(My) Top 5 Business Books

October 2nd, 2013

Another top business book list? Wait, this one is different. Really, it is. Why? I was asked by a colleague whom I admire to make a list with only five books, *my* top five business books, the ones I read, re-read, and share. It had to be the books that stood the test of time, said something so important or altered my perspective that they had to be on my list.

Top 5 Business Books

A list of five is not as easy to define as you'd think.

To call this a challenge is an understatement. As a voracious reader it’s usually a challenge to create any list of books, but a short list was a daunting task. Five. Just five business books. Not a list of the 10 best business books I read last year, or this year, or the best on a particular topic, or the most popular books, or from authors I admire or always read. It was a simple challenge: name your top five (and only five) business books.

After over-thinking it to nearly no end, I’ve committed these five and shared why:

The Abilene Paradox and Other Meditations on Management by Jerry Harvey – the book that fascinated me enough to get my master’s in organizational behavior and group dynamics. It had me asking questions, looking for theory and wondering just how many times I had taken an unintentional trip to Abilene.

Heroic Leadership by Chris Lowney – hands-down the single best leadership book I’ve read. It dissects leadership through the lens of a nearly 500-year-old “company” and reiterates the need for the three basics: talent, trust, and purpose to achieve a mission.

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Peter Lencioni – skipping the normal theoretical language, the book allows the reader to identify team and leadership dysfunctions and offers simple solutions through a role-play style of writing. While it doesn’t go deep, it brings to the forefront the need to manage talent and build the right team and trust needed to lead. I nearly always have the learnings of this book in mind when working with new teams.

The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda – when he was with MIT (he’s now president at Rhode Island School of Design), Maeda wrote this outstanding book on designing for simplicity. In an ever-increasing world of complexity, simplicity still resonates and lasts. I’ve taken his “laws” and applied them to work outside of design and even into organizational structures.

Resonate by Nancy Duarte – as I work to improve the visual images to align with what I teach and present, this book keeps me focused on how and why visuals matter to you and your audience. While designed for presentations, the points made are ones I use in my daily to transform ideas. It’s a book I wish every presenter, speaker and team leader would read – for the sake of their audience alone.

(Now the truth, even now, I want to keep adding to the list. And that’s the challenge – to whittle away to what really matters most, to what resonated the strongest and share it with simple explanations.)

What do you think? Are there books you’ve kept over time, re-read and shared with so many others that they’d form your top five? Or if you’ve read any of the books above, would they make *your* top five list? Feel free to share in the comments below.


Social Timing: Email Marketing

October 11th, 2012

Email marketing is still one of the most effective channels for building community and generating direct sales. While the layer of social adds to, and enhances, our communities, email still works.

One of the common questions I get from clients about email marketing is when to actually send – what’s the best time for the best open, click thru and share rates.  First, before an answer is offered, I list off these three pre-email tips:

1. Create a marketing calendar. Even if it’s a sketch, your business will benefit by outlining the simple activities – email, social, events, mail, product launches, key months, etc. – in a calendar format. It saves you from the inevitable “what should we share this week?” It also ensures you can cross-promote your marketing and community activities across channels.

2. Consistency is more important than frequency. You don’t have to email your customers every week, but set up a consistent level of communication ahead of time. For example, you might decide to send an email every other week on Tuesday morning. The consistency creates an expectation of outreach and connection. The opposite of having a consistent plan is random emails that confuse both you and the customer.

3. Smart marketers use A/B testing in email marketing. A/B simply refers to the same message written two different ways to determine which way of writing it, which language/timing/image, is more effective. Most email marketing providers like MailChimp, Constant Contact and Bronto offer tips on improving your email response rate with A/B testing. Take advantage of those tips and test every single email getting better and higher open rates as you progress.

 Now, when to send? Well the team over at GetResponse created this great infographic to help you easily understand the best times and days to send emails. This is an overall idea of what works for most people. But always keep your target audience in mind. If you’re reaching night-shift workers who frequently access email via mobile, you might have a different success at a different time.

Email Marketing Best Tme to Share


As always, with any marketing, measure the results to see what’s working. If it’s not working, make changes.



The Question of Community: How to Build Fierce Loyalty Communities

September 18th, 2012

Your company has a desire to build a community.

You have a community but can’t quite figure out “what’s missing?”

You’ve built a community but it requires “too much effort” to keep it going.

What’s going on? Author Sarah Robinson offers answers in her new book “Fierce Loyalty: Unlocking the Secrets of Wildly Successful Communities.”

In the myriad of business books that debuts each month, most repurpose existing business knowledge or offer case studies as something to cut-and-paste into your efforts. Robinson’s book avoids those easy traps but takes the reader deeper yet keeps it highly readable. 

