What we think

6 items for your influencing agenda

21st April 2017 Posted by: Ethicore

By Jane Thurlow

Building influence is critical for organisations with a social or environmental agenda, whether commercial, NGO or institutional. Managing reputations has been Sue Wolstenholme’s (Ashley Public Relations) life’s work and we were lucky enough to hear her thoughts at a recent workshop. We’ve been reflecting after the session on six items for your influencing agenda.

  1. Shape your message: Have something to say and make it relevant. Without it other people will fill the gap with their own interpretation – of the issue you want to communicate – and of you.
  2. Understand who you’re talking to: Identify your influential audiences (they could be decision makers, advisors, funders, journalists or others). Get to know them: their interests and concerns, the things they enjoy and the issues they face. Step into their shoes and see things from their perspective.
  3. Find common ground: Be proactive in building relationships: where do your interests overlap? Build the conversation from here. Show interest and listen as well as talk, evolve your understanding together.
  4. Be strict with your time: Set measurable objectives from the start, in terms of numbers of relationships, in specific areas for particular purposes (with specific people if you can). Set time periods or else it can drift as you busily meet crowds at events and follow them up.
  5. Build the consensus: Bring together ‘coalitions’ of like-minded organisations and individuals and convene the conversation. You can’t do it alone. Amplify and build your message with the voices of those who share your concerns.
  6. Change opinion: By building a shared understanding, and creating the space for dialogue you will build the momentum for change. Aim to shape the debate with others, and build a shared sense of direction among your audiences to influence structural change.

Sue knows influence is all about relationships. Having a clear message is important, but getting to know those you want to bring with you and developing a dialogue is essential to shape the debate and build consensus. Working through the 6 items on your influence agenda provides a targeted approach to influence, built on robust relationships and shared understanding. Time to get talking …

Sue Wolstenholme is MD of Ashley Public Relations Ltd and has been working at a senior level in public relations for over twenty years. She is currently involved in advising on crisis issues for national public and private sector bodies.

Jane Thurlow has over 20 years experience working in research, strategy, innovation and marketing in the commercial and charity sectors.

Citizen science – the new facts on the block?

11th April 2017 Posted by: Ethicore

By Jo Zaremba

In a muddled world of facts and alternative facts, we need a shared search for truth and meaning between publics, companies and governments. Scientists, economists and other professionals are being questioned, along with their evidence based arguments, diverted by the spread of ‘alternative-facts’ [1]. Now, more than ever before, we need to find a way to position objective and unbiased bodies of evidence to support the key solutions and inform the directions and decisions of companies as well as governments[2]. Within this milieu civil society stands out as a critical force to drive the sustainability agenda.

The tools and approaches for gathering evidence exist. The question is how to apply these mechanisms – in a collaborative way that fashions trust, understanding and participation – with a public who are increasingly suspicious of ‘expert’ opinion. Citizen science offers an opportunity – not only for passive data collection by people, but for engagement in its analysis, and in translating this analysis into action.   It also provides the space much needed to create what some believe is the true meaning of ‘shared value’ based on morality and not just a ‘business case’:

Now is the time when those shared values are coming increasingly under threat—in our politics, in our climate, in our communities. (…) With many societal and environmental values under threat, companies will need to make a choice. This can be a transformational moment for the private sector to show how businesses can lead—not just because it’s in their own long-term self-interest, because it’s in the best interest of society. [3]

The call for well informed and substantiated messages will be crucial as will the ability to collect, analyse and present vast and complex data sets to a range of audiences: companies, government and the public [4]. This is a new frontier for civil society and for the private sector, to work with evidence in a truly democratic way, enabling the power of the people, as data collectors and influencers to inform corporate strategy for the benefit of all.

Jo Zaremba is a development professional, specialising in markets analysis and markets based approaches, corporate responsibility, and environmental practices. She is currently Senior Development Manager at Earthwatch Europe.


[1] See for instance Union of Concerned Scientists – http://www.ucsusa.org/news/press-release/EPA-USDA-scientific-integrity#.WKMqYjvyi70.

