally well and say what no other marketers can say: “the results are in God’s hands.”
So, to all the content creators growing weary of the repetition…
To all the wordsmiths trying to say something fresh…
To all the executives trying to go further, faster:
Build the boat. And make it a really good boat (invite help, listen, adapt).
Raise the sail. And raise it high.
Then let God breathe wind into it and take it where He chooses.
Together, we can fulfill the CMB mission of giving more platform to the gospel message so that more people, in more places, encounter Jesus.
3 things you can start doing now (to build a really good boat):
- Find the most influential person you can get an audience with and ask them to critique your work. Make it easy for them to be critical. Honesty, not flattery.
- Elevate your input. What we create is significantly influenced by what we consume. And we can’t take people to places we haven’t been ourselves. From going deeper in the scriptures to absorbing world-class media, strengthen your sources of inspiration.
- Do less so you can do better. Nothing diminishes influence faster than high-frequency, low-impact content. Perhaps doing less means listening to your audience more and adapting to what they’re telling you.