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It Takes Three to Tango? Rethinking Power & Influence

Taazima Kala, CIPR International committee member and General Manager and Lead Consultant of Hotwire PRC makes the case for bringing consideration into the power and influence dynamic.

Photo by Ardian Lumi on Unsplash

The Power and Interest grid feels like a PR staple for as long as I can remember. In time, many have evolved to focus on Power and Influence, which feels like a natural progression when assessing stakeholder ecosystems. It is an important nuance, no doubt; but is this enough anymore?

Power speaks to the ability to effect change or make decisions. A stakeholder with high Power, of course, stands to make decisions of real consequence, much like a policymaker on climate change looking to effect real reforms. Influence, on the other hand, speaks to the ability to wield or inspire an action from another. The climate activists who influence policymakers to act, for instance.

But in our increasingly jaded, confrontational and discerning world (not that it is all doom and gloom, but it does seem a little pricklier more often than not) are Power and Influence enough? Indeed, are they enough on their own anymore or is this tango tiring?

Recent years have created somewhat of a chasm between the two, in my view. And I must say, it feels like the chasm is widening…

If we stick with our climate change scenario, for instance, albeit in a simplified manner… Climate change activists could have little Power to provoke change, but high Influence over the policymakers that do have considerable Power. The policymakers have little Influence over the activities in terms of inspiring or encouraging them to refrain from protest; but they do have Power to either make change through policy or to stop activist activity by force or arrest, for instance. If neither actually feel moved to act, moved to speak or moved to engage, what then? Useless Power and dormant Influence not only makes Tom a dull boy, but seldom sees progress. And therein lies the chasm…

If we borrow from our friends in the legal world, however, there is something that can bridge the gap, and that is Consideration. In legal vernacular, Consideration is the benefit which must be bargained for between two negotiating parties and is the essential reason for either party entering into said contract. Whilst usually realised in the form of money, it can exist outside of monetary gain, in the form of perceived value.

If PR works to create mutually beneficial relationships, value and better societies - a definition most of us not only accept but fervently believe in - then is the value we create a form of Consideration? Consideration, both literal and in the legally borrowed definition, could be the very enabler we need to see progress realised.

  • Consideration 1 - The activist gives the policymaker something to look forward to in perceived value: a better environment that their constituents will be happy about, and maybe even long-term savings from lower carbon emissions.

  • Consideration 2 - The policymaker considers the good that can be realised and supports the effort, leveraging their Power for good; or they see an opportunity to pacify the activist and manufacture temporary peace.

Either way, whether literal or otherwise, a moment (or two) to consider, evaluate, introspect and assess the value (good or bad) of the material or meaningful pros and cons of the decision is the enabler needed to promulgate action.

Besides, what is Power or Influence without a reason to use them? Within Consideration, it would seem, lies our key. Consideration becomes equally as important as Power and Influence, now demanding of equal thought too.

As an increasingly socially conscious society, we are questioning and interrogating things more than ever before. Now, we demand more consideration of ourselves (Is this ethical? Is this the right thing to do? How does it affect the community? What is the environmental impact?). We also demand more consideration of each other (Are you doing the right thing? Is this for the greater good and about more than just profit?). Indeed, brands with heightened consideration have greater Power and Influence. Look no further than The Body Shop or Tom’s. Their following, their loyal client base and their ability to change the very nature of their respective industries is a veritable movement laden with Power, Influence and the new “secret sauce” of Consideration.

The Power and Interest grid would see high Power and high Interest stakeholders in need of close management. What then of identifying them as high Consideration too? Would we then have our work cut out for us? Or would the reason we give these stakeholders to care and to believe simply be framed differently - better - thus empowering us to all do even greater things?

Perhaps it now takes three to tango: Power + Influence + Consideration = Progress?

Now to find a grid to accommodate our three proverbial dancers before our tango starts to tangle…


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