Archive for category Book Reviews

Book Review: The Power of Visual Storytelling

Posted by on Thursday, 3 April, 2014

The-Power-of-Visual-StorytellingWow, The Power of Visual Storytelling launched with a bang.

My Twitter feed during SXSW was filled with praise for Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio’s new book. In the book, there are endorsements from power names, including Gary Vaynerchuk, Guy Kawasaki, and Charlene Li.

With these high expectations, what’s The Power of Visual Storytelling about?

It’s 221 pages of stats, profiles, and recent case studies of social media campaigns. I especially loved Ekaterina’s personal experiences with @BenefitBeauty’s #BeautyBoost campaign.

The call-out boxes off each social media platform make the book a valuable resource, for now at least. We all know that social media is dynamic and it’s often hard to get a conclusive profile and how-to for each platform. I applaud the research that went into this.

Who is The Power of Visual Storytelling for?

This question was tricky at first because I overlooked the sub-title and was expecting a book on actually story telling and using visuals to tell narrative. You know, all the hero’s journey and overcoming adversary etc. This book comes after that. There’s a short chapter on the benefits of storytelling, but if you’re looking for more on storytelling, check out Nancy Duarte’s books.

For the next few months, The Power of Visual Storytelling is a brilliantly useful resource show how to tactically use images on social media. Just get in quick, before facebook makes a major change… again.

Book Review: Digital Branding

Posted by on Monday, 3 March, 2014

Digital-BrandingDigital Branding by Daniel Rowles is exactly the digital marketing book I would write. It’s current, relevant, very practical, honest, and topical. Perhaps a little too much so. I can see some “old-timers” being intimidated by the practices Rowles demands.

The book is divided in three parts. The first is an introduction to digital branding with some great definitions. This is where the “love” count started early. Yes, most digital communications about a brand don’t directly include the brand. Yes, it needs to be measurable. And my favorite, verbatim, “brand awareness is a phrase that is often used to justify digital activity that doesn’t have clear objectives”. I’m not telling which early project I worked on where this was a common management line.

Digital Branding’s value is in the second part: The Digital Toolkit. It’s practical and realistic, suggesting free tools, and acknowledging the top end of the market, like Google Analytics Enterprise. Intermixed are case studies and advice, with gems like only doing something if you have something to say, and that social media is essentially PR.

Part three, Strategy and Measurement, is the weakest, but only in parts. The strategy chapter is less tangible fluff. This is made up in the next chapter. Analytics describes useful reports in Google Analytics. I love (yes, love count was high) the reminder that a high bounce rate isn’t bad if the customer got what they needed.

Who is Digital Branding For?

I think my annotation here was perfect: “Am I loving this because it reinforces my ideas and it’s actually too basic? Who is this for?”

It’s detailed enough for experienced digital marketers, but clear enough for marketers new to digital, or even non-marketers. Of course, the newer you are the more you’ll get from Digital Branding, but I picked up some tools from the kit and a couple of tips.

This book isn’t release until April, but I recommend it. In fact, I’m buying a copy. My ARC was produced too early for all the tables to be included.

Book Review: Accelerate

Posted by on Sunday, 16 February, 2014

AccelerateAccelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World is the latest business book by John P Kotter. Like his previous books, it’s short (200 pages), sweet and written to change the world. Due for release in April 2014.

I never did read Kotter’s famous Our Iceberg Is Melting when it was popular. However, when I finished Accelerate I was curious and checked the GoodReads reviews to see if it’s the same style. It is, and it is a distinct style.

Accelerate describes a model of running a traditional hierarchical corporate structure along side a more nimble, network-like structure similar to start-ups. He correctly states that companies using a traditional corporate structure are too slow to respond to market influences, much to their detriment, and sometimes downfall. Kotter calls this mix a “dual operating system”. Yes, it makes me think of running Windows on a Mac, too. He explains how volunteers need to be recruited to run the additional structure, which runs concurrent with the traditional one.

The book runs through how the dual systems can work with case studies that either have so many details removed to preserve anonymity or are fictitious. OK, I don’t meant to be nasty with this. It was just a surprise. Openness and disclosure is now the norm; this approach was just very old-school and comes across as theory only. It’s not all … theory. I love the table showing the difference between managers and leaders.

