Believe it or not, I get this request a lot. You read that right: Companies want to make a mark with a real life, hardcover, put-in-your-hands book to capture what they do and who they are.
Yes, digital drives us, but the fact is books are one of civilization’s oldest and most effective technologies for expanding minds and sparking creativity. And for companies building their brand and culture, a book can set them apart. Great examples include Zappos and The Container Store. These companies put credence into documenting their unique take on business that inspires while promoting their brands. Recently, science even found those who read books actually live longer; maybe that’s why today’s most respected leaders admit they love a good book!
As a result, I’ve been proud to author and ghost write books for companies including Parker Hannifin Corporation, and most recently, one of the top 10 insurance brokerages in the United States. While their reasons were different (Parker chronicled over 50 years of history in the motion and control industry; Acrisure focused on their unique, globally expanding culture), the anticipated result is always the same: Produce an impressive book that speaks to the audience and leaves an indelible mark.
From a big picture perspective it sounds simple, but trust me, it’s not. Take it from Acrisure’s Executive Vice President, Marketing and Communications Colleen Weston who brought me in for her company’s culture book: “Easy is the last word I would use to describe producing a book for your company. If you’re thinking about it, map off 12 hours a day, seven days a week for months, if not a year—and that’s on top of your every day job!”
If your company is dedicated to writing a book, here are a few things (…actually a long list…) to keep in mind:
- Know who you’re talking to and why.
It goes without saying the audience is always first. Who will read your book? Is it for internal culture building purposes only? Or, is it more far reaching as a marketing vehicle to promote and build your brand? Nail this down from the beginning, or be prepared to add time to your deadline as you figure it out.
- Get the inside skinny.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of interviews. Reach out beyond the usual suspects within your company’s circle to deepen your story. For example, the 30 scheduled interviews for Parker’s book grew to over 70 as I discovered more sources. Conversations for Acrisure led me around the country and overseas to speak with some of the most interesting people that truly made the book a success. Leaving no stone unturned makes a difference to communicate a company’s their brand to a far-reaching audience.
- Content and design: Collaborate for success.
I’m a writer in addition to overseeing graphic design elements when producing various types of publications. But, I am NOT a graphic designer! To help tell the story, find a partner in crime with a great designer who can collaborate from the get go. On that note, my go to designer here in Cleveland is Liz Radivoyevitch of RAD Graphics. When I call, Liz knows it’s going to be fast and furious. She keeps up and inspires me along the way!
- Speaking of visuals…
Whether telling your company’s history or capturing what makes your brand different, visuals are the element that bring your story to life. Does your company have an archive of files from years of photos or other memorabilia? Can your sources provide long-forgotten images or documents? Dig, discover and digitize as you craft the content.
- Get ready, set, review (and review…and review).
Who will review your book’s content? Establish your team from the beginning and map out a review schedule. In my world, it’s usually a combination of the company’s CEO and executive team along with marketing leaders who review each word. These are busy people who need it fast, but there need to be boundaries as to how many times they can review and make changes. If the review process goes on ad nausea, you’ll actually get nauseous—and the finished product becomes a very distant light in the tunnel.
- Make it legal and back it up with a copyeditor.
The book’s content may sing to everyone involved, but it might hit a harsh cord with your legal team. Regardless if you’re a big corporation or small business, communicate your book project with a legal entity from the beginning. Elements including citations of sources and copyright language are critical, and can hurt your company if not done correctly (or worse, completely forgotten!). To make it official, I always recommend bringing on a copyeditor who polishes each detail and specializes in writing indexes. For the last two books I’ve written, Maureen Johnson of MoJo’s Indexing and Editorial Service has been a savior in assuring all legal elements are clean and ready to be printed (who knew a woman I met in line at the grocery store would become so valuable to me?!?).
- Oh…and you have to print it
Time is the operative term when thinking about printing. If you want a hardcover book professionally produced, prepare for three to four extra months (yes…months!); a softcover takes at least three weeks. Make sure everyone understands this up front.
- Press check!
So, you’re all ready to go. After months (and often years) of hard work, the book has been written and designed, reviewed and approved. But, the most critical piece is a thorough press check. Prepare a team to be at the printer for at least 10 hours straight to review samples of each page as it flies off the press. This may seem overkill, but even the biggest print houses can make mistakes. Catch them early to correct before thousands of pages are printed and your book is in the CEO’s hand and distributed to the masses (ouch!).
- Celebrate…for years to come!
I’ve loved working on each of the books I’ve been a part of. There’s nothing like collaborating with a company who is making a mark with their story—and being able to tell it for them. Instant gratification via social and likes may give your company a short-lived high, but there’s no comparison to the difference a book can make for a long-term reason to celebrate your unique brand!
Beth is Founder & President, Moving Words Into Action, LLC. She loves telling the story that makes a difference—especially in a book! Beth is on LinkedIn and Twitter, or you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org