Normally when I review books it’s because a stack of five or so has accumulated on my desk and I need to move them. If I don’t stop, read and review, I’ll move them to a shelf and never look at them again. After a year or so, I’ll take them to Goodwill or Half Price Books and be done with them.
But I’ve actually taken some care and time this year to be more mindful about what I read and why. Some books I thumb through looking for ideas or just to get a good enough feel for the book to recommend it or not. Some books I read a page or two of, decide I won’t learn anything new from and put down. Others I keep in my briefcase and read every time I have a second.
Both because there’s a healthy stack of books around my desk and because I thought it was high time I shared some reviews of what I have been reading, I came up with a list of 10 books I’d recommend you read this spring. Granted, some of them have been out a while. And certainly, there are several books out now I’d recommend but aren’t on this list. So let’s not infer that I think these are the 10 best or anything. These are just 10 good books I think you should read with explanations of why.
The book inspired by Gini’s awesome PR and marketing blog, Spin Sucks does a great job of taking the marketing, public relations and communications professional through the world of integrated media, SEO and ethical communications in a socially enabled world. If you’ve already read a few books about social media and digital marketing, you might find a few repetitive concepts here, but Gini’s case studies and matter-of-fact style, mixed with her real-world know-how make this one for the permanent keep shelf. It’s got great ideas, is clear and to the point and is delightfully concise. (I’m certain her publisher — which was my publisher — gave her all sorts of hell over a book that was less than 150 pages. But she nailed it and it’s not intimidating to pick up to read for the time conscious reader. Well done!
If you wish to know more about not only customer acquisition, but also moving those customers through your communications and/or marketing funnel to become more invested customers or fans, this is the book for you. Jeff Rohrs (VP of Marketing Insight for Exact Target) does an awesome job of looking a prospects or customers and breaking them down into the various sub-audiences of today. You’ve got seekers, joiners, subscribers, fans and the like. He talks about each and how to approach each, perhaps also moving them into a more invested category. The premise of the book is to help you understand how to build a proprietary audience — one that you can engage with, ask of and reasonably predict outcomes from. Jeff breaks it down and builds what he calls a manifesto to convince your board, boss and company to build audiences of opt-in, willing participants who never consider your messages spam. Well worth the read.
Crisis communications and dealing with the inherent negative that comes with exposing your brand on social channels is a major concern for any marketer. There are good case studies and advice out there in blogs and books (Gini covers this a good bit in Spin Sucks, for example) but Paul Gillin delivers an entire book on the topic. Paul is one of the original journalists who covered the world of social media in books and is well versed in both telling stories and giving good advice. This book doesn’t fail to deliver the gist on how to plan, engage and thrive when dealing with negative, trolls, attacks and more. For someone in a business or industry prone to public discomfort, this is a must-read.
Marketing books are a dime a dozen. Marketing books written by academicians and not so full of qualitative research methods madness you can’t read it aren’t. My good friend Sam Ford and his academic colleagues take an incredibly interesting look at what makes an idea spread — virality — and how brands can leverage it. The book is a critical look at online media marketing over the past few years and where the practitioners (like me, for instance) were so quick to replicate viral success they didn’t really understand what actually produced it. The book goes into depth on how to plan for spreadability, create spreadability and provide value and meaning while doing so. It’s not for the attention deficit disorder crowd. The book is, after all, written by three people associated with the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium. It’s heady. But it’s awfully good and useful.
The Brains on Fire team might be the world’s foremost experts in word-of-mouth marketing. Their approach and practice has generated incredible “movements” like Fiskateers over the years. I’ve not only worked with them, but have recommended them to a number of clients and friends over the years, so anything they write I’m inevitably going to eat up. This book is no disappointment. Not only does it talk about how all marketing problems are people problems and how to generate passion around your brand, but breaks down advocacy online and offline and shows you how to assess and assign what you have versus what you want. They share a lot of case studies and examples, including Wonderopolis, a program I have a little to do with in my role as a Board of Director’s member for the National Center for Family Literacy. So yes, I’m biased, but yes, I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in word of mouth marketing and igniting passion in your customer base even if all that weren’t the case. This is one of those books I don’t dare skim. I read every word. May read it again, too.
