Brand: Personality Not Included
Execution: Viral, Social Networking
Target: Business book readers
Reviewer: David Vinjamuri
Personality Not Included: Why Companies Lose their Authenticity and How Great Brands Get it Back is a new business book published last month by Rohit Bhargava, Senior VP of Digital Strategy and Marketing at Ogilvy PR. Bhargava is a first-time author, but confronts the publishing world with the experience of a new media expert. His Influential Marketing Blog is listed in the AdAge Power 150.
To market Personality Not Included, Bhargava drew from his blogging and new media PR experience to create a variety of attention-getting stunts, the largest of which was a simultaneous interview with 50 bloggers for the launch of the book (here’s one) which amplified the viral nature of his book launch. He also created a facebook add-on to a book signing event to increase turnout and a group blog called The Personality Project to complement the book’s website. Bhargava has a twelve month plan of activities to launch the site. Rohit is speaking in New York on Wednesday, May 14th.
Marketing a business book can be a daunting task for a first-time author who is not a celebrity. Most publishers view new authors the same way that venture capitalists view start-up companies. They make a good number of small bets and then see which author manages to make their own work successful. So authors are left to their own devices to market their ideas.
Bhargava has done an excellent job of mining his expertise in new media, particularly social networking, to build a base for his book. He recognizes that a campaign of this nature is by definition a slow build, and that his chances of hitting a bestseller list are most likely a year or more down the road. He has cleverly co-opted the interest of bloggers and colleagues by creating event-driven online properties. The 50-blog simultaneous interview which he used to launch his book was particularly inventive, as it provided real sales momentum but a better artifact (in the form of a variety of interesting author interviews permanently archived by Google and a competition among bloggers to see who came up with the best questions) than the “social media bum rush” done for The Age of Conversation.
Bhargava has also strategically done a good job of positioning Personality Not Included against the anticipated book “Groundswell” by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff from Forrester. While that book handily outsells his at the moment, by positioning Personality Not Included as a new-media-aware branding book rather than the chronicle of a fundamental change in consumer behavior he has given his work a longer shelf life.
This is a significant book and Bhargava may have lost an opportunity by not engaging professionals to help him get mainstream media reviews. This would have been tricky however, as he is a senior executive in a PR firm himself. However his expertise is in digital media and he does not have the same relationships with traditional print media as he does in the digital sphere. While there have been some very good examples of books launched entirely in the blogsphere, notably The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott, a gentle push from BusinessWeek or The New York Times can be invaluable for a new business book.
Branding Bottom Line:
Bhargava finds new ways to turn the web on its head. We would hire him.
BONUS: Interview with Rohit Bhargava
How did you come up with the idea for your 50-blog interview?
The nice thing about having your own book is that if you have an idea that you think works, you can do it. The idea for the blog interviews came out of my desire to do a promotion that bloggers would be interested in because they get something in return. For me, I wanted them to write about the concept of a book that they hadn’t read. For all the 55 bloggers that decided to ask me 5 questions about the book, they were getting good customized content for their blogs and the chance to win a prize (and fame) for having the best interview. I had the idea on a Sunday and launched it on a Tuesday, so sometimes when the right idea comes along, it just works.
What are the biggest challenges for a first time author marketing his own book?
The biggest challenge is to realize that all the marketing and publicity will fall on your own shoulders. I knew this going in because I had some great advice from other authors that I talked to, but you’re never quite ready for how much you actually have to do yourself. The other challenge for someone like me is that I still have my full time day job, which means much of my book efforts are in the after hours or not full time.
You talk about a slow build and a 12-month calendar. What are some of the things you have planned for the rest of the year?
Well, I have an overall strategy that I’m working towards which has lots of different elements but I can’t really say what is exactly going to happen over the next 12 months because some of the efforts I have not come up with yet. Right now I’m spending a lot of time talking about a new site I launched for the book that I am really excited about called The Personality Project (www.thepersonalityproject.com). I can tell you there are quite a few more activities that I have planned over the next few months that will likely duplicate the amount of buzz of the launch and hopefully eclipse it!
With thousands of business books published each year, what do you think the key to differentiation is?
I spent a lot of time on this – researching other books that could be considered “competitive” to my book. I think the answer is twofold. Part of the theory of the book is that personality sets companies apart, and to a degree the personality of my book sets it apart from others in the same space. In addition, I focused very much on writing a book that was fun and engaging to read, and ultimately useful. It was this focus on being actually useful that sets PNI apart as well, because so many books are written in a theoretical way instead of a practical way.
In your first few weeks what have the biggest surprises of new authorship been for you?
The single biggest surprise has got to be just how much weight people who organize events and conferences put on authorship. I always suspected that if the book became successful, I would start to get better speaking invitations for more prominent slots or keynotes instead of panels. I expected this would take some time, but it was almost overnight that this started to happen. That was surprising, as I don’t quite feel that the book has earned that for me yet … but I plan to try and make the most of the chances I’m given!
What has been your best use of social networking to promote your book?
So far, I’d have to say the launch interview idea was the biggest success because of the buzz it generated. There are a few other ideas that I will be launching (which I mentioned above) that should equal or better that buzz as I roll them out.
You launched at nearly the same time as an anticipated book in a similar area: GroundSwell. How do you compete with that marketing machine?
I am actually a great admirer of both Charlene and Josh, so when I made it to their launch party for the book a few weeks ago, we talked about this. I actually think it’s a great thing because our books are very complimentary. PNI is not a book about social media, but it does incorporate social media into it – so I could see many people getting very different things from both. What I realized after launching my book is that the real competition is other books that my publisher (McGraw-Hill) launched in the same timeframe because I am competing with marketing resources with those books. If I have competition to fight against, that’s where it really comes from.
Which did you enjoy more Ë† researching, writing or publicizing your book?
I love marketing and am really passionate about actually putting theory into ACTION, so I’d have to say the best time I’m having is right now with all the promotion for the book. The writing and researching, for me, is the hard work that got me to this point. When you’re actually marketing, that’s the fun part!
You have focused your launch efforts in San Francisco although you live in D.C. Why?
Focusing on SF was a deliberate choice because I have a lot of contacts through the Web2.0 crowd on the west coast and wanted to make the most of this community. In addition, during the weeks of the launch of the book, most of my speaking engagements were on the west coast, so it made logical sense to do the launch party there. I have lots planned for DC too, though, and will be in several other markets over the next few months before I start heading international as well.
What one piece of advice would you give to a first-time branding book author?
I would say, take an honest look at what your goals are and publish your book with that goal in mind. For me, PNI is a chance for me to make my reputation and share something useful with people who need to market something. The international component of the book and distribution was most important to me, so I went with the publisher that I did because they have a really strong distribution arm. That has turned out to be a great decision so far.