Sharon Secor

People talk. There's no getting around it. People talk about each other and about themselves because we are social animals who love to communicate. This month we look at talk from three different points of view: talk as a marketing tool, as a sales technique and as an organizational development device.

Talk is at the heart of The Anatomy of Buzz: How to Create Word of Mouth Advertising by Emanuel Rosen. Why does a sleeper become a hit movie? Because people raved about it to their friends. Why did 65 percent of Palm Pilot users buy a Palm? Because someone told someone who told someone else the Palm Pilot was a great product. That's buzz, the largely immeasurable word-of-mouth network that spreads product information from one user to another potential user. This column is buzz, since I'm telling you about books I like.

Buzz is also the impression a product leaves with consumers. To create buzz, Rosen says, a product must have clearly identifiable traits. In addition to being innovative or solving a practical problem, the product becomes more useful as more people use it. If it also practically advertises itself (How many of your neighbors have blue New York Times bags on their lawn?) you've got buzz. How did you hear about the best-selling novel Cold Mountain? You probably read a review or someone told you about the book. That's buzz at work.

The Anatomy of Buzz follows the footsteps of Paul Lazarsfeld, a communications researcher who, in the 1940s, studied the influence of the mass media on election politics. He concluded that many factors played into voters' decisions, including the beliefs of "opinion leaders," people who influenced their decisions. The Anatomy of Buzz deftly links such communications theory with buying theory. This is not a stuffy research volume or a textbook, however. It's a layman's approach to a marketing strategy, one that many marketers have overlooked. They rely heavily on expensive ad campaigns that may not reap results. These days that's a huge and costly mistake. The Anatomy of Buzz should be required reading for anyone who works with new product development, advertising or public relations. Don't spend your money where it won't work, Rosen advises. As an alternative, talk is cheap and very effective.

Several years ago, the buzz word in sales and marketing circles was the "guerilla" approach to sales. Almost everyone knows a guerilla salesman at work. He's the guy with the take-no-prisoners attitude, who has perfected the hard sell and always seems to know what to say. In Three Steps to Yes: The Gentle Art of Getting Your Wayauthor Gene Bedell offers a primer for those of us who are flummoxed by guerilla tactics, but still need help in becoming effective communicators. Whether you're a salesperson, a PTA member or a job applicant, Three Steps to Yes shows you how to sell your ideas or yourself without subscribing to guerilla tactics.

Bedell refers to all of us who aren't comfortable with guerilla tactics as "poets." He prefaces Three Steps to Yes with the assurance that poets can learn to sell their ideas in ways that make sense to sensitive hearts. The author outlines a clear guide for instilling trust and respect in buyers, helping poets to say what they need to say. He teaches a method of understanding buyers' needs, all the while assuring poets that they need not compromise their values to make a sale Three Steps to Yes is peppered with stories from Bedell's home and work life. He makes it look as easy to talk with a 13-year-old as it is to win a new job. Illus- trated with cogent examples, interesting narrative and simple outlines, Three Steps to Yes helps poets slide quietly past guerillas in the war of words at work.

As the author of another new book sees it, all of us are "gorillas," and evolution can help us make sense of the workplace. In Executive Instinct, Nigel Nicholson uses evolutionary psychology to explain how organizations function.

This snappy, smart book convincingly draws parallels between the work environment and sociological models of human behavior. Executive Instinct gives common sense explanations of a range of human relations topics. Why do men and women have different work styles? Why do people need to share office gossip? Do you want to understand why your office atmosphere is stagnant and starched? Nicholson can tell you.

People enjoy gossip and networking because "evolution designed us to talk," Nicholson says. At the same time, we are not innately equipped to read and write. These attributes play out at the office and are reflected in workplace statistics. Nicholson notes that most managers show a strong preference for oral over written communications and hate to write. Employees also prefer talk, citing face-to-face channels as the top form of boss-employee communication.

Yet e-mail proliferates. Nicholson uses his evolutionary approach to argue that e-mail is causing a rash of communications disorders in organizations as people rely on it as a substitute for face-to-face meetings. Before you implement that new communications technology designed to put the whole company in touch, read Nicholson's book. What you may need instead is a new water cooler for employees to gather around. Our evolutionary instincts are clashing with our technological capabilities.

Executive Instinct is full of fresh, brash theories. Has evolution designed us to work in groups of no more than 150 employees? Nicholson says yes. He criticizes conglomerates that fail to make distinct small groupings within their organizations. Small groups feel more rational to humans, he says, because we have evolved in them. Companies like Dell Computer and Toyota, which have created rational groups, are the future, he says. Each has a modular structure and a decentralized supply chain. The best companies will manage with evolutionary insight, adapting organizations to nurture human nature. Briefly noted The Board Bookby Susan F. Shultz is a valuable tool for any business or nonprofit organization. Most CEOs underutilize or largely ignore their corporate boards in the day-to-day rush through business, but the collective wisdom, big-picture perspective and advice board members can provide is an invaluable resource. Best of all, it's free.

Shultz gives practical advice on how to choose, train and utilize a corporate board, and offers insights on managing board conflict and setting the stage for board leadership. Informative for CEOs and directors alike, this is a no-nonsense book that focuses on practical issues for board participation in the success of a company.

Sharon Secor is a Nashville-based business writer.

 

People talk. There's no getting around it. People talk about each other and about themselves because we are social animals who love to communicate. This month we look at talk from three different points of view: talk as a marketing tool, as a sales technique and as an organizational development device. Talk is at the […]

It's steamy and suggestive, an unauthorized tell-all. These are words business reviewers rarely get to use. Banned is another word rarely applied to business books, yet iCon: Steve Jobs, the Greatest Second Act in the History of Business has managed to acquire all of the above descriptors. Written by Jeffrey S. Young, co-founder of MacWorld and Forbes.com, and William L. Simon, a screenwriter, author and movie insider, iCon chronicles the rise, fall and rise again of business phoenix Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple.