[2] Anthesis BLOG. The Business Case for Science Based targets. 8 February 2017. http://anthesisgroup.com/business-case-science-based-targets/

[3] Laura Gitman When the Business Case and Shared Value Aren’t Enough, 7 Feb 2017 – https://www.bsr.org/our-insights/blog-view/when-the-business-case-and-shared-value-arent-enough

[4] Anthesis BLOG. The scientific revolution: science-based materiality, and aligning with the SDGs. 08 November 2016 http://anthesisgroup.com/scientific-revolution-science-based-materiality-aligning-sdgs/

Strategy Like you Mean It

8th December 2016 Posted by: Ethicore

By Rachael Clay

slide1“Can you help us develop our strategy for [insert theme here]?” “Sure”, we say, “Is that a piece of paper, or the actual impact you want?”  

Strategy can be about so many things… securing funds, keeping a board happy, demonstrating team worth. Often, the focus is on getting a strategy signed off. But that is just the beginning. If you do ‘strategy like you mean it’, you want to understand what it will take to deliver your goals. You are going to need depth, diffusion and delivery.


A strategy for impact needs to be built on deep insight in the internal as well as the external issues, opportunities, markets, trends and targets. But you also have to…

  1. Think about the plan right from the beginning. Where could the energy, influence, budget, capacity and impact come from?
  2. Understand what it will really take to deliver your objectives. You have to actively listen to your stakeholders and immerse them in your work.
  3. Keep your blockers close. Listen hard to their challenges and respond to them, letting them be part of the solution.


A strategy for impact needs ownership and commitment to the strategy diffused throughout the organisation. You can facilitate diffusion by encouraging the freedom to develop the strategy at all levels:

  1. Co-create the direction with others, both internal and external. New online collaborative tools mean there is no excuse for working in splendid isolation.
  2. Socialise the strategy to inspire and engage all stakeholders, e.g. create moments to immerse teams in the strategy.


The impact is only achieved when the strategy is implemented well.

  1. Capture the energy and commitment for the direction in a plan. Make it smart and deliver some quick wins.
  2. Demand, reward and enable leadership of the strategy with simple, empowering and positive communications.

We all know that a strategy on paper doesn’t make change happen. It is the people who shape it, own it and deliver it that do. So, let’s do strategy like we mean it: develop it with depth, diffuse it and deliver it for impact.

Rachael, Director of Ethicore, established the company in 2008 to help sustainable businesses, influential NGOs and institutions have a better impact through insight, engagement and partnership.

What can Partnership Development Learn from Sales?

21st October 2016 Posted by: Rachael

By Jane Thurlow,  Ethicore Associate

Talking to a friend with a lifetime’s experience in sales, I was struck by how good sales strategies can be used to inform approaches to successful partnerships.  Astute sales people understand the art of collaboration and relationship building more than most and have a battery of tools, which can be equally valuable when approaching a  partnership.

The key to having a successful sales relationship starts with understanding your customer’s perspective.  Being a good listener helps.  If you’re a naturally collaborative problem solver, even better.  You’re looking to help your customer define the problem and then co-create solutions with them.  Sound familiar?

Good sales people will help their buyer recognise the problem, rather than seeking to define it for them. There are specific types of questions that can help[1]:

  1. Build context and understanding: Discover facts and background information, as partnerships are often situation based.
  2. Help your partner ‘self diagnose’ the problem: Asking about problems, difficulties or dissatisfactions can help with problem diagnosis.
  3. Enquire about the effects or consequence of a problem, examining the implications. These questions are particularly powerful and can stimulate the need for action.
  4. Explore the value or usefulness of a proposed solution to understand the need-payoff. Skilled questioning can encourage people to recognise the need for a particular solution.

Equally important is understanding the ‘buying’ process: who the users, influencers, buyers, deciders and gatekeepers are.   This is complex stuff and understanding how to match individuals from your own organisation to your customer’s (or in this case partner’s) is key.  Think about their organisational roles, but also their behavioural styles. [2]  Got a highly analytical influencer?  Bring your best technical people to the table to explore possibilities.  An expressive gatekeeper? Then you’ll need to consider a communicator who can incentivise them.

Building relationships is the first step in developing partnerships. Once you’ve built a solid base, you’re onto long-term value creation for partners. More on that another time…


Jane has over 20 years experience working in research, strategy, innovation and marketing in the commercial and charity sectors. She enjoys informing thinking and decision making, highlighting the strategic choices that an organisation needs to make.

[1] SPIN selling, Neil Rackham, McGraw-Hill Education

[2] Social Style Model, Tracom Group, http://tracomcorp.com/social-style-training/model/