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Book Review: Storytelling Edge by Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow

At a recent conference I was attending I was given The Storytelling Edge written by Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow. This book is a highly engaging read on the power and necessity for businesses to use storytelling in their messages. The essential premise of the book is that customers remember and connect with the stories that people and businesses tell more than any other message.

According to the research gathered by Lazauskas and Snow, our brains are built to connect to stories for so many reasons.

  • Stories generate empathy
    • Scientists monitored the brains of subjects as they watched a James Bond movie and they were able to see the heart rates of the audience rise during tense parts of the movie.
  • Stories bring us together
    • Americans are patriotic and love their country over a shared history of the founding of the country which was transmitted in a story format. Events like the Boston Tea Party and surprise attacks on the British – which are stories –  bring us together.
  • Stories are memorable
    • In a research study it was discovered that the most popular Super Bowl commercials were not the funniest or the wittiest, but the ones with best story. Years later people can recall the story more than they remember the jokes.

The authors built out a compelling playbook on how businesses can go about telling better stories which consists of creating a relatable narrative, making new and adding in an element of tension.

There’s an extremely helpful checklist on how to analyze stories towards the end of the book.  The authors believe that 15 seconds is the bare minimum anyone should spend reading the story and readers should be getting through at least 25% of the full story.

The book closes with directives on how to build storytelling into a habit by building a culture of storytelling within an organization. They use the example of Marriott’s blog written by the founder Bill Marriott where the storytelling culture was driven at the highest level.

In short, if you want to increase your marketing abilities and storytelling habits, the Storytelling Edge is a book you are going to want to read right away.

book review

Book Review: Google Power Search – The Essential Guide to Finding Anything Online with Google


Today, Google is the most popular search engine in the world, but it wasn’t in the too distant past that Google was just one of the many search engines available on the nascent web battling for mind share. During those early days of the Internet, Google differentiated itself by sticking to it’s academic routes and followed logical algorithms predicated on library science to rank their results. A carryover from its academic roots is the ability to conduct an advanced search on Google which allows users to narrow down a search query by many different attributes.

Most of these advanced queries are of little use to the average user since it would require understanding how these queries work. In his book, Google Power Search – The Essential Guide to Finding Anything Online With Google, Stephan Spencer has created the quintessential guide as to how to unlock the power of these advanced query tools.

In reading this book, I learned a great deal on how I could use Google advanced queries to find just the right piece of content I was looking for. If I were searching for a particular article that covered a certain topic, was written in a specific set of years, and should not be on a precise website that I declared, there is an advanced query for this task.

As an example, say you once read an article about a technology called cryptocurrency long before it became popular. You think it might have been in in 2015 or 2016, the site was a college (.edu) and it was likely an ivy league school. An advanced query could quickly find all the possible results for this whereas a traditional query would have you searching all day.

Throughout the pages of this book, it is abundantly clear that Stephan Spencer is an absolute expert in how search engines work and the corresponding efforts to help websites improve their visibility in Google. The message that comes across is advanced queries help counteract poor SEO that would otherwise make it very hard to find the results you are looking for. A page that might be ranked at #200 in the search results, can show up at #1 if a query is built that will surface just that page.

Once every advanced query is fully fleshed out, Google Power Search shares tools that might help a user understand what others are searching for like UberSuggest and Soovle.  Most of them I had seen before but I was pleasantly surprised to learn about Google Feud which is a game that tests Google knowledge on current events.

The book closes out with some truly geeky advanced query string parameters to add to Google queries which allow users to filter for specific languages, dates and result types without needing to open up the Google advanced search query options. Google Power Search is the Swiss army knife for all Google users, and you should never have to give up searching for something online that you know is there.

Whether you have been using Google for 2 years or all throughout Google’s nearly 2 decades, this book is a must read. 97% of people use search every single day and knowing how to search better will add hours back into your life. Check out the official Power Search website and buy the audiobook or book now and prepare to have your Google skills expanded!

Killing Marketing
book review

Book review: Killing Marketing

This past fall I spoke at Content Marketing World in Cleveland and I had a chance to get a signed copy of the book written by the founders of Content Marketing Institute and the conference. Killing Marketing, by Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi is the marching orders most marketing leaders need to adopt immediately or risk becoming obsolete.

While a title that calls for killing marketing might not appear to be an actual book on how to do better marketing, this is exactly the point that Rose and Pulizzi are attempting to make. They believe that marketing with the goal of driving more sales has gone off the rails, and marketing as we know it has to be killed off in order to start over again.

Rather than look at marketing as the tool dedicated to driving the rest of the business, marketing itself can be a revenue center. They detail powerful case studies of companies who have developed audiences to do just that.

The two examples which I found to be the most interesting were Arrow and Johnson and Johnson.


Electronics maker, Arrow Electronics used to find new customers by advertising in printed electronics media. As they watched this media go the direction of all print media, they found themselves missing a valuable means to reach their customers. Faced with this reality, Arrow created their own media online which became a profit center as they sold advertising to partners and even competitors.


Johnson & Johnson is another great example with their site babycenter.com. Any new parent seeking advice online likely found BabyCenter and had not even realized that this site is fully owned by a Fortune 500 company. The site is operated fairly independently from the rest of Johnson and Johnson  and monetizes itself research and advertising.

The glaring question that the book does a great job of answering is how marketing of this form will generate positive ROI. Both Arrow and Johnson and Johnson are driving revenue for the core company from their marketing, and the authors believe anyone can see similar results.

