Archive for the 'Book / Article Reviews' Category

The Dip: A book review

Seth Godin’s new book The Dip is short. Very short. In fact it’s only 76 pages.

But The Dip’s length is not a bad thing. It’s purpose isn’t to cover all the ins and out of a topic. It’s purpose is to get the reader to think about one simple question: Should I quit what I’m doing or stick with it? It’s a simple question that can dramatically affect your business, department, or life.

Should you read The Dip? Yes, without a doubt and it will only take an hour to read. But I don’t recommend it because it’s short. I recommend it because it will cause you to do some deep level thinking about how you roll out your next product or service.

Here are my key takeaways from the The Dip:

The fact that something is difficult to accomplish or unpredictable works to your advantage. If it were any other way, there’d be no profit from it. “The next time you’re tempted to vilify a particularly obnoxious customer or agency or search engine, realize that this failed interaction is the best thing that’s happened to you all day long. Without it, you’d be easily replaceable. The Dip is your very best friend.”

“A woodpecker can tap twenty times on a thousand trees and get nowhere, but stay busy. Or he can tap twenty-thousand times on one tree and get dinner. Before you enter a new market, consider what would happen if you managed to get through the Dip and win in the market you’re already in.”

“If you want to be a superstar, then you need to find a field with a steep Dip… And you’ve got to get through that Dip to the other side. This isn’t for everyone. If it were, there’d be no superstars.”

“The problem is that only a tiny portion of the audience is looking for the brand-new thing. Most people are waiting for the tested, the authenticated, and the proven. Microsoft failed twice with Windows, four times with Word… The entire company is based on the idea of slogging through the Dip, relentlessly changing tactics but never quiting the big idea.”

“So, there’s tool number one. If quitting is going to be a strategic decision that enables you to make smart choices in the marketplace, then you should outline your quitting strategy before the discomfort sets in.”


Good to Great: A Book Review

You must buy, borrow, or checkout Good To Great by Jim Collins. It is that good.

Simply put, Good To Great is really a research study. Jim and his team set out to find out how can good, mediocre, and even bad companies achieve not just greatness but enduring greatness. What they found was a small list of companies that met their criteria.

I won’t go into detail about the findings of the book. Why? Because I want you to read it. However, I will share with you some of my key takeaways from Good To Great. They are:

First Who, Then What – Find the right people first before you decide what path you want your company to take.

The Hedgehog Concept – Find out what your company can be the best at and stick with it. Don’t waste your company’s resources (manpower, energy, money, time) by trying to be good in a lot of areas — be great in one area!

The Flywheel and Doom Loop – Once you have the right people and are working towards a goal your company can be great at, keep at it. Don’t change direction and don’t use your energy on some other goal. Momentum generates momentum. If you change direction or plans, you’ll lose momentum.

The book deals with companies but you can apply the findings to your department and yourself.

Do yourself a favor and read this book!

Book Review: Full Frontal PR

The ever-enthusiastic Richard Laermer is a well-known public relations strategist. In his book Full Frontal PR, Laermer successfully covers the ins and outs of just about every aspect of the public relations function. At the same time, Laermer injects a much-needed dose of gusto, coolness and fun when covering the more traditional facets of public relations.

Richard Laermer is a recognized authority on public relations and media culture. Laermer is a former journalist who wears many hats. He is currently the Chief Executive Officer of RLM, a public relations firm that serves the consumer, technology, business-to-business, health-care, entertainment, publishing and financial services industries. Laermer is also a contributing editor to PR News and writes for publications such as

The aim of Full Frontal PR is to teach its readers how to generate hype and use it to their advantage. Laermer’s book succeeds at this in almost every way.

Laermer starts off with an introduction into the dynamics of exposure: word-of-mouth promotion and media coverage. Word-of-mouth, as Laermer explains, is the best type of exposure. However, he is quick to point out that attaining such verbal promotion does not happen by accident. Generating and maintaining word-of-mouth exposure is a skill that requires much diligence. The remainder of the book educates the reader on the various ways to attain word-of-mouth exposure and the role the media plays in doing so.

Laermer does an excellent job of defining the role of the media and journalists. The author refers to the media as “merchants of exposure.” They are the keepers of the gate that leads to a world of publicity. Laermer starts off his chapter on media by describing the journalistic process. He debunks the myth that journalists creep in the shadows, where they meet with their mysterious sources of information. On the contrary, Laermer describes journalists as being just like you and me. They work at their desks waiting for a phone call or email that will give them a good story idea. What Laermer is saying, is that public relations specialists should not fear journalists. Why? Journalists, to a certain extent, rely on public relations specialists to carry out their jobs. I found this concept to be very enlightening, seeing as how contacting a journalist is often intimidating.

The bulk of Full Frontal PR is dedicated to addressing the “hows” and “whys” of generating exposure and buzz. In the section entitled “The Nitty-Gritty”, Laermer shows the reader most of the available avenues of generating buzz. It is this section, chapters three through six, that make Full Frontal PR a must have for anyone who wants to learn more about public relations.

In chapter three, Laermer defines the power tools public relations specialists use to gain exposure. The tools and techniques described are analyst meetings, beta and product testing, producing b-roll footage, embargoing, exclusives, holding publicity events, in-person interviews, leaking information, performing media tours, holding press conferences, developing press kits and releases and producing surveys and trend stories. Laermer not only defines what these tools and techniques are, he also identifies the best ways to use them. This chapter further honed my understanding of all the various public relations tactics and therefore I consider it my favorite in the book.

