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Soft power is a term often used to describe the influence held by a nation beyond its financial and military strength. The UK has wielded significant soft power over the years, via various means – for example our development funding, our arts (The Beatles, theatre), and the global reputation of the BBC. Because of this, the visibility and influence of our values and ways of thinking around the world has often exceeded our financial and military power.

To quantify soft power is hard, but few doubt its existence and importance. Why am I talking about this? Because there is also soft power within our industry. A company’s influence is a function of more than just the products it makes, the brands it owns or the shops it runs.

So how can you think about your organisation’s soft power in our industry? Here are three questions to consider.

First, are you consistently describing and demonstrating a clear purpose beyond just making money for shareholders? Companies that can do this are typically more highly respected.

If you are Essity and can show you are genuinely committed to the importance of helping consumers with incontinence  – a more common problem in the UK than hay fever – that counts for something. If you are Waitrose and can demonstrate genuine commitment to animal welfare and a thriving farming community, that counts for something. We can have individual views about the relative importance of these purposes, but that misses the point. The purpose doesn’t have to be grandiose as long as it is valid.

Second, are you demonstrating expertise beyond simply manufacturing, branding or shopkeeping? For suppliers, category strategy and management is an example of additional expertise.

People sometimes ask whether it is worth investing in all that data and all those people. That almost all the biggest and most successful companies make the investment suggests it is. Having a clear and expert opinion on how to drive category sales and profit adds significantly to your credibility and ultimately your leverage with retailers. It helps make your relationship more adult to adult, and less child to parent.

Third, are you getting out there in the industry to be seen and heard, ahead of competitors? Bigger companies can do this: M&S’s profile on LinkedIn seems to far outweigh those of bigger grocers. But so can smaller companies. Low-alcohol beer brand Lucky Saint is much more visible than bigger brands both digitally and on industry platforms. If people think you are big, you are more likely to get big.

Don’t underestimate the importance of soft power. It’s not just about your product, brands, shops or prices. It’s also about your purpose, your expertise and your visibility in the industry.