Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Future Projects II: Business Book

There's almost nothing worse than a business book. The book you "have" to read because your boss tells you to. The only one I've ever enjoyed and found particularly useful is Selling The Invisible, by Harry Beckwith, and that is a book I unreservedly recommend to anyone in any way involved in marketing, whether it's in a corporate, non-profit, or self-promotional environment. The man is a true sage, even though I got pissed off at him when in his next book he ragged on Laura Nyro. I'm sorry, but you just don't do that.

Anyway, a second book I hope to recommend to you one day is tentatively called, "Writers, Designers & Clients: Navigating the Devil's Triangle of Marketing Communications," by moi (normally I'd say "me" but I just got back from a few days in Montreal). This book is borne of a frustration I've had as being one member of said triumvirate, not only with designers and clients, but also with other writers, including, at times, moi.

Many are the things I've muttered under my breath or shared via internal emails that I dared not say directly to a designer with whom I'm collaborating or a client for whom I'm writing, for fear of getting fired. But the more I've stewed over these things, the more these complaints and observations have molded themselves into what I consider to be sound ideas that all three groups of people involved in the average marketing communications project would do well to heed. And so I've decided to write a book in which these pearls of wisdom are are offered in a way that is enlightening as well as entertaining, and therefore will allow to me to keep my day job in the event the book doesn't sell (because after all, if I piss off a few people but the book makes me rich, who cares?).

The book will begin with the premise that writers, designers, and clients are inherently a mismatch made in hell. Though writers and designers ought to be good communicators, and ought to understand each other, in fact they aren't and they don't. Though both exercise the creative arts, one is necessarily verbal and the other necessarily visual. And there the twain just don't meet. The biggest compliment I've ever received from a designer was that I was a writer who thinks visually. And the biggest compliment I could ever give a designer is that he or she has enhanced my message, rather than obscured it, and did so because he or she took the time to understand it first.

If writers and designers are like dogs and cats, or Hatfields and McCoys, then clients are from some different universe altogether. They may be many things but creative ain't one of them. After all, they were business majors. As a result, they lack a basic knowledge of how to communicate with, give direction to, and most important, get the hell out of the way of the creative team. The problem with clients is that they know what they need but they don't always know what they want. As a result, they're often unclear as to what messages and images will help them achieve their objectives (even though they may try to counter that by making a plethora of suggestions about colors and headlines). And because it's their money to spend, and their heads on the chopping block if the objectives aren't realized, they are inherently distrustful of the creative team and unsure of what decisions need to be made and when.

Part of the book that I'm developing now is three sets of 10 Commandments, one for writers, one for designers, and one for clients. Given that I take my own types to task, it is to be hoped that the overall work will be seen as credible and not merely one frustrated writer's personal pissing match. In fact, #1 for writers is, "Thou shalt not be clever." This is because being clever is all about a writer showing off his wit and technique without regard for the needs of the client or the integrity of the message. Writing well, I argue (convincingly, I might add), is not the same as communicating well. There's a reason Faulkner didn't write brochures (aside from the fact he was too drunk to honor a deadline). And speaking of deadlines, Commandment #1 for clients is, "Thou shalt not pluck a deadline out of thine ass."

Fortunately, I recently was named Communications Director and Board Member of AIGA Boston, the local chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts. In this role, I'll be rubbing shoulders with designers by the dozen in both professional and social settings. When sufficiently lubricated, I intend to get them talking so that I can get more insight into what makes them tick (and ticked off) to further lend balance to my book.

Of course, as a writer, and the author, I fully intend to have the last word.


Sarah said...

Get busy! This book is NEEDED!

And re: commandments, don't forget the one from John 13:34 where Jesus says, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." In the corporate world, this could be paraphrased to talk about respect, consideration, trust, etc. It's the only one that matters anyway.

Lazy Julie said...

I really want to read this book! This book needs to be written and soon. I think this post is basically your book proposal and you should show it to your agent (or use it to get an agent). When you do write the book, please make sure to include something about the evils of clients who are oral editors. Writing is a quiet process. Mark up my words with red pen or word strike outs or even long-winded Microsoft Word comments in review format, but PLEASE don't make me listen to your monologue of mental masturbation couched in the form of a meeting while you try to decide (outloud with an audience) what the hell it is you hired me to communicate.

Jason M. Rubin said...