Who is Accelerate for?

If you’re in a senior executive in a large, traditional company, or an MBA candidate wanting a career in an above mentioned company, then this is for you. You’ll find lots of idealistic strategies to implement or reference. All from one evening’s reading and a known author you can name drop, and spout ideas to your colleagues.

However, if you’re looking for tactics and proven models, read something else. Like Guy Kawasaki or Scott Berkun’s books. Berkun’s reasoning that you need real management experience to write on the topic came to mind often while reading this. Especially chapter eight, the Q and A. Some of the answers are borderline delusional. Instructions like that employee management programs won’t be required because employees will want to do the tasks perfectly, and that budget isn’t needed because the employees will happily work up to 150% capacity, are very naive. They’re strangely reminiscent of Australia’s Natural Law Party of the 1990s.

Therefore my word of warning is to not depend on John P Kotter’s reputation when deciding on this book, but look to see if your aims and goals are the same. If so, then I thoroughly recommend Accelerate for you.

Book Review: Pioneers of Digital

Posted by on Thursday, 13 February, 2014

Pioneers-Of-DigitalWhere was this book when I was in grad school?

Pioneers of Digital (Paul Springer and Mel Carson) is a collection of 20 interviews and case studies looking at the founders of digital marketing, the ones who did it by design and those by accident.

In grad school one of my assignments required analyzing a case study from a book. Unfortunately the RMIT library’s marketing and PR section hadn’t been added to since 1990. Small exaggeration. Pioneers of Digital would have been my go-to.

Most of the interviews are essentially case studies of their careers. I loved reading what lead June Cohen to put Ted Talks online, discovering how many people started their careers in totally unrelated areas and fell into marketing and technology, and how success comes from making a difference, not by trying to make money. Two case studies told the story of hugely popular campaigns. I remember wasting a lot of time with Subservient Chicken without knowing it was a Burger King promotion. Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty has continued to inspire women 10 years after its launch.

My favorites were Kyle MacDonald’s One Red Paperclip and, the surprising inclusion, Stephen Fry. Both chapters had more storytelling and feeling than the others, and that’s taking my bias aside. I’m a sucker for great marketing from outside the industry.

Pioneers of Digital closes with a statistics-filled summary of the up-and-coming digital marketing cities, and lessons from the pioneers interviewed. If the initial chapters are a bit hard to get through, the book is worth it for these two chapters.

Book Review: The Year Without Pants

Posted by on Saturday, 8 February, 2014

year-without-pantsI’m not sure if it was a blessing or a curse to read The Year Without Pants reviews on GoodReads while mid-read. The reviews are mixed. Many hate the book. Some love it. I’m not sure how many get it.

The Year Without Pants isn’t your typical business book. Author Scott Burkun wondered if he could walk the talk. It was several years and four books since he left a management role with Microsoft. So, he took a job with WordPress and wrote this book on leadership, productivity and work. It’s part memoir, part business book. Scott describes it as participatory journalism.

If you’re not aware, Automattic, the company behind WordPress operates with a 100% remote workforce. Not only that, they’re successful enough to run 21.4% of the world’s websites. I’ve been running sites on WordPress for many years and heard Scott speak at WordCamp 2013. This little fan girl was excited to read this book, and annoyed that life got in the way from a quick read.

Was I disappointed? Not a chance. I loved the inside stories of the product I was using. So many moments of “ooh, I love that plug-in” and “awww, baby-sized JetPack”. I actually had to drop half my post-its from this review because they were pointing out great examples of teamwork and process I want to implement, not if this is a good business book or not.

So Is It a Good Business Book?

Yes. It is. It’s not as straight forward as something by Philip Kotler, but it’s more entertaining and useful. And contains more drinking stories. The hits and hindrances of leading a much-younger team, whom you only see face-to-face a couple of times a year will help many as this becomes our norm. There are also great quotes like, “safeguards don’t make you safe, they make you lazy”, and “morale isn’t an event, it’s the accumulated goodwill people build through work together”.

Overall, The Year Without Pants is an honest and open look at leadership tactics being put into practice, thorns and all. Just remember while you’re reading this, it’s Scott’s story, not an instruction manual. Learn from his experiences, not his examples.