This article was originally published in 2015 and has been completely updated in 2020.
Influence at work is an elusive quest. As communicators we all seek how to create more influence for ourselves among our workplace peers and bosses. Some people know intuitively how to become more influential, but most of us grapple with the right formula for success.
Julie O’Neil conducted a fascinating study of 309 US corporate PR practitioners to determine what factors contribute most to the organizational influence of corporate public relations practitioners, and what types of upward influence tactics have the most impact on their organizational influence. She found a strong relationship between perceptions of value and organizational influence, which implies that much of a public relations practitioner’s power is fluid and informal rather than formal. These findings have stood the test of time.
O’Neil identified four factors that contribute most to the positive organizational influence of corporate public relations practitioners:
O’Neil’s research project found that the extent to which communicators exert influence up the line to our bosses and senior management can be found in three key factors of upward influence. Upward influence tactics are communication messages designed to persuade a more senior employee in order to facilitate achievement of an organizational objective.
Rationality – the use of facts and data to support a logical argument or to alter the thinking of a supervisor. Don’t just point to a growing need without evidence; point to the findings of focus groups, research and precedents from elsewhere.
Assertiveness – a direct and forceful approach
Coalition – making claims about the support of others in the organization or in the community of one’s position. [This would be consistent with Cialdini’s principle of social proof – people will do or say things that other people are doing or saying].
Surprisingly, some findings in O’Neil’s research were contrary to the view of many people:
Source: Julie O’Neil (2003). “An investigation of the sources of influence of corporate public relations practitioners.” Public Relations Review, 29(2), pp. 159-169.
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