Sarah Robinson, author, "Fierce Loyalty"

Sarah Robinson, author, "Fierce Loyalty"

From nearly a year of research, Robinson identifies the DNA of wildly successful communities – the essential elements required of any community from families to FORTUNE 100s. The book walks through the research behind the common and essential elements of those communities that we envy: the highly-functioning, engaged, happy and loyal communities. Helping the community manager (or organizer, builder, marketer) to take proven positive actions, Robinson builds in action steps to plan, organize, create and manage enviable communities.

“Fierce Loyalty” is the essential read and reference for the novice or experienced community manager. It can help you decide where to start or how to diagnose what your community needs to get to that next level.  The model presented is an “a-ha” moment of simplicity that can scale to nearly any size for nearly any type of community. Robinson created that rare find in the world of business: a researched, well-thought out, replicable and simple model.

Robinson’s book, “Fierce Loyalty” is available on Amazon.com. Better still, Robinson has built a community online to help you in your efforts to build the next Fierce Loyalty community, www.fierce-loyalty.com.

Want to hear more? Check out my video interview with Robinson.



15 Books Recommended by Today’s PR Pros

August 15th, 2012

What do PR professional read when it comes to business books?  That was one of the questions posed in today’s SoloPR chat on Twitter. The 15 books that were recommended were from all over the business spectrum – some were straightforward reference books, some were management books, while others focused on understanding behaviors and even fewer focused solely on the craft of public realtions. In fact, looking over the list, you’ll see only two books specifically on communications, the rest fall along the business spectrum. 

 Just what were the 15 recommended titles? See for yourself (hover for the link to Amazon):

“Brainfluence” by Roger Dooley
“Collapse of Distinction” by Scott McKain
“Content Rules” by Ann Handley, C.C. Chapman
“Drive” by Daniel Pink
“New Rules of PR & Marketing” by David Meerman Scott
“Now Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham, Donald O. Clifton
“Rework” by Jason Fried
“Social Media and Public Relations” by Deidre Breakenridge
“Social Media ROI” by Olivier Blanchard
“The Business of Influence” by Philip Sheldrake
“The Laws of Simplicity” by John Maeda
“The Long Tail” by Chris Anderson

AP Style Guide
Roget’s Thesaurus
Strunk & White

So share your own recommendations here, what business-related books have you read that you re-read, refer to or recommend to others?  

As for me, I’m off to add a few new titles to my Kindle reading list.



52 PR Pros Shaping the Conversation on Twitter

July 30th, 2012

Top PR people on Twitter? You can find a dozen public relations expert lists with no real rhyme or reason, in fact many of the lists base their inclusion solely on the frequency of using the PR hashtag. Or the list includes companies who simply promote their work and their clients, but who contribute nothing to conversations or the industry.  Turning to Google Search, other top lists are dated from 2008, and some of those folks aren’t in PR, or have new jobs or aren’t with us anymore. Interesting note, even PRWeek analyzed their so-called Power List and noticed that only 22% of them are actually active on Twitter.  Not so much a “power list” then is it? It’s the Gen X in me, but just because you’re in a senior position doesn’t mean you’re powerful in an industry going through dramatic and very public changes.


Not one to just complain, I created a solution – a list of PR pros who contribute and shape the conversations around communications.  In a rather unscientific manner, I set the following criteria:

  • primary job is public relations or communications
  • has been active on Twitter at least 6 months
  • minimum 1,000 followers with at least 2,000 tweets and not an auto-bot
  • participates in the conversation and offers, adds, or shares value
  • based in North America
  • not an industry resource (e.g. PRWeek)
  • and is a real person

 The result?

52 PR Pros Shaping the Conversation on Twitter  (and listed in alphabetical order because who wants to rank by influence, frequency or heaven-help-us a Klout score.)

  1. @allanschoenberg
  2. @andrew_shippr
  3. @arikhanson
  4. @armano
  5. @augieray
  6. @beckygaylord
  7. @bethharte
  8. @briansolis
  9. @carenwest
  10. @chuckhemann
  11. @commammo
  12. @conversationage
  13. @dbreakenridge
  14. @davesaunders
  15. @elissapr
  16. @fredmcclimans
  17. @ginidietrich
  18. @jasmollica
  19. @jasonfalls
  20. @jaybaer
  21. @jeffespo
  22. @jgoldsborough
  23. @jspepper
  24. @kamichat
  25. @karenswim
  26. @kdpaine
  27. @keithtrivitt
  28. @kellyecrane
  29. @lenkendall
  30. @lizzharmon
  31. @loudyoutloud
  32. @mackcollier
  33. @marc_meyer
  34. @markwschaefer
  35. @mdbarber
  36. @michaelocc
  37. @mindofandre
  38. @missusp
  39. @mpranikoff
  40. @nflprguy
  41. @pmgnicole
  42. @pprothe
  43. @pr_couture
  44. @prcog
  45. @prtini
  46. @rexr
  47. @shonali
  48. @steveology
  49. @steverubel
  50. @tamadear
  51. @tdefren
  52. @valeriesimon

This is by no means a complete list, but it’s a good, solid start. Feel free to add more to the comments or let me know who you’d knock off the list.



