The Four Key Players in the Influence Game

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To win the “Influence Game,” you must be able to effectively place those you’re seeking to influence into one of four categories, specifically champions, supporters, rank and file (or neutrals) and opponents.  Knowing this will help you figure out where and how to focus your resources.  Following are a few ideas for managing each:

Champions will carry the water for you within the influence arena.  This is especially important in legislative venues where individual citizens cannot take specific actions like introducing or voting on bills. Focus early and with some vigor on finding or developing these people.  You won’t move very far without them.

In general, supporters will vote with you and may take small actions (such as signing on to a letter or cosponsoring legislation).  Don’t get complacent about their support and certainly don’t ignore them.  You don’t want them to wander off.  One of the most common things you hear in an elected official’s office is “well yes, I support issue X, Y, Z, but no one asked me to [sign that letter, make that statement, vote for that amendment].”  This often marks the difference between success and failure.

The “rank and file” or “neutrals” often don’t have a strong opinion about your issue.  Direct your advocacy effort toward convincing them that, when it comes down to a decision they must make (such as a vote), it’s to their advantage to vote with you.  There’s always a possibility of turning neutrals in to supporters or champions.  However, the real danger is that without adequate pressure from those who influence them, they may turn into opponents — possibly even through apathy.  In legislative environments, it’s often much easier to say “no” than “yes.”

In terms of the opposition, don’t focus on trying to get them to change their mind.  If you can “coopt” them from the outset, for example by giving them something they want in exchange for their silence on an issue, try that.  Otherwise, your time is best spent understanding and responding to their arguments.

Have fun — and happy influencing!

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