Blog to Stick

While I might be wiser to write a post on keeping up with writing posts on one’s blog (and hey, I think I will) I thought I’d take some time to share a great book I’ve been reading.

If you’re like me, you’re probably in the middle of reading three or four books at any one time. I tend to have a work of fiction, something on economics or history, something on sports (mixing with economics and history) and a book that can be generally described as marketing, business or communications strategy-related on the go at any given time.

orange is a sticky cover for a book, dont you think?

orange is a sticky cover for a book, don't you think?

For the latter category, I’ve just finished Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and others Die by Chip and Dan Heath. One a Stanford professor of organizational behaviour and the other a new-media education expert, these brothers walk us through the foundation of what makes certain ideas break through the clutter and attach to our brains like Velcro — that’s the “stickiness” factor.

The book is broken into six sections with a cleverly-designed acronym (a catalyst for stickiness). Ideas, the Heaths argue, should be:

Simple
Unexpected
Concrete
Credible
Emotional
and tell a Story
(SUCCEs)

While treading similar water to Malcolm Gladwell’s wildy popular The Tipping Point, Made to Stick survives with circumstance where Gladwell led with pomp. The authors use countless real life examples in a variety of situations to show why the basic principles weed their way into the best ideas. One central theme is the evidentially “stickiness” of urban legends. I won’t ruin their deconstructed examples but I’ll add my own:

Let’s take the tale of giant sewer rats scuttling through New York City’s sewer system and occasionally popping up through people’s toilets. This is a myth I remember hearing from my older sister when I was 8 or 9. I was very familiar with the giant rats from The Princess Bride and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and was both insanely excited and terrified that I could catch a glimpse of a super rat one day.

The rumours were simple, unexpected (frighteningly so), concrete in that anyone who’s seen a rat can imagine a gigantic one, credible in an anti-authority way — what they don’t want you to know!, obviously emotional and in each instance of the myth, the storyteller will claim to know someone who knows someone who’s actually seen one.

While the book is not aimed intentionally at business communicators, in spirit it’s all PR. From the “clinics” bearing examples of more and less sticky messages, to the narratives about a health official using a vivid Big Mac comparison when trying to communicate the dangerous saturated fat levels in movie theatre popcorn, marketing and communications, specifically, are tested against the theory the most.

I’ll file this one under Streducation as I would have relished the opportunity to be assigned this book back in PR school instead of those textbooks that are now holding up a wobbly bookshelf in my bedroom. I’ve started to go back and look over past campaigns, white papers and strategies I’ve been involved in and test them against some of the principles in Made to Stick, meaning the book itself resonated with stickiness for me.

I’m a heavy user of the Toronto Public Library but if you’d like to pick up your very own copy, here’s Amazon. I think you can even read a chapter there.

Read a good book PR/communications book lately? Drop a comment or an e-mail to stractical [at] gmail.com

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