Why might your company need a book? ECHO is rooted in book publishing: for our first decade, we were a private memoir company and recorded hundreds of lives, many for the founders and CEOs of companies across North America. In that time, we’ve learned a fair few lessons about the value of the printed page.
Books do a number of things really well. They collect and present a huge amount of content, be it writing, diagrams, or images. Physically, they can (and should!) be beautiful objects, memorable for their aesthetic rightness as much as the harmony of their elements. Plus, they’re immutable and enduring, where other media (not just websites, but audio and video recordings, billboards, social media campaigns, etc.) can degrade over time — and should in many cases change and evolve. To be clear, we love digital storytelling and social media, but sometimes a book does it best. Here are three reasons why.
1. Books Capture Culture
What’s the best way to capture and transmit company culture?
Stories impact the way we think and behave in a fundamental way. That’s why the Greeks relied on epic poetry and why presidential candidates write books during election season. That’s why our caveman ancestors told stories around the campfire and painted hunting accomplishments on walls. When we need to win hearts and minds, stories are the quickest and most effective route.
In our own history, we’ve built books that capture a unique company culture for many reasons: IPOs, mergers, and rapid corporate expansion. Our work for lululemon was triggered by the company’s imminent IPO but created a culture book that has fuelled onboarding efforts ever since, as every new employee gets a copy of the book. HR considered our telling of their story one of the company’s most important tools.
2. Books Amplify Thought Leadership
The best way to show someone a different path is probably through one-on-one conversation. Problem is, to be inclusive you’d need to travel at the speed of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. A book is the next best thing.
Books, as a vehicle for long-form content, ask their readers for a certain investment of time and energy. And when that content does its work — when it isn’t long or dry or untrustworthy or merely self-serving — the investment yields substantial dividends. A well-edited and -designed book (ideally including rich photography and infographics, diagrams and other illustrations, compelling sidebars, and surprising takeaways) will drive your points home for a very natural reason: the reader is invested and yearns for a meaningful reward.
If you harbour ambitions to be a thought leader in your sector, a book can help get you there. A great example of a book spurring thought leadership is Joe Pulizzi’s Epic Content Marketing. (Pulizzi’s publishing strategy is also worth cribbing. When he signed his book contract, he explained to his publisher that the book was going to be a content hub that would provide SlideShares, blog posts, infographics, and more. Bonus: blogs for a year!)
3. Books Empower Legacy and Commemoration
Got a major anniversary coming up? Consider a book as a cornerstone of your legacy marketing campaign. A well-designed book is a gorgeous keepsake and gives you lots of space to do a story justice, whether for ten years or for a hundred.
Many people we speak to say that they find corporate history books boring. Sometimes they’re right; it’s all in the approach. Instead of hiring a historian to turn out a tome destined for the dustiest corner of the library, consider the needs of your audience. For example, our clients at Rocky Mountaineer wanted to include their customers fully in the anniversary experience, so their book is a visual feast of images complemented by short yet engaging stories that capture the fun and grandeur of Rocky Mountaineer’s rail-adventure experience. Conversely, another client, Californian insurance brokers California Casualty, wanted to honour a century of history. The longer narrative they commissioned allowed us to deliver emotional punch as well as narrative heft. Readers agree: neither book is boring.
For a significant anniversary, a beautiful book can fuel an entire marketing campaign. We’ve spun off social campaigns on Snapchat and Instagram, helped companies design physical museums, and told legacy stories on interactive timelines. The investment in the writing process pays off over and over.
So, why commission a book? It is a powerful storytelling tool that can help you with many of your strategic business goals. It is a respected vehicle for your expertise. You can bring your company together and gather your history into one spot. It’s fun. It’s enduring. It’s the ultimate accelerator. Don’t dismiss a book as a foolish, self-centered investment — it will amply reward all the time and effort it requires when it rolls off the press — an unforgettable gift to enthralled audience.