On this page you’ll find out how to clarify your purpose, decide who you need to talk to and understand your audience.
Influencing can take a number of different forms, but however you’re doing it, the key element is planning.
Making an influencing plan will help you define what you want to achieve, identify who can make that happen, and work out how best to help them make the change you want.
What are you aiming to achieve?
Before you start any influencing work, it’s important to be clear about why you’re doing it.
- What is your end goal?
- What change do you want to see?
- What milestones do you need to achieve to get there?
For example, if your goal is to secure long-term funding, it might first be necessary to do some awareness-raising work amongst potential investors. If your goal is reaching more people with your services, you might want to build partnerships in the local community to facilitate this.
You should be able to sum up your overall aim in a concise, compelling statement. Keep this in mind throughout all your influencing work.
Who do you need to talk to?
When you’ve identified what steps you need to take to reach your goal, you need to think about who can help you. Brainstorm all the potential stakeholders in the local area.
These might be individuals, organisations or forums (umbrella bodies or decision-making bodies with representatives from a range of stakeholders).
At this stage, it doesn’t matter whether your stakeholders are powerful or whether they are likely to be supportive – you just need to come up with a list that’s as comprehensive as possible.
Know your audience
Carry out some research to find out more about your stakeholders. This will help inform the decisions you make about who to engage with and how.
- What motivates them to get involved?
- What causes have they supported previously?
- Have they voiced opinions about palliative and end of life care?
- Do their opinions align with yours?
- What level of influence do they have?
- What networks are they a part of?
For boards, committees, organisations and bodies:
- What is the governance structure?
- What is the membership (and how do people become members)?
- How are decisions made (and what information do they need to make decisions)?
- Who are the key players?
- Where does palliative and end of life care sit within their plans and strategies?
- Do they have a statutory obligation that aligns with your aims?
- Do their overarching goals align with yours?
If you’re looking to influence in the wider health and care system, read our guide to understanding the structures and organisations of the NHS.
Once you’ve created a list of stakeholders and found out more about them, it’s time to carry out a stakeholder analysis. This will help you identify who is likely to be supportive or unsupportive, and think about how to approach them.
Decide which one of the following groups each stakeholder fits into:
These are individuals, organisations, or forums that support and agree with your cause.
Whilst they may not have direct decision-making powers, it is crucial that you engage with them as they will almost certainly have the capacity and resources to help you achieve your goal. By involving and collaborating with your allies, you can amplify your collective voice.
Detractors are individuals, organisations, or forums that disagree with your cause.
Whilst they may not have direct decision-making powers, they may still exert considerable influence on those who do. It is important that you bear this group in mind, as they could pose a significant risk to your influencing. You should be seeking to bring them around rather than antagonise them.
There are also a significant proportion of people who are neutral to your cause: they may have no real interest in the issue, or they might not even know about it. You need to inform and persuade these people to become allies rather than detractors.
Stakeholder power and interest
Your research should help you work out how much power and interest each stakeholder has. This will help determine the actions you should take to influence them.
For example, if somebody is very powerful and very interested, you should target a lot of resources into keeping them engaged. But if they have low power and low interest, you might not want to spend as much time trying to influence them.
High power, high interest: fully engage and make the greatest efforts.
High power, low interest: put enough effort in to keep them satisfied, but not so much that they become bored with, or even annoyed by, your messaging.
Low power, high interest: inform and talk to them to ensure that no issues arise. They can often be helpful with the detail of your campaign or project.
Low power, low interest: monitor but do not run the risk of alienating them with excessive communication.
You should now have a clear idea of what you’re aiming to achieve, and who you need to engage with to help you get there.
Your next steps are to decide how you’re going to influence your key stakeholders, and what you’re going to say to them.
What do you think about the ideas on this page? Join our Innovation online discussion to talk it through and share examples.