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What Reality TV Can Teach Us About Influence

Jun 13, 2019 • Aaron Goldman

Last week I participated in a panel on the topic of “How to influence anyone” at the SurveyMonkey Curiosity Conference in Chicago and, curiously, we kept coming back to reality television to illustrate our examples.

Joining me on stage was Josh Bean, Zendesk Director of Marketing, and Brad Messinger, Senior Customer Marketing Manager at LinkedIn, and the session was hosted by Jack Foster, Senior Director of Demand Generation at SurveyMonkey.

I kicked things off by asking everyone to close their eyes and picture what comes to mind when hearing the word “influencer.” Was it someone on Instagram? Did they have the last name Kardashian?

We then went in eyes wide open to debate what is it about influencers that makes them so good at influencing. From there, we discussed how to apply this in our day-to-day roles as marketers to influence customers or co-workers.

Here’s where we landed:

  1. Do your research. Given we were at a SurveyMonkey event, it’s no surprise that actively gathering data was one of the key takeaways. You can’t just go with your gut. Gathering inputs is a crucial step in forming strategic recommendations.
  2. Know your audience. Any good influencer knows what their followers are interested in and who or what is likely to influence them. We talked about influencing the influencers to drive influence – say that ten times fast! – and pointed to Season One of The Apprentice when Bill Rancic went out of his way to impress The Donald’s lieutenants, Carolyn Kepcher and George Ross.
  3. Show vulnerability. While influencers are brands, they’re people first and there has to be authenticity to create connection. The Hamilton musical, while not a reality TV show (yet), came up as an example of how to use storytelling as a means of showing empathy. When Hamilton and Jefferson meet in “the room where it happens” both fully understood what the other wanted and what they’d need to give up to get their way. Later, Hamilton discloses his infidelity in the ultimate show of calculated vulnerability.
  4. Keep it simple. When crafting your message, consider the single most important thing you want people to remember. Then cut everything else away. Even reality TV requires heavy editing. And lighting. 🙂
  5. Lead by example. Sometimes the best way to influence is by doing and not telling. Back to the Kardashians, they act as if the cameras are always watching. We can and should take the same approach and carry ourselves as if our audience is always watching and make sure our actions are always on brand and aligned with our audience’s values – which, of course, we know because we’ve done our research!

Keep an eye out for 4C next week in Cannes curiously #CrossingTheCroisette and chatting #CrossChannelVideo.

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