Chapter four is another gem of information. Here, Laermer explains how to find the right news hook in order to sway reporters into using your story idea. Chapters five and six focus on how to pitch your story to the media and how to become a confident spokesperson in order to win over the press. The remaining chapters of Full Frontal PR focus on establishing and maintaining good media relations, gaining exposure on a national level and the new tools of exposure that the Internet offers.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Full Frontal PR. Richard Laermer obviously understands public relations and its benefits. I found that the true value of Full Frontal PR is in its educational use. Laermer not only clearly defines public relations, buzz and various publicity tools, but he also explains to the reader how to best use those tools. Throughout the entire book, Laermer uses callouts to highlight special sections of information. These callouts usually contain very useful insights that expand one’s knowledge of public relations and generating publicity. As an added bonus, Laermer includes lists of his favorite resources. These lists contain everything from his favorite news websites, to stay up-to-date with the latest buzz, to his preferred tools for generating publicity.

In conclusion, Richard Laermer’s Full Frontal PR is a must read for anyone looking to educate themselves with the ins and outs of public relations. Seasoned public relations specialists would also be well served by buying and reading a copy for themselves.

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Book Review: The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR

Renowned marketing strategist Al Ries and his daughter Laura believe in the power of public relations. In their book entitled The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, they effectively argue that public relations techniques should be the tools of choice when establishing a brand but fall short in their advice that advertising should only be used as brand maintenance.

Businesses have traditionally viewed advertising as the tool of choice when creating and establishing their brands. The advertising budgets of most companies are evidence of this fact. Total advertising expenditures for 2004 exceeded 140 billion dollars. Conversely, a company’s public relations efforts have often been viewed as a support function to advertising. This trend continues today throughout the corporate world. Even within the halls of higher education, students are taught that public relations is a subset of advertising. Al and Laura Ries disagree.

The authors begin their book by explaining that the golden era of advertising is over. During this golden era, the years following World War II, advertising volume increased. Later, with the advent of television, the amount of advertising exploded. The authors claim that it is because of the influx in advertising volume that its effectiveness declined.

Another reason advertising lacks effectiveness, the duo argue, is that the advertising industry has lost its focus. They claim that advertising’s purpose has shifted from generating sales to generating creative ads. The authors assert that advertising agencies are more concerned with winning awards than anything else. They mention that the average advertising agency spends more money on award entries than on independent consumer research.

The main point of The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR is that public relations methodologies are extremely effective at building brands and advertising is incapable of building a brand. To illustrate this point, the authors refer to the many dotcom failures of the late nineteen nineties. In particular, the authors single out sold pet supplies to pet owners. The owners of decided to let advertising build its brand by hiring an advertising agency. The agency created the Sock Puppet, which was revered among the advertising community and its critics. The Sock Puppet ads won many awards but it did not generate sales. Eventually, went bankrupt.

Why is advertising not effective? Ries and Ries propose that advertising has lost its credibility. The authors suggest that advertising is perceived to be one-sided, biased and company-oriented. Both father and daughter correctly point out that consumers are looking for trusted, unbiased, consumer-oriented communications. Only public relations can fill this need, not advertising.

The main goal of a public relations campaign is to get a company and its product mentioned and recommended by third parties. Third parties include newscasts, newspapers and magazines, which tend to be consumer-oriented. Since the media is not affiliated with the company, people are more likely to accept the opinions and ideals of the public relations campaign. A public relations campaign also uses another trusted third party source – word of mouth. Research shows that consumers are more likely to buy products and services that are recommended by people they know.

Does advertising have a purpose when it comes to building brands? Yes, both Ries and Ries suggest that advertising’s role is that of a support function and continuation of public relations. In other words, advertising is not brand building, it is brand maintenance. As the authors put it, “A brand is born with the capability of creating ‘news.’ This is the essence of a new brand. But what happens when a brand grows up? It runs out of publicity potential.” It is during this time when companies should implement advertising.

The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR effectively presents its argument that only public relations can truly build a brand. The authors draw from their professional experience to illustrate past public relations strategies that have established brands and how advertising has traditionally failed at brand establishment. However, there are certain cases in the book that are untested and unproven. These cases end up sounding as ‘If it were up to me…’ scenarios. Also, some of the suggestions by the authors are entirely unrealistic. One of their suggestions to bring more tourism to Guatemala is for the country to change its name to Guatemaya to represent its Mayan heritage. Regardless of such outlandish commentary, The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR will motivate public relations professionals and incense advertising executives.

The Bottom Line:
The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR will definitely inspire public relations specialists. But do not be fooled. Advertising does have its place in establishing a brand. The authors ignored the many success stories where advertising has effectively built successful brands.

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The Art of Schmoozing by Guy Kawasaki

A special thanks to Flackette for bringing this article to my attention.

Did you ever want to know how to effectively schmooze an individual? If so, read this article. It contains very good advice!

If this subject interests you, then you will definitely want to read How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

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Who am I ?

My name is Michael Morton. I believe in bringing energy and professionalism into the office, that knowledge is power, that leadership trumps management, that customers are more influential than advertisements, that content is king, and that two heads are better than one. I currently lead the marketing efforts of the Strategic Alliances department of my company. Let’s talk marketing!

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