If you know so much about it, why don’t you write a book?
Imagine being able to say: “Yeah, I did that… and here it is.”
Here, in part II of taking your brand anthem to a thoughtful, well-developed book that demonstrates your expertise, I’m making the argument that every firm (including yours) should chase that feeling. Building on last month, when I made the case for writing a book with co-authors with the partners of your firm, and over a calendar year of recorded conversations, I’ve got more thoughts on the writing process itself.
But before I dive in, I’ll go ahead and tell you why.
Why write a book?
Why take the effort to plan, write, edit, and publish a piece of content that based on your brand anthem, if we’re being honest, probably won’t be a bestseller, or even a moderately successful seller?
Because publishing a book is a powerful long-term strategy to build your firm’s reputation for thought leadership, and at the same time, define its position in a marketplace filled with noise. In another article we’ve published, Chief Operating Officer Chris Stadler puts it this way:
“If your firm writes a book, it’s a sign that your thoughts and processes are time-tested and organized. Anyone who can talk deeply enough about a topic to write a book demonstrates depth and experience.”
This is especially true in professional services, where brands develop their reputation and define their place in the market through knowledge, competence, word-of-mouth, and in-depth experience with a particular topic. If you’re in accounting, law, or engineering, then your respective knowledge of case law, financial trends, or the geographical layout of the Colorado River basin is your bread and butter. With that in mind, a brand anthem book gathers all that knowledge into an eye-catching, tremendously helpful brand asset.
Of course, knowing what you do is different from communicating that to everyone else.
Before you get cracking on a book, your best bet is having your firm’s brand story right.
Brand Anthem Squared
This is where your brand anthem comes in.
Whatever your content strategy looks like—and trust me, articles, brand videos, a podcast, a killer website, and social media accounts filled with clever posts are all a pretty great start—it should be centered on a clear, memorable brand anthem. That is, on a memorable story of how you help guide your clients to the solution they need in your unique, unduplicated way.
The same goes for a book; it should wave your brand’s banner in an unmistakable way, even as it dives into your point of view, experience, and comprehensive knowledge of a particular topic. Even where it dovetails with your regular ongoing strategy, a book built from a truthful, memorable brand anthem should take things further. More than standalone blog posts, and even more than a viral brand video that’s trending with your target audience, a book fleshes out your brand anthem in a definitive way.
One that commands your audience’s attention.
Put Another Way
A book takes all the content strategy that you’re already putting out, and condenses it into a sophisticated, reputable piece of brand content.
All together in one package, with a clean title and an author from your firm on the cover, and listed on Amazon or stacked on a table at an annual convention, a book speaks volumes. It produces a level of reputational trust that I haven’t seen with other pieces of content that firms put out in the marketplace.
As you can imagine, a book is even more than a summary of your brand anthem, or one source volume of content strategy. Rather, it’s a valuable, sophisticated asset for your firm and your firm’s brand. Not to mention a reputational investment in your firm’s role as a thought leader.
Your Brand Anthem: Going Beyond ‘Write What You Know’
You’ve probably heard that you should ‘write you know.’ But in the professional service and B2B corner of the world, a better saying would be ‘write what you want to be known for.’
That obviously means tapping into you and your firm’s expertise—the refined experience and thought processes you’ve acquired over years, or even decades of day in, day out business and interactions—and aiming it squarely at your target audience.
It might mean elaborating on simply ‘what you know,’ even though the topic is one that you probably eat, breathe and sleep. Research, reading other books in the market and for the same audience, and of course gleaning as much as you can from co-authors all goes a long way in building out your book.
Write as a Teacher
If nothing else, translating your proven experience into expository or, at times, instructional writing conveys another quality. It suggests that you’re capable of teaching others about your thinking—not just what you think, but how and why you think a certain way.
If you do it well, writing as a teacher can even push you, your firm, and your co-authors into the realm of being a thought leader on that topic—something that’s much more valuable than simply sticking the book on your website and telling people to buy it.