Much of the book is an abridged version of Young's (also unauthorized) 1987 book, Steve Jobs: The Journey is the Reward, but it also traces his brilliant business career after Apple. Jobs famously exited Apple in 1985 and founded NeXT computer, which was later swallowed up by Apple and upon which Mac OS X is based. He is credited with the immense success of Pixar and its animated movies, such as Toy Story and The Incredibles not to mention his most recent best-selling dream-child, iPod. While mainly focused on Job's leadership and career at Apple, Young and Simon's story also includes personal facts about him, making the book something of a cross between Business 101 and the Hollywood Insider.

Jobs makes it clear to friends and associates that sharing details of his private life with the business equivalent of paparazzi is tantamount to betrayal. So it wasn't a complete surprise when iCon entered a new category, that of banned book. This spring The San Jose Mercury News reported that iCon‘s publisher, John Wiley ∧ Sons, said Apple Computer has removed all its titles from the shelves of Apple stores in apparent retaliation for publication of the book. Stories of an illegitimate child, brushes with movie stars and an ego the size of any prima donna's lend iCon its steamy reputation. And while it may not be as clear and easy to read as an Apple computer manual, it is a real-life story, a fascinating tale of an imaginative genius. Sharon Secor writes from Minneapolis.

It's steamy and suggestive, an unauthorized tell-all. These are words business reviewers rarely get to use. Banned is another word rarely applied to business books, yet iCon: Steve Jobs, the Greatest Second Act in the History of Business has managed to acquire all of the above descriptors. Written by Jeffrey S. Young, co-founder of MacWorld […]

Ready for more? Pick up Trump Strategies for Real Estate: Billionaire Lessons for the Small Investor. Written by George H. Ross, best known as one of Donald Trump's sidekicks on The Apprentice, this book will help you move into the bigger leagues of real estate investing. Ross gives some tips that seem to come right from the popular television show Be Distinctive: Add Sizzle to Your Property and Understand Your Buyer's Lifestyle, for example but he also throws in a tremendous number of funny and fascinating stories culled from years in the business. A lawyer by training and practice, Ross has watched and shared Trump's real estate magic for more than 25 years. Now, with Trump's blessing, he shares the secrets he's learned with all of us. Trump Strategies for Real Estate is a kick of a book because it offers insight into Trump as well as into the true nature of real estate investing. This is definitely a primer for anyone who wants to add sizzle to his or her personal style. It's also a great how-to book from an associate of the glitziest and most interesting personality in the real estate business.

Ready for more? Pick up Trump Strategies for Real Estate: Billionaire Lessons for the Small Investor. Written by George H. Ross, best known as one of Donald Trump's sidekicks on The Apprentice, this book will help you move into the bigger leagues of real estate investing. Ross gives some tips that seem to come right […]

If your plan is to dive deeper into real estate, you should pick up The ABCs of Real Estate Investing before you take the plunge. Author Ken McElroy is CEO of his own real estate firm and has 20 years of real estate experience. He has 4,300 units under construction and management and he has directly overseen management of over 20,000 units in eight states. He's not a high-flying Donald Trump; instead McElroy, who also gives lectures as part of the Rich Dad Advisors series, doles out the kind of sound, practical advice that most of us need when trying a new venture. McElroy dispels myths about real estate investing, encourages goal-setting and pulls all the best-practice advice he has gleaned over the years into one easy-to-navigate stockpile of information.

If your plan is to dive deeper into real estate, you should pick up The ABCs of Real Estate Investing before you take the plunge. Author Ken McElroy is CEO of his own real estate firm and has 20 years of real estate experience. He has 4,300 units under construction and management and he has […]

Deciding to buy is just part of the process figuring out how to pay for property is the next step. That's where David Reed's Mortgages 101: Quick Answers to Over 250 Critical Questions About Your Home Loan comes in. It is an indispensable guide to answer any question imaginable when you're buying a home or other property. If you own your own business, have had credit trouble or just want to learn more about the amazing array of current real estate mortgage products, Mortgages 101 can help. The book answers questions like What is the 1003? What are risk elements? and How do I calculate my income if it's based solely on commissions? Reed makes it easy to get answers, to find resources for further study and to become expert in a field that seems intimidating and confusing. And that's the point to make experts out of all of us when we're buying our next homes.

Deciding to buy is just part of the process figuring out how to pay for property is the next step. That's where David Reed's Mortgages 101: Quick Answers to Over 250 Critical Questions About Your Home Loan comes in. It is an indispensable guide to answer any question imaginable when you're buying a home or […]

<b>A woman's home is her castle</b> Vanessa Summers' <b>Buying Solo: The Single Woman's Guide to Buying a First Home</b> is perfect for women agonizing over the right time to buy. This purse-sized volume encourages women to get into the market, taking charge of their houses and lives instead of waiting for Mr. Right to build the castle. Summers, the author of another great little volume called <i>Get in the Game! The Girl's Guide to Money and Investing</i>, covers the major topics that confuse potential homeowners: credit reports, mortgages and finding the right real estate agent. She also offers good tips on how to determine where to buy and how to negotiate when making a first offer. <b>Buying Solo</b> is for readers who've been toying with the idea of buying but don't know enough to get in the game.

<b>A woman's home is her castle</b> Vanessa Summers' <b>Buying Solo: The Single Woman's Guide to Buying a First Home</b> is perfect for women agonizing over the right time to buy. This purse-sized volume encourages women to get into the market, taking charge of their houses and lives instead of waiting for Mr. Right to build […]

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