In days of yore, you had to be moved to write a book. Nowadays, books are an accepted and useful content marketing tool.
Writers — and marketers — are no longer chained to book publishers. You can publish a book yourself.
The use of books as content marketing tools goes way beyond the old concept of vanity press. Now easily self-published either electronically or on paper, books are ways to tell your story, build a relationship with your customers and cement a brand.
Our former colleague Kerry Tymchuk ably assisted Gert Boyle in 2005 in writing her autobiography, "One Tough Mother." Boyle described how, as a 46-year-old housewife, she stepped in to manage Columbia Sportswear when her husband died of a heart attack and went on to make the struggling apparel company a billion-dollar business.
Boyle's image as a fiery octogenarian from a family that fled Nazi Germany fueled an advertising campaign that solidified Columbia's brand image as innovative and uncompromising. The ads often featured Ma Boyle stranding or shooting darts at her son, Tim Boyle, who is president of the company.
Tymchuk unlimbered his writing skills to assist the late Al Reser, in "No Small Potatoes," reflect on his life that began with a family potato salad recipe and turned into a billion-dollar business. Reser was 25 years old when he inherited the family food business operating out of a farmhouse kitchen. Reser's Fine Foods grew, making all kinds of salads, side dishes, snacks and Mexican specialties. His name familiarity widened when his philanthropy to his alma mater, Oregon State University, was recognized when it named its football stadium after him.
Leonard Greenberger, an owner of Potomac Communications Group in Washington, DC, just published his own book offering advice on how to answer tough questions in the public arena. "What to Say When Things Get Tough" gives practical tips to organizations or individuals when facing skeptical audiences or angry neighbors. His book talks about what to say and how to say it in ways that build credibility. It is a perfect example of thought leadership in a book format.
It's fair to wonder whether more books bring clarity or just add more clutter to the public marketplace of ideas. But that is old-school thinking. In new school, you are interested in connecting to your audience, regardless of its size. A well-written book is an effective, engaging way to make that connection.
An analogous debate is raging in the media over what is called long-form journalism — unusually detailed pieces that dig deep into an issue or a personality. Such a contrast to the sparse and often superficial style of most news stories, long-form journalism is finding an audience that wants more. Interestingly, the Internet, the scourge that has devastated a lot of newspaper and magazine newsrooms, may be the knight in shining armor that rescues the media because of its ability to carry stories of any length, punctuated by charts, images and even video.
The music business also has undergone its own content revolution. Recording artists routinely give away a new song to their fans through their websites or social media sites. They look to make their money by having all those fans buy concert tickets and merchandise.
There will always be an audience for great content. Marketers are discovering an audience can be attracted by books that put a face on a corporation and give a personalized stamp to its brand.