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Being open makes a world of difference when it comes to being relatable. It’s the foundation and catalyst of trust.

I speculate the time a genuine insight becomes an overused, misrepresented buzzword is about two weeks. The other day a team of my colleagues were discussing the values we want to sew into the fabric of our business. When someone said ‘authentic’, it was no sooner suggested as binned. The logic being – claiming authenticity is a cliché and in actuality the proof of authenticity is shown in behaviors, not ideals. Things like speaking your mind, actively listening to different points of view and treating people with the respect you’d like to be treated with are crucial.

It got me thinking… what other misnomers should we be taking out of our vernacular. And you can guess by the headline of this post where I’m going here.

The idea of influencing the influencers is not a new one. In theory it’s a great idea. Understand whose belief systems carry more weight than others and focus on leveraging these individuals to enhance the effectiveness of your strategy. The ‘brilliance’ of the idea is in its simplicity. Marketing and comms pros love a silver bullet. The problem is, it’s not that simple.

In much the same way as you can unpack authenticity, you should deconstruct the notion of influencer. Believe it or not, LinkedIn doesn’t define it. What you really mean to say is, you want to have conversations that matter with people – whoever they are. You want meaningful connections that build trusted relationships.

We do ourselves a disservice by thinking about ‘influencing the influencers’ or ‘target audiences’. People react best when you treat them as people, not things. With humility, I have to admit, it’s not like I’ve never uttered those phrases before, but I would like to think my approach has always been one that values people as individuals above their perceived position of authority and influence.

The lesson is this – if you want to be successful you must be relatable. This means you need to stop cleaving to hyperboles and start being honest about your intention. If you think that makes you too vulnerable, perhaps you need to rethink your motives.

Be open 24/7. Being real is not a part-time job. You will be judged by your inconsistency. If you want to have more impact you need to be open about who you are, and what you are doing, regardless of who you are talking to.

Say what you mean and mean what you say. Words have meaning. I think this is forgotten too often. Test your claims. Have people who don’t work with you ask you tough questions about what you mean. If they don’t get it, or you don’t believe it – don’t say it.

Don’t be different, create difference. Bernadette Jiwa advocates in her book Difference organisations need to put customers at the centre of what they do and that being different for the sake of it makes no sense. Difference thinking is about creating meaning, as opposed to a unique selling proposition you can recite in an elevator. It is a long term mission, unrelated to what you sell.

Live your influence. Influence doesn’t exist in a box, or in a social network. It isn’t something that has a SKU. You can’t order it online from Amazon. Don’t fall into the trap of confusing influence with authority. People have brands, just like corporations, but if you want a relationship with them, you need to treat them like human beings not logos. Don’t neglect your responsibility to be real with all people you come into contact with across the course of the year. Your success isn’t contingent on one person who reTweeted you once or twice to THEIR followers.

– My name is Aaron Crowther. Follow me on Twitter @ascommstweeter

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