If they buy it, that’s a bonus.
But the real tactical advantage of writing a book comes when your firm can use that book and the expertise it conveys as a reputational, brand-building platform. With a book to your name, you’re more likely to land speaking events, or to make an impression at conventions with people you want to work with.
Handing someone a book is like handing them a turbo-charged resume.
It’s proof of your knowledge, your proven experience, and your conceptual thinking, all rolled into one.
Do I Have to Write it?
No shame in asking.
Nearly everyone wants to have written a book… and that writing, editing, and publishing part of the journey looks pretty daunting.
No doubt, there is a ton of work and planning involved—but as I explained in last month’s article, the writing process itself also pays dividends when it comes to monthly content marketing.
One strategy I talked about was writing a book by talking to people. That is, get together with the partners of your firm, or any co-authors, and schedule twelve in-depth conversations (one every month) that you’ll record, draw from, and eventually turn into chapters in your book. With that strategy in mind, I’ll be talking more about the writing and editing process, and about how your book should differentiate your firm from others in a unique, remarkable way… obviously.
Writing With Backbone
Here are a few tips on the writing process.
Or, and to the extent that writing is nothing but refined thinking, I should probably say the thinking process that will go into your book. A good process, along with a one year, one-topic-a-month strategy, goes a long way in making the whole writing journey a worthwhile investment.
Writing a book is a huge commitment. For every finished book, there’s a handful of would-be authors who got started but then changed their minds.
You’re probably not writing a book about something unless it’s something you really believe, and everybody knows that. When people see a finished book, the commitment that went into taking it over the finish line speaks for itself. Even more than case studies, a website, or marketing materials that share your philosophy while laying out what your firm does, a book gives your reputation and your way of thinking a backbone.
So what goes into this backbone? Chapter by chapter, page by page, and even paragraph by paragraph, how do you stack it all together? Aside from a keyboard, voice to text—or by the time I publish this, some flashy new copywriting bot—is there a silver bullet for translating that thinking into words and sentences?
Beyond carving up your book into a minimum of twelve chapter topics and then filling out those topics with recorded conversations, there’s no prescription for how you stack and organize your content knowledge. At the end of the day, someone will have to transcribe those conversations, edit the writing, and publish it.
You’re in Luck
Probably more than once.
But I can say that the backbone of your book should be particular details, focused on your target audience. The common thread through each detail, as well as each chapter, is that they demonstrate your proven experience.
Here’s where you’re in luck.
Your proven experience is made up of details you already know.
Oh Yeah? Prove It.
Say you’re telling someone all about your brand anthem book topic: someone like a hard-hitting journalist. While you talk, they’re hitting you with a ton of questions that force you to get more particular, more example-driven, and even more focused.
“Okay,” they say, thinking about accounting software, jury selection, or start-up strategies, or whatever you’ve just told them. “Tell me more about your take on that.”
“How is your take different?” they ask. “How is it Special? How is it unlike what I’ve already heard from other firms who know this topic?”
“What have you thought about or realized that nobody else is saying?”
“Can you demonstrate?”
“Can you give me an example? Something from your experience that stands out and illustrates your point?”
Now take a look at what you’ve got
The more you answer these questions, the more you’re responding to an unspoken challenge: prove it, prove it, prove it. By the time you’re done, you’ve probably got a whole chapter’s worth of content, just in answering their questions. Maybe you’ve got several chapters, or even a whole book’s worth.
This exercise forces you to get particular. Answering questions means fleshing out your proven experience in a way people can understand. If you’ve spoken to someone who’s curious about your work, but not an insider, you know that dry, flavorless exposition will leave them bored or scratching their heads. Instead, give them stories. Memorable examples. Details about the process. Give them jaw-dropping facts, anecdotes and general stats (or estimates) so they have a baseline and proper perspective.
And when they ask how you approach your process, you’ll answer directly: ‘here’s what this means to me, and maybe even to you.’
