Good Reads

What the leading minds in our industry are writing

We’re life-long learners, honing our craft to be the most effective communicators for you. Here is a short list of some of our favorite reads.

Building a StoryBrand

Donald Miller’s fascinating Building a StoryBrand charts a multi-step process and framework to make a brand, a client, and ultimately a customer the hero of their respective story. Borrowing storytelling concepts from Joseph Campbell’s seminal book The Hero’s Journey, Miller suggests that businesses become the guide to the customer’s hero figure. He argues that many businesses see themselves as the hero trying to “save” their customers or solve their problems, and that this approach is deeply flawed. Instead, businesses should come alongside their customers to guide them to the right solution. As marketers, our role is to help businesses understand this change in roles and create compelling messages, visuals and promotional materials for our clients to communicate the guiding value they offer.

PRE-SUASION

More than 30 years after Robert Cialdini published The Psychology of Persuasion, a behavioral science book that crowned him the “Godfather of Influence,” he unleashed yet another brain buster. Upon release, PRE-SUASION – A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, quickly made it to the top of the most-respected best-seller lists. And it’s clear why. PRE-SUASION is the tardy pre-cursor to The Psychology of Persuasion. In PRE-SUASION, Cialdini addresses concepts like channeled attention, reciprocal exchange, shared identity, solid relationship building, and trustworthiness as business grease that sets the wheel in motion for successful influence and persuasion (with behavior change!). I was moved by the section about using unity and shared experiences to develop connected relationships, which can be advantageous in persuasion. Lesson learned? Find a common ground with everyone I meet; from clients to colleagues, vendors and beyond!

Thinking, Fast And Slow

A book every communication professional should read, Thinking, Fast And Slow is a comprehensive and thought-provoking tour of the human mind and the two systems that drive how we think. System 1 is our fast, automatic and often subconscious way of thinking. System 2 is the critical, slower thinking that requires conscious effort and work. The book explores how humans rely heavily on System 1 to handle much of daily life, but in doing so leave ourselves susceptible to irrational or poor decision making based on biases, stereotypes and more. Author Daniel Kahneman explains in highly readable detail when we can or cannot rely on our intuitions and how System 2 – slow thinking – can be deliberately activated to help guard against mental missteps that often get us in to trouble. This book offers profound insights that fundamentally challenge how we as marketers go about creating programs and campaigns designed to shape perceptions and activate behavior change.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Influence is the go-to and classic resource for persuasion and consumer behavior research. Robert Cialdini demonstrates the simple and pervasive techniques to create influence in everyday as well as professional situations. He proposes and outlines universal principals of influence that include reciprocity, liking, authority, scarcity, social proof, and commitment. With the aid of memorable business examples, he reveals these powerful principles and the ways in which we shortcut our decision-making from a psychological perspective. It’s easy to say it’s a must-read for modern PR professionals. It’s referenced in nearly every MBA course I’ve taken, from human resources to operations to strategy. These principles play a role in diagnosing and addressing business issues, large and small, that result from our natural human tendencies and biases.

Built to Last

Built to Last helped explain some of the essential elements that long standing, successful businesses have in common. Jim Collins analyzed companies that have withstood the test of time and discovered that their success was not driven by powerful CEOs or even by specific product lines but, rather, their success boiled down to solid values that were fundamental across all areas of the company. Everything these companies did was based on the company’s core values. For example, Sony started with the idea of making consumers’ lives easier through consumer products. However, Sony’s first product was a toaster that failed. The key with Sony is that it didn’t quit after its first product failed, instead the company held true to a belief and its mission and look where Sony is today. This is a key example of success and a great lesson for all businesses.

Good to Great

Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t: This book is a public relations practitioner’s must-read. Author Jim Collins has done an excellent job streamlining years of research so that people in the industry can understand the various management strategies and practices that take companies from good to great.

The Inner Game of Tennis

As both a tennis player and marketing executive, there were some great lessons to draw from in this book. It is an instructional book on the mental game of tennis – where the lessons that apply to tennis can easily transcend into business. The key message in this book is that to function optimally, you have to let your mind reach its natural state and be unaffected by “over-thinking.” The idea is to let your natural self shine through and trust your abilities while in this

natural state. In tennis, it’s about avoiding the over analysis of every technical detail and letting your natural skills come through. This is a crucial component of success in competitive situations. The same can be said in business where over-thinking can get in the way of creativity and strategic vision. If we can train our minds to eliminate self-doubt and let our natural self lead, we will be more successful. Clearly, the lessons here apply to almost every situation where skills are involved. It is an excellent read and has helped my tennis game and business ventures.

Let My People Go Surfing

Patagonia: a multi-million dollar company built on one man’s passion and thirst for the outdoors. Rock climbing, canoeing, skiing, surfing — Patagonia makes clothes for every rugged outdoor activity. But transfer that addiction to the outdoors to an indoor business savvy? Yvon Chouinard does. Chouinard starts with a bold (and blunt!) statement: “The Lee Iacoccas, Donald Trumps, and Jack Welches of the

business world are heroes to no one except other businessmen with similar values. I wanted to be a fur trapper when I grew up.” Really? This is why I simply love Let My People Go Surfing. It goes beyond the proverbial CEO and leadership books that list anecdote after anecdote of companies that did (or didn’t) get it right — and the CEOs (not founders) that made or broke a company. Not only did Chouinard have a personal investment in the company, he had a true love for what Patagonia produced. Most important: he stuck with the company through good times and bad. He learned from his mistakes and he made the company better — and most important, he saw his role as an opportunity to change the world. Chouinard serves as a personal inspiration. He’s loyal to his passions, good to his people and works to make the world a better place. He is — by all means — a maverick in today’s business world. Brilliant.

The Long Tail

The Long Tail uncovers the economic phenomenon brought about by the Internet that is redefining the nature of popular products (the hits) and less popular products (the tail). Thanks to web-driven models such as Amazon, eBay, iTunes and more, products – predominantly media such as music, books, films, etc. – are no longer limited by market constraints such as geography or shelf space. To me, the book is a fascinating look at how markets are being significantly extended by selling less of more. Best of all, the author provides us with interesting perspectives about what it all may mean. For example, he explains not only how and why the Long Tail appeared, but the implications for marketers as the trend continues in the future.

Made to Stick

Successful public relations practitioners make their stories memorable and find new ways to make their clients’ ideas resonate or “stick,” despite increasing noise in the marketplace. However, in this digital age, we find ourselves inundated with mountains of information and worthy messages often get lost, though the vapid ones still seem to get through (see O for Octomom). In Made to Stick, the brilliant

Heath brothers explain how to make your messages stick with six smart principles; ideas must be Simple,

Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional and tell a Story (which spells SUCCESS). During team brainstorms, we often revisit these principles to test the stickiness of our ideas and think about how to refine our messages to achieve desired behavior change among target audiences. Even good ideas will die without adhesive, as the faux duct tape on the book’s electric orange cover seems to remind readers, and we must work harder to make those messages worth hearing stand out from the rest. Made to Stick helps you keep those good ideas top of mind among those who need to hear them most. This book should be on the reference shelf of every professional communicator.