7 Levels of Influence: The Importance of Knowing your Audience

Nov 4, 2013 Articles

"If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect."- Benjamin Franklin

Recently, I was with a group of alumni from one of our programs. One individual shared a story with the group that reinforced the importance of understanding your audience. She started the story by telling us she had a new Vice President and presented an idea to him that would transform the department. Her plan addressed the needs of the organization and would save money. Going into the meeting, she presumed he would approve her plan. To her surprise, however, she did not get the approval to move forward!

After some discussion, she realized that her audience was uninformed. The new Vice President did not understand why the project and resources were necessary. Many of us are spending months, weeks, and hours on key initiatives but forget that our audience may be hearing the idea for the first time.

When you think about communicating with individuals or groups, it is essential to analyze the audience and determine any possibilities for resistance to your idea/initiative. Is your audience:

  1. Openly Supportive: willing to work actively to support your position.
  2. Supportive: understands your position, likes it, but isn’t taking action.
  3. Uninformed: doesn’t understand your position; they have no opinion.
  4. Undecided: understands your position and cares about the issue; but they are torn as to whether to be supportive.
  5. Neutral: understands your position; but they are neither “for” nor “against” it.
  6. Unfriendly: disagrees with your position but may not take action against you.
  7. Openly Unfriendly: disagrees with your position and will work against you.

Once you have determined where your audience is in the 7 Levels of Influence, your goal is to move them up 1 level at a time.

The client that did not get her project approved was able to take the 7 Levels of Influence and created a new communication to her Vice President. Her goal was to present the business case in a way that was interesting to him, while clearly articulating her point of view. At the end of the meeting, she was able to move him from uninformed to supportive. Similarly, the 7 Levels of Influence will help you determine the distance between where key audiences are and where you want them to be.

Create your legacy by advancing the organization through influencing others. The best is yet to come!

- Jennifer Maxson



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