3 tools that helped steal $8 billion from the tobacco industry – and how you can make them work for you 

As an oncologist, Dr Bronwyn King has spent her career witnessing first-hand the impact of tobacco on the lives – and too frequently deaths – of thousands of her patients.

When she accidentally discovered that, like millions of us, the majority of her retirement funds were invested in tobacco companies. She decided to embark on a mission, not to attack the problem, but instead to take away it’s oxygen – money.

Since then she has managed to have an insane $8 billion of investment redirected out of the hands of the tobacco industry. That’s money that can’t be spent on promotion, distribution – or finding new customers. So how did she do it? What does it take to go from ‘I’ve had enough’ to get an entire industry to stand up and take action?

I caught up with Bronwyn for a recent podcast episode to find out exactly that. CLICK HERE for our full 30-minute discussion. Here also are my Top Five tools from a woman that really doesn’t know how to take no for an answer.

Find the linchpins

When approaching an issue, rather than focusing on the target, first look for the fuel it relies upon. This will usually take you straight to the people with the power. It’s by asking for their help and advice – rather than coming from a place of attack – that you can tap into their own willingness to bring about change. If you can then build a bridge that aligns their interests with the change you’re working towards – you’ll have built allies rather than adversaries.

When Bronwyn connected with the CEO of her hospital’s retirement fund requesting a discussion – she went in with the intention of forming a partnership. Once that fund agreed to become a tobacco-free, something even more remarkable happened. That CEO then helped her to set up over 2500 separate meetings with other financial executives. As a result, more than half of all Australian retirement investments are now tobacco-free.

Harness charismatic language

Carefully choosing the language you use to present a problem or a solution – has a massive effect on your impact. Every industry and sector has what I would call charismatic language. These are words or phrases that elicit an emotional rather than logical response. These buzz words can also be insider terminology or themes that are currently ‘hot’ in that space. By doing your homework – and identifying the charismatic language of your linchpins – your impact will go through the roof.

When first meeting executives in the finance sector, Bronwyn soon realised she didn’t speak ‘finance’. So she called in favours from within her network to get crash course in the charismatic language of that space. Like learning any new language – at first it felt strange and unnatural – but soon she was able to have much higher level conversations (with much higher levels of impact) all because the fund CEO’s felt understood their world.

Get personal

I’ve spoken before about epic storytelling. The most powerful form of storytelling is always personal. If you can identify one compelling story – preferably one that relates to your own life – it will immediately engage your audience on an emotional level. This type of connection always trumps statistics, slides and solid logical arguments. We are essentially story telling creatures, so much so that the part of our brain responsible for empathy literally only switches on by listening and relating to the experiences of others.

Bronwyn took this to another level by not only telling her own story – and the stories of her patients – but by also drawing out the stories in the room. When meeting and presenting to finance executives she would always ask who had lost someone they loved due to a tobacco related illness. Invariably the majority of the room would raise their hands – then start offering their own stories. The result? A room of emotionally engaged allies that are now eager to understand how they can take part in the solution.

If I took anything from this podcast episode it was this – find the battle that’s picked you, learn the tools to make an impact, then don’t stop. It’s taken Bronwyn over 2500 meetings to realise her dream of making Australian retirement tobacco free. And she’s not finished yet.

What keeps her going? One simple number – 1 billion. That’s the number of tobacco related deaths that are due to happen this century. Every late night phone call, every meeting, every refusal, gets her one small step closer to eradicating that number. The truth is that it’s these relentless small steps, rather than grand dramatic gestures, that move $8 billion dollar mountains.

Julie Masters is a globally recognised expert in influence, authority and thought leadership. She is the CEO and Founder of Influence Nation and Founder of ODE Management – responsible for launching and managing the careers of some of the worlds most respected thought leaders. Julie is also the host of the soon to be launched weekly podcast Inside Influence. An exploration of what it takes to find and own your voice – and then use it to drive a conversation, an idea, an industry or a Nation. To subscribe check out iTunes or juliemasters.com.

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