8 Tried and True Ways to Build Your Influence

Crowdsourced advice from a multi-generational group of marketers

LinkedIn's Ty Heath spoke at the CMO Moves Summit. Sean T. Smith
Headshot of Heide Palermo

At the CMO Moves Summit East, LinkedIn’s Ty Heath, Deloitte’s Suzanne Kounkel, UniWorld Group’s Monique Nelson and former PepsiCo president Brad Jakeman took the stage to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly of influence today. To kick off the session, Adweek’s executive editor Stephanie Paterik posed one question to the diverse group of marketers in the room: What’s one thing that’s worked well for you in building influence?

From all attendee responses, we found eight key themes–from listening first to paying it forward. Here’s the full list, including why they are important:

Be a good listener

“It’s important to listen and be genuinely interested in creating impact on others. Influence comes with impact,” said Adweek mentee Adebayo Owosina, creative director, The Hook agency (based in Nigeria).

“Make the time to listen to all people and use the learnings in your work to show appreciation to those who inform your perspective,” added Jeanine Liburd, chief social impact and communications officer, BET.

“Listening. … How can you influence if you don’t understand?” added Jessy Jacques, senior account manager, Xandr.

“Listening to our clients about their problems, aspirations, context and existing understanding,” said Melissa Cullens, CXO, Ellevest.

“Actively listening,” said Neville Hall, solutions consultant, Xandr. “As an introvert, I spend a lot of time observing, listening and learning. When I am ready to respond, it’s done in a thoughtful, authentic way.”

And from an attendee who remained anonymous: “Asking questions rather than offering solutions straight away, so people feel brought in.”

Add value

“Sharing resourcefulness” is how former CMO of Gap Alegra O’Hare operates.

“Finding opportunities to add value to the lives of those around me,” said Singleton Beato, chief diversity and engagement officer, McCann Worldgroup.

“Show the value to key stakeholders–then, leverage these key stakeholders to be your champion,” said Shivanku Misra, global senior director, marketing analytics, Hilton.

“Building personal connections with people through giving. I try to see the ways I can help others with my experience or skill set. … Giving pays dividends in unexpected ways, including influence,” added Lizzie Chapman, vp of media, VaynerMedia.

Build honest and authentic relationships

“Building influence starts with building a relationship first, leading to trust and a genuine belief that you have someone’s best interest at heart,” said Fabio Marciano, director of digital marketing, Benjamin Moore.

“Showing up as myself and being authentic has helped me gain trust and build relationships. When you have trust, you’re able to influence,” added Jamie Wideman, vp marketing, Terlato Wines.

“Being authentic as a baseline for creating meaningful relationships sets you up to then be influential,” said Miriam Mburu, global senior marketing manager, Boston Consulting Group.

“Going the extra mile to get to know individuals personally,” added an anonymous attendee.

Embrace empathy and humanity

“Bringing a combination of data-driven insights with the authenticity and humanity of being a purpose-driven professional,” said Lizette Williams, head of cultural engagement & experiences, U.S. marketing, McDonald’s.

“Engage with your audience–be human and responsive,” noted Tamara McCleary, CEO, Thulium.com.

“Sending a hand-written, authentic, personalized note of gratitude to every individual who made the time to meet with you 1:1,” said Jeanne Fu, vp, digital marketing, M&T Bank.

“Trust and empathy. Many don’t take the time to build that type of relationship to really let others get to know you, and you them,” added an anonymous attendee.

Be vulnerable

“Asking for help is a great way to get buy-in from peers and bring them along for the journey,” said Danielle Lee, global vp, Spotify.

“I have found that revealing more about things you are struggling with or want to learn opens you up to a more authentic connection with others. And influence is all about connections, right?” posited Merry Smith, director of media, Big Communications.

“For me, the key to influence is honesty and authenticity. It’s admitting when I don’t know so that people trust me when I have something to say and flex my expertise,” said Ro Kalonaros, manager, OMC Hive, Omnicom.

Lean into your expertise

“I’m stealing this from a CMO Moves podcast with Denise Karkos, CMO of Sirius Pandora. She shared a story of being frustrated not having more influence with those above her in the organization. She got some great feedback, that stuck with me ever since: Don’t spend your time trying to have all the answers. Ask smart questions. You move from experienced to strategic,” said Nadine Dietz, chief community officer, Adweek.

“Leading the way in thought leadership and truly taking risks in the industry,” added an anonymous attendee.

Foster collaboration

“Influence is all about collaboration. Building the best ideas and making something great,” said Leah Rogers, digital properties leader, NiSource.

“Truly care about the needs and goals of partners, allowing trust to form which makes influence much easier,” said Melissa Christian, director of brand management, DICK’s Sporting Goods.

“Working across multiple departments and always identifying ways I can help others has been critical to me building influence,” said Danielle Mack, senior director of development, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center.

Be a source of inspiration

“After meeting someone where they are, and really understanding their POV, inspiring them to see things differently but getting to the same end goal,” said Jen Burns, head of candidate brand, Discover Financial Services.

“Inspiring teams and peers. Being a source of inspiration helps to shift mindsets in a positive direction,” added an anonymous attendee.

@heidefaith heide.palermo@adweek.com Heide is the senior director of brand community at Adweek and Editor of the Inside the Brand series, including the CMO Moves and Gen ZEOs podcasts, Innovators, Challengers, and Women Trailblazers. She also leads Adweek's Innovators Council.