I'm a big fan of harnessing the power of stories in business and learning from the world of entertainment. So I had high hopes for a new book called "Tell to Win- Connect, Persuade and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story" by Peter Guber, one of Hollywood's head honchos. His social-media PR company sent me a free advance copy to read.
The book is certainly entertaining in an over-the-top Hollywood sort of way. The name-dropping is non-stop, with tales of hanging out with Magic Johnson, Michael Jackson, Ronald Reagan and even the Dali Lama. This guy has certainly had an action-packed life.
However, in terms of practical guidance on how to really "connect, persuade and triumph" Tell to Win was a bit thin in my view. Especially in terms of branding and marketing advice. Here's the key things I got out of it:
1. Make your pitch dramatic: A lot of the advice in the book is about pitching, which is of course is the life-blood of Hollywood. But we all have to pitch ideas, even if we're in Hartlepool not Hollywood. Peter suggests 3 key steps: Challenge, Struggle, Solution. One of his stories is how new media wunderkind Richard Rosenblatt sold MySpace.com to Rupert Murdoch for $650million [although Facebook didn't sell as early, and is now worth $50billion ;-) ]:
Challenge: "Mr Murdoch, you are the biggest guy in media on the entire planet. You're nowhere when it comes to the internet"....
.... Struggle: recognizes how Murdoch has been trying to avoid web publishing owing to the expense of new content creation and complexity of online distribution of this content...
.... Solution: "MySpace is the perfect media company. You spend nothing for content because users create it. And you don't pay for distribution as they create the traffic".
2. The power of props: Peter rightly says that stories are not "lists, decks, lectures and instructions". Even in day-to-day presentations we can put a bit of "show" into "business". And one nice tip he gives is to use the power of props. He quotes the example of a laser-eye surgeon who had to persuade potential patients that the surgery would really work. To do this the doctor said one word, "See", and pointed at a basket containing hundreds of discarded eyeglasses from satisfied customers.
Another way of thinking about this is always having "a big picture" image, which sums up your presentation. Its much easier to take away and remember one big picture, like the basket of discarded glasses, that it is to recall lists of information.
3. Bake a story into your brand: my favourite story in the book is how the owners of Fra nklin Mint spent $211,000 to buy a string of imitation pearls that they managed to turn into a $26million busi ness. How? Well the pearls in question happened to have been owned by Jackie Kennedy. And as Peter says, what the company were really buying was "The story of Jackie". And this story could then be "baked in" to a necklace sold by Franklin Mint. They sold 130,000 of them at $200 a pop.
Net, if you want an entertaining, action-packed insight into the life of a Hollywood deal-maker, with a few interesting tips on story-telling in business, then Tell to Win makes good reading.
For free, here are some of the earlier posts on using stories in marketing:
- Learning from TV series to write the 30 second pitch for you brand
- The power of story in one of the 10 books that changed my life, "Story" by Robert McKee
- Re-new your brand like a TV series, season after season
- Business lessons from my all-time favourite movie Jerry McGuire