Interview with Joseph Simpson of Impact Brand Building
We learned about his personal path to an impact-led career, his expectations for the course, and a few of his favorite tips for helping sustainability leaders to build thought leadership. Read on.
What exactly is Impact Brand Building and what inspired you to start on this endeavor?
One of the greatest shifts we’ve seen in our economy over the past twenty years has been the transition towards impact-via-business. Sustainability is no longer an afterthought (CSR) or related to philanthropy, but has become a primary mechanism for simultaneously creating profit and a better world. This shift has created totally new sectors and transformed old ones in no time at all. But many, even within the impact industry itself, are struggling to keep up with these developments.
One of the primary challenges in the world of impact today is bridging the gap between the old way of creating impact and impact-through-business. Whilst the majority of us now believe that business should be a primary force in creating impact at scale, we continue to hold on to too many of the character traits from the old days: The way we communicate being a major one.
That’s why I started working with impact-driven brands and wrote my first book for sustainable startups: Because to empower those who are building the foundations of a sustainable economy — the impact economy — tomorrow’s impact-driven leaders have to communicate more effectively.
Why did you partner with Net Impact Amsterdam on the upcoming ‘Thought Leadership for Impact Makers’ course and what do you hope participants will get out of it?
The decision to partner with Net Impact Amsterdam was an easy one. This inspiring community comprises tomorrow’s impact-driven leaders and it is imperative that we empower them to increase their influence and their authority. Creating impact at scale is multifaceted and requires not only purpose, but also disruptive thinking, vision and compelling narratives of a new normal. Essentially, to build the impact economy, it is imperative that the right stories are told to the right people. With this course, I hope that participants walk away with an understanding of how, and the confidence to, raise their voice in their industry, create these narratives and distribute them where they will have the most impact.
Could you share a few of your favorite tips to help Net Impact Amsterdam members effectively influence decision makers for greater impact?
Thought leaders deliver their vision of a better future to a specific audience and back them with passionate and action-oriented arguments. They use real life stories to demonstrate their intention and their own experiences to ensure they’re authentically able to connect with industry. They have a view of the future that is positive and turn it into an action plan for their audience. And they do all of this in an understandable and easily digestible manner.
In my experience there are three key types of messages to use to gain influence in your industry:
1. Personal Communications (Purpose)
No matter what you’re selling or to who — and every time you communicate, you’re selling something… you just have to hope that the person on the receiving end is buying — people like to interact with other people. Being able to articulate your own internal purpose and how that connects to what you do and why you do it is a major part of gaining influence. And I’m not talking about the “because, climate change” argument. I’m talking about those personal experiences which put you on the path you’re on today and what you learned from them, regardless of success or failure.
2. Narrative Storytelling (Vision)
When you tell someone about what you do and why, do you set the scene or do you jump right into the details? Rather than telling stories, we usually just let the facts speak for themselves. However, stories are much more effective than facts alone if we want people to internalise, and act upon, our perspective. By learning how to tell effective stories, we can make sure we deliver the information which decision-makers need to make informed decisions when it comes to creating impact.
3. Strategic Messaging (Value)
Influencing decision-makers is never easy. But just like the adoption of new technology in wider society, the decision-markers in your organisation or industry can be split into innovators, early adopters, the early and late majority and the laggards. We spend far too much time trying to influence the latter half that they should adopt our way of thinking rather than empowering those who already agree with us to make changes. By flipping this and delivering value-driven messages (i.e., messages that actively empower your target audience to take their desired action), you can build your own reputation as a problem solver in their eyes.
If you’re working towards creating an impact within your organisation but you don’t have the authority to further your impact agenda, then these three messages can contribute to building your influence with decision-makers. I suggest that everyone I work with write a story for their personal purpose, their vision of a better future and the way between the current position and the future position. Then each of these articles should be featured on one’s LinkedIn profile as an article, internalised to bring out in meetings, and pitched to industry publications. That way you can provide multiple touch points into “why” you do what you do, rather than just show the results.