Perfect pitch: Tell the right story and succeed

Monday, May 23, 2011

Peter Guber and his band of tale-spinners show you how to persuade with a winning yarn.

Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story 

Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story. Peter Guber. Crown. 272 pages.

Who’s Peter Guber? If you want to do a quick Google search, please do. I’ll wait until you get back.

Finished? Guber’s carefully manicured Wikipedia listing is on top, then some links to this book, and some lectures and such. Dig a little deeper and another story appears, displaced from the top rankings, recounting an interesting and diverse career with plenty of ups, downs, miscues and missteps. There’s also an link for an earlier book — not by him — called Hit and Run, about the reign of Guber and his former partner, Jon Peters, atop Columbia Pictures. (The accompanying Amazon reviews are laugh-out-loud hilarious, by the way.)

Guber also had a turn working with the late and legendary (and not always in a good way) Neil Bogart at Casablanca Records, where his arrival appended “and Filmworks” to the company’s nameplate. The pair enjoyed a rather colorful run, producing successful movies and films along with the requisite number of flops and failures. Again, use Google if you’d like to drill deeper into their colorful Casablanca curriculums vitae.

Despite — or because of — his contentious past, an older and inevitably wiser Guber leveraged his experience (and wealth) into a varied and rich career, twenty years on. He’s got plenty of his own tales to tell, having evolved into a well-respected entrepreneur, investor and pundit (you might have caught him with editor and erstwhile executive Peter Bart on AMC’s now-canceled Sunday Shootout gabfest).

The premise of this new book is that everyone loves a good story, so it’s the ideal way to pitch anyone on anything. It’s the perfect marketing tool. This is not new; I‘ve read and reviewed many other books saying exactly that.

What differentiates Guber’s rap is his inclusion of celebrities (and others) from a diverse group of industries and professions — and their stories. He’s gathered tales from Pres. Bill Clinton, Deepak Chopra, Pat Riley, Steven Spielberg and many other lesser-known lights.

Of course, Guber also includes his own sundry tales of triumph and woe; fortunately, Guber is undaunted in mentioning a few of his own setbacks, though he carefully treads clear of anything too negative or revealing. (Hey, it’s his book…)

The question, of course, is what’s in it for us, the readers. (That’s always the question, isn’t it?)

Is there enough stuff here for us to use in our own careers and lives? If so, how do we integrate Guber’s ideas and those of his expert tale-tellers into what can we say and do to buy and sell?

In this, you’re on your own. Though Guber doesn’t offer step-by-step tips for doing so, there are enough examples embedded throughout the text so that most of us can figure out how to use storytelling to connect with people based on their needs and our goals. Keeping it real is important, as authenticity is always critical.

Now, as I end ten and half-years of covering business books in this space, I look back on my first, The Cluetrain Manifesto, which declared that marketing is a conversation. It still is, and I’m sticking to that story.

Originally published in The Miami Herald.


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