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How to Be a Communications Pro In 6 Great Books

You want to be communications superstar? Then hit the books.
Being well-read on Twitter and keeping up with your favourite communications blogs only goes so far.

You want to be communications superstar? Then hit the books.
Being well-read on Twitter and keeping up with your favourite communications blogs only goes so far.


A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.

 —Mark Twain


You want to be communications superstar? Then hit the books.

I’ll admit it: College assignments that demanded lots of reading also caused me to procrastinate. But since graduating, reading has become a hobby. Being well-read on Twitter and keeping up with your favorite communications blogs only goes so far.

In order to become a pro, take a page from my playbook and immerse yourself in these paper heavyweights highlighting modern communications and the tech that makes it possible.

communications: laying the foundation

To be communications pro you’ll need to build a solid foundation of knowledge.

Lay the Communcations Foundation

A Social Strategy” by Mikolaj Jan Piskorski, of Harvard Business School, introduces us to the concepts of social failures—unmet social needs—and compares how social giants like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are able to provide solutions that help meet those needs.

Piskorski suggests that although most companies are currently active on social media, very few use it to improve business outcomes such as lowering customer acquisition or retention costs. He balances this with case studies from Nike, American Express, Zynga and Yelp that show how these corporations streamlined their social channels to increase profit.

If you don’t yet have a grip on the real power and potential of social media—or need help explaining it to others—this book is a must-read.

Contagious,” by Jonah Berger, shows how word of mouth fuels a company’s ability to be successful. But what makes peer-to-peer marketing spread like wildfire? Berger seeks to answer that question by presenting principles such as social currency, triggers, emotion and many other theories.

The takeaway from “Contagious” is that social media phenomena, like the recent Ice Bucket Challenge movement on Facebook, don’t become viral by coincidence. Understanding what drives the action of sharing can help us craft more pervasive messages and campaigns.

Communications, Alexis Ohanian

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian encourages readers to “Use the power of the Internet to make the world suck less.”

Startup Your Communications Motivation

Twitter is one of the best ways to communicate directly to a mass audience. In “Things a Little Bird Told Me” by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, we learn a lot about the social media magnate and the company he helped form. We also are motivated by lessons like:

  • Opportunity can be manufactured
  • Asking questions is free
  • Empathy is core to personal and global success

Without Their Permission” by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian is part biography, part roadmap for entrepreneurs. Ohanian encourages readers to “Use the power of the Internet to make the world suck less” and recounts many stories of how he has been able to do just that.

After reading “Without Their Permission,” you’ll be inspired to think bigger about your career and upcoming projects. You can take my word on that.

communications: Vaynerchuck

Gary Vaynerchuk uses a boxing metaphor to explain social marketing.

Brainstorm With the Best

Youtility” presents Jay Baer’s idea of what marketing should be: useful. He argues that smart marketing is about helping people, and that creating marketing that people love and use will attract customers for life.

As explained by Baer in a Real Business interview, “companies should be thinking: ‘How do we show our humanity? How can we help?’” Two of my favorite utilitarian marketing examples that come from the book are the @HiltonSuggests Twitter account and Charmin’s Sit or Squat app.

Using boxing as a metaphor for social marketing, Gary Vaynerchuk’s “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” details the art of setting up opponents and finding the perfect moment to hit them with a right hook.

With that, Vaynerchuk suggests social marketing is all about patiently building relationships with customers before asking them to make a purchase. “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” is a handbook that explains intricate differences between social platforms and how to leverage each one properly.

Included are tons of case studies showing examples of social media done well and poorly. We know that audiences behave differently in different places. This book taught me very specifically how to respect each platform—from Facebook and Twitter, all the way through Tumblr and Snapchat.

With more options to reach our target audiences than ever before, this might be the most challenging time to ever work in communications. And just like scoring an A in a tough college course, becoming a communications superstar isn’t a quick or easy process.

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