Social Timing: When to Blog

July 9th, 2012

When should I be posting my blog?” The questions around social timing could be endless, expect there are smart companies analyzing that data and sharing what the answers – for free. The good team over at KISSmetrics, who I frequently refer to when I need good data, offers a great infographic on when you should activate your blog post, see below.

When to Blog

I often share with clients a lesson I’m still learning, consistency matters more than frequency. Having something to say is more important that “finding” some topic to write about. Content aside, we know a lot about timing thanks to smart teams like the ones at KISSmetrics.

Social Timing: When to Tweet

June 25th, 2012

“When should I tweet if I want to be noticed?” This may be the most common question we get from clients, friends and fellow tweeters. Thanks to the team at Fuse Works Studios, we’ve got this great infographic to share the answer:

twitter best practices maximizing your tweets infographicA Twitter infographic by Fusework Studios

The Creativity Gap

April 24th, 2012

This week, Adobe released a global benchmark survey, “The State of Create” defining creativity in the global perspective and in our daily work. The survey of more than 5,000 people revealed 8 in 10 people feel that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth and nearly two-thirds of respondents feel creativity is valuable to society, yet a striking minority – only 1 in 4 people – believe they are living up to their own creative potential.  Take a look at the infographic on The Creativity Gap:


Adobe's Creativity Gap Infographic

The question that resonates here is what are we doing to train and enhance the creative skills of our teams? Are we investing in “yet another training” or are we finding those ways to develop their skills that benefit our brands and our bottom line?

Are Tablets the New Toasters?

September 19th, 2011

This week, while driving back from a social media conference I heard a radio ad from a furniture store offering a free tablet with a purchase of $999. It got me thinking back to the days when banks gave away toasters. Or to the current tchotchke giveaways that come in conference bags and in exhibit booths. While I wouldn’t mind a new tablet, or a new pen, or a light-up toy car, it’d make more sense if these giveaways were better tied to the value/message/benefits of the brand.Sure, an iPad giveaway might bring you traffic, it might get you RTs or tweets, or Facebook postings, it might get foot traffic to your booth or store, but what is the message you share and what is the longer term value?

Can you see the thought cloud: “Every time they use the tablet/pen/toy, they’ll think of us and that good feeling will transfer back to the brand and increase our sales.” If it sounds ridiculous, it is.

If you’re going to have an incentive item, a giveaway, find a way to make it meaningful, memorable, and valuable.  Here’s a short list of ideas:

  • For a smartphone or tablet, preload your company’s app onto the tablet or load a welcome screen (can’t do that without corrupting the packaging, capture the email address and send an immediate email after winning and send them a value-add for the device).
  • For gift cards, either ask if they have a way to personalize the card, or add a company sticker but don’t stop there (there’s no value here yet). If it’s a coffee gift card, invite them to join you for an informal meeting. If it’s an iTunes card, send them your company’s playlist or the podcasts that you find valuable. If it’s an Amazon gift card, include a recommended reading list of books that you’ve found most valuable to your business.
  • Guess what? Your cheap booth giveaways, don’t have to be meaningless.  Tie in a benefit of your product to the giveaway. For example, consider giving away a portion of the product, a small sample of what you sell. Imagine if Mercedes-Benz giveaways were a sample of the leather used in their cars that was a car key holder. Every time you put your current car keys away, every time you felt that leather, you’d be reminded of the aspiration to own a Mercedes.

I still can’t figure how banks ever tied value to toasters, and I can’t think of how I’ll feel like I got more value/quality after spending a grand at a furniture store by walking out with a new tablet in my hands.

What do you think of incentive items?

iPad 2 A Worthy Giveaway?

iPad 2 A Worthy Giveaway?

The ROI of Social Media, Visualized

September 12th, 2011

One of the more raging debates and discourse you’ll hear in marketing and business circles is the value, the return on investment of social media. While there is no doubt that social media is a trend, but rather a distinct movement towards active consumerism, measuring the value to a company’s bottom line is much more complex. This week, the good folks over at MDG Advertising created a compelling and easy data visualization focused on the ROI of social media.

Infographic: The ROI of Social Media

Infographic by MDG Advertising