Here are the suggested ways that this “new marketing” can be monetized:

  • Advertising – Any form of advertising can be placed alongside content created for marketing
  • Native advertising – This is a form of advertising where the content itself is a paid promotion. Organization can receive sponsorship dollars to promote a product within an article by creating a whole piece about that product
  • Events – As the content builds a following there will be opportunities to invite the audience to paid events
  • Premium content – Content can also be turned into additional offerings like books or high end videos which can be sold to the audience and not just given away
  • Subscriptions – Companies can charge audiences to read the content via a subscription fee

Obviously, there are many opportunities for indirect revenue like driving sales by increasing the brand which is the older form of marketing we are more used to.

The book closes out with a plan for anyone to follow on how to set up their own content efforts. There are suggestions on evaluating whether to build or buy a new marketing channel, examples of what constitutes an audience and how to build the business model.

To me the most compelling part of the book was that the authors were not just preaching, they had lived their advice. They had created a successful company (the Content Marketing Institute) who’s marketing was content people wanted, a conference built around that audience (Content Marketing World), purchased a marketing a channel (the Content Marketing Awards) and all around had so much first person experience on this topic.

In short, this book is a great read for anyone that is aware that they need to change their marketing paradigms so audiences want to pay attention. It is packed full of great advice and examples. If you want to learn from people who have navigated this journey of changing marketing from the old boring model to one that people enjoy as a product, go out and get this book now!


book review

Pitch Perfect: How to Say It Right the First Time, Every Time

In preparation for some upcoming presentations I am due to give during the remainder of the year, I picked up Pitch Perfect: How to Say it Right the First Time, Every Time written by Bill McGowan. I had actually thought the book would be about making actual pitches and I wasn’t pleasantly surprised to discover that it was really the most detailed guide on public speaking – of every sort – that I had ever read.

The author walks the reader through a detailed and personal story on why having the right response to a reporter is so important. Not to spoil it for you, but the end of the anecdote does include a punch to the face.  He also shares an embarrassing story on how he began his career consulting for tech companies where he needed to take his own advice and communicate perfectly. Additionally, throughout the book there are illustrative examples from current events as to how important it is to say the right thing when put on the spot.

The book covers every possible scenario of public speaking from presenting on a stage to a TV interview to how to speak at a dinner table. The author goes into precise detail on how one should dress for a TV interview and even where they should place their hands when presenting on stage.

The book was full of helpful hints and I learned some amazing tidbits like:

  • In a meeting one should always raise the chair to the maximum height even if this means their feet are dangling
  • When stuck in a never ending conversation at a networking event, the easiest out is to reference needing to make a phone call
  • Don’t bury the lede when beginning a presentation put the most important piece of info right up front

Whether you are a frequent public speaker, a team manager or just someone who likes to host dinner gatherings, this is a must read book. It would be impossible to come away from reading Pitch Perfect without learning dozens of new tips for how to communicate in the world.

The book even ends with specific advice for how to give a wedding toast, a eulogy and congratulate someone for something you aren’t really happy about. Pitch Perfect is an absolute must-read book!


book review

Book review: Top of Mind Use Content to Unleash Your Influence and Engage Those Who Matter To You

Top of Mind: Use Content to Unleash Your Influence and Engage Those Who Matter To You by marketing thought leader and keynote speaker John Hall is one of the best books I have ever read on the topic of building influence through content. I have read my fair share of books that promote the act of writing content to serve a marketing, but for me this book really touched a nerve.

Any brand or person you can name off the top of your head, you are likely aware of them through the content they produce, even if it is just the interviews they have given. Putting oneself “out there” is a necessary in the branding journey, and Top of Mind is a practical guide on the WHY and HOW to get there.

John Hall’s, the author, writing was deeply personal and wove together a narrative on why content is the best way to build influence. He details his early failures and struggles getting his business off the ground. The book walks through a detailed strategy on the types of content that need to be present for the target audience in each stage of the customer journey.

The author drives home the need to always have a consistent content strategy which includes regular publication. Following this advice correctly will achieve the promise set forth by the book’s title of staying top of mind.

As a bonus at the very end of the book, there is a detailed list of tools and technology recommendations, and the time saved and value from this section alone makes the purchase price of the book a total steal.

Not to spoil this  for anyone because you MUST read this book, but I need to share two anecdotes from the book that I found to be very interesting.

The first story is when the author is very early into his journey of building a company. He arrives at a meeting to present on the topic of building a personal brand with content and suddenly has an epiphany that he is guilty of not taking his own advice. The rest of the book is a continued journey into how using content he was able to build a his own highly successful marketing company. This experience set the stage in the most powerful way for how content can help to build a brand presence.

The second story from the book that I really connected to was when the author talked about he published a Forbes blog post on why being a bad writer is not an excuse not to write. He shares that he made himself vulnerable by writing the following:

I’m the CEO of a content marketing company, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a great writer — and that I don’t enjoy it. I’m a verbal communicator; writing just isn’t my forte.

He thought it would be somewhat awkward to make such a public admission; yet, he said people really connected with him after this blog post. This is a secret fear that everyone seems to have (myself included) and making it public was a powerful lesson.

These are just two of the many valuable anecdotes and lessons in this book; Top of Mind is a great book for anyone that has any thought of building a personal or corporate brand. Whatever industry you work in is surely very competitive, and with content, you can differentiate yourself by making your unique voice heard.