To Influence, or Control – That is the Question

I recently heard a great lecture about the idea of controlling or influencing individuals. It got me thinking. What is truly better? I’m sure when you get down to the nuts and bolts, it’s a very personal decision.

The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.

–Ken Blanchard

In the fast-paced and ever-changing world of public relations and marketing, we often forget what our true purpose is. Is our purpose to control or to influence the community we want to serve or the consumer we want to buy our product?

By definition, control is to “exercise restraint or direction over; dominate; command.” The words used to describe control don’t seem very positive, do they? When you insert influence instead into the equation, how does it change the perspective?

The definition of influence is “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.” I think this word has a more positive vibe.

The people who influence you are the people who believe in you.

–Henry Drummond

I’ve worked in the field of public relations for nearly 25 years, and I’ve seen a lot of control when selling a brand or marketing a campaign. I’ve seen plenty of control in fundraising as well. Desperation is not a pretty sight.

I truly believe the best way to increase your brand is to be an influencer and engage with your audience through your content and your community in an authentic way. You need to serve others. Then it is truly THEIR choice.

In the long run, it’s more likely an individual will engage again and tell others about your organization or an individual if you are clear and consistent in your approach. Not controlling. In order to gain awareness for an organization or individual, you need to create a community and increase visibility and credibility.

The greatest ability in business is to get along with others and to influence their actions.

–John Hancock


Jennifer McGinley
Jennifer McGinleyhttp://[email protected]
Jennifer McGinley, CEO of JLM Strategic Communications, based in the Baltimore/DC Metro area, helps individuals and organizations increase their connections, visibility, and credibility through strategic and effective public relations programs. Connect with Jennifer via her social media links above.

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  1. This is so great, Jennifer! That single word shift changes everything for me. Influence suggests open-mindedness, intellectual humility, and collaboration. Control feels much more constrained and hierarchical to me. Thanks for sharing this. It’s a great message!

  2. Thank you Jennifer: wearing my consumers hat I can smell control and domination from a mile away, it makes me run for the hills and switch off in protest, even if it’s a great product. Influence on the other hand makes me feel that I belong and more importantly I matter, and that ultimately the choice is mine.

  3. Welcome to BizCatalyst 360′! Your points are well taken. Just this morning I had someone who wanted to connect on LinkedIn. I checked out his profile, and there was nothing overt that screamed SALES. But within 15 minutes of accepting, I got a solicitation. No attempt to build a relationship and show what he could do for me. Ugh!

  4. Jennifer, your article is relevant and timely. I enjoyed reading your insights into controlling individuals vs. influencing them. I choose the latter. Controlling individuals, in my opinion, leads to stagnation and robotic tendencies; and as Maureen points out, it can stifle creativity.

    I used to work for a company where the primary goal was to control everything – including the employees. It hindered creativity, and there was no innovation — the need to control contributed to the overall toxic environment that slowly evolved. It’s a shame because there was potential to do better and be better. However, influencing was almost always shot down.
    Good article, Jennifer. Thanks for providing some food for thought.

  5. Your Henry Drummond quote is so powerful for me in your writing, Jennifer. Influence to me creates a feeling of creative warmth and latitude for people in organizations to show up and be seen and be liked even. Control feels a bit more rigid and prescribed by management and perhaps harnessing creative powers. I really appreciated what you offered here and I so welcome you to BizCatalst360 and what you bring to all of us!?