As an almost counter-point, Paul Rand’s book Highly Recommended is at least a competitor to The Passion Conversation, though nothing stops anyone from reading and considering both. Writing is not a competition. Still, Rand is the CEO of Zocalo Group, one of the largest Word-of-Mouth firms in the world (part of the Omnicom family) so he has a different perspective. The book is another good read for those interested in word-of-mouth marketing, but focuses almost exclusively on driving recommendations. This might seem logical to the layman, but WOM is more than just getting more reviews and pass-along recommendations, in my opinion. Still, if its more people talking about you and recommending your brand, Rand has some good tips and neat insights. My favorite? Research that indicates that 90% of word-of-mouth recommendations come from face-to-face interactions, not social media.
If you want a no-nonsense, how to make money using social media, don’t buy this book. Or, perhaps you should buy this book. Ted and Kathryn dive deep into the philosophical ethos of social media so you, as a business owner, can get a good level set on why social is a little different and how it reminds us that the relationships with our customers are really what good business is all about. While I playfully refer to the purists in social media as “hippies and tree-huggers” I always try to note that I am one, too. I just like to back fill with measurement and revenue and the business end of things. This book is a great first half of the equation book written by people who know the second half, too. And at 133-pages in a small format with big fonts (at least the hardback edition), it’s a great, quick read in the briefcase book.
If you’re interested in building social media advocacy from inside your organization, this book is your blueprint. Chris and Susan do a fantastic job of talking about how to organize, plan, lead and measure internal advocacy to turn all your employees to extensions of your social presence. It’s practical, backed up with solid statistics and case studies and isn’t just a fancy endorsement for this software package or that to build loyalty. And the fact that several chapters are go-written by Constantin Basturea (to this day one of my favorite blogger who suddenly quit blogging in 2008 to — shockingly — focus on clients and business) is a huge hidden lump of icing on the cake.
The thing I kept asking myself as I read the latest from the orange-clad godfather of content marketing was, “Why didn’t he write this one first?” Epic Content Marketing is not just great inspiration and examples of content marketing at play, but is an anthology and explanation of what content marketing is, why you should use it and how to do it well. It should be the starting point for content marketers. And I’ve worked with an have known Joe long enough to know that you can’t find anyone more qualified or expert at telling you how to leverage content marketing for your business. This is a permanent bookshelf entry.
These two guys wrote an entire book about one case study? Hell, yes they did. And it is fantastic. Almost a coffee table book with beautiful pictures, historic advertisements and more, Marketing The Moon is a granular look at how NASA and the U.S. Government’s most majestic feat was also the most successful marketing and public relations campaign of all time, to date. From Disney’s sci-fi propaganda to the thickness of the Cold War to capturing the imaginations of an entire country, David and Richard do an incredible job of breaking it down and giving you inspiration to build your own awesomeness. Let’s put it this way: It’s a marketing and PR book and my two children love looking at the pictures. It might be the first book of our industry to cross into mainstream consciousness.
Please enjoy any or all of these and feel free to chime in the comments with your thoughts on the books if/when you read them. These 10 will certainly give you great food for thought this spring.
Disclaimers and Disclosures: The hard part about reviewing books for me is that I often know or have worked with some of the authors. Among this list, Gini Dietrich, Sam Ford, Jeff Rohrs, Joe Pulizzi, Robbin Phillips, Geno Church, Ted Rubin, David Meerman Scott and Paul Gillin are people I consider friends and have probably had dinner or drinks with at one point or another. Most of the others, I’ve met or know from many online interactions. The Brains on Fire team (who wrote The Passion Conversation) has hired me for consulting before and I’ve been a part of hiring them to work with The National Center for Family Literacy. I’ve served on Joe Pulizzi’s Content Marketing Institute staff of consultants and have done work with him through that group. Jeff Rohrs helped me get tickets to see my beloved West Virginia Mountaineers in the Final Four a few years back, too. (Exact Target has seats at Lucas Oil Field.)
The bottom line: I’m biased. But you should know by now that I’m not going to recommend a book by my best friend if it’s not worth your time. So enjoy. And they don’t pay me for the endorsement either. But all links are Amazon affiliate links. Any revenue I drive from you clicking through and buying goes to me buying fun books for my kindle like Lunatics by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel which I read for fun and when I’m not reading about marketing or business.