In other words, in an authentic, reputable way, you have to prove it. Regardless of chapter topic, chapter order, or paragraph by paragraph flow, proving it is a pretty good plumb line. At every step, you’re showing that your way of thinking is a trustworthy map: a graspable system that helps people understand your profession, your industry, your valuable insights, and how you approach common challenges with a unique solution.
But Keep it Grounded
When you stack all this in a book, people can do more than grasp your way of thinking—they can test it out for themselves. They can compare something you said in chapter one to what you say in chapter nine… and see if the numbers add up. In other words, part of your thought leadership’s backbone means being falsifiable. Not stepping out on a limb for no reason, but rather, taking stand after stand that can potentially be proven false.
It’s a scary thought, but remember that your reader is asking you, your co-authors, and book one thing: prove it.
Nonfiction writers like to say that every book makes a promise to the reader at the very start. Any book worth its salt, from a how-to book to a sophisticated work of investigative journalism, answers that promise.
By filling out your book’s content with falsifiable, but thoroughly supported, claims and proven experience, you show the reader your thought system works to the nth degree. You show them that you’ve used it so much (as the case should be if you’re writing about what you know) and so often over the years that it’s trustworthy and convincing.
Thought Leadership as Content Strategy
Writing your book means more than refining your thinking—and when all is said and done, proving your role as a thought leader in the marketplace.
Another advantage (and another reason to do it) is that putting your knowledge or your firm’s philosophy into a falsifiable, focused book filled with proven experience means getting all your co-authors on the same page. The monthly, recorded conversations are an excellent way to do just that… and when the writing and editing process comes full circle, having co-authors weigh in, make corrections, and keep an eye on the overall project is a kind of brand refining process in and of itself.
With the goal of carving out your firm’s position in the marketplace, you want everyone involved on the same page… singing from the same tune from the same hymn book, you might say.
To that end, your book doesn’t need to read like a textbook.
Believe me, it doesn’t have to be this super academic, footnote-packed product you might find in a college bookstore.
You can build your backbone and flesh out your claims with facts, details, and proven experience in a substantial way…while being approachable. Many businesses who want to write a book envision something thick and substantial, but the reality is that putting out a massive volume overestimates the number of people who might actually read it.
Guard Your Expectations Carefully
Even if your book is brilliant, it faces a harsh reality.
Most people that you encounter as potential clients will never actually read every word of it. They’ll read the parts that matter to them, or they might not even read it at all. Seeing the book and browsing its contents might be enough to make them go “Wow, you wrote the book on that? I want you as my firm.”
So if you’re thinking of putting out a brand dictionary, something that will take vast amounts of time, resources, and even budget… keep this in mind.
As I mentioned last month, manage your expectations accordingly.
Take a Breath
Of course your piece of thought leadership needs to be good—I’m not saying a stylish book jacket is an easy swindle for getting people’s business.
But while you’re writing, podcasting and recording, or editing the book into the best, most substantial and thought-through version of itself, take a deep breath… and remember why you’re doing it.
Don’t expect a New York Times bestseller… or even to see your book on any physical bookshelf in a store. Rather, remember you’re doing this as a sophisticated way to validate everything you think internally about your firm, your industry, and your brand’s unique place in the market.
With a book, and for those who read your approachable, systematic outline to your thinking and proven experience, you gain a little bit of monopoly power against your competition.
And that stakes out your firm’s position.
Don’t Be Shy with your Brand Anthem
If you love the idea of a book that can build your remarkable firm’s reputation with your audience, then ask for the help you need to make it happen.
Having written a book on B2B branding with some incredible people, I know the process back to front. I’m glad to help remarkable brands plan, outline, and even get the words right. If the end result is a proven, authentically-reading piece of thought leadership that builds your firm’s reputation, then I’m all in.
I’d love to help make that happen.
If you’re itching to get recording or writing, that’s splendid.
But don’t forget that you are remarkable.