Book review: Launch by Michael Stelzner

In the preface of Launch, Michael Stelzner expresses his hope that the book will become my trusted guide. Well, his wish might just come true. Within the first 20 pages, I was already taking extensive notes and getting excited about how to apply some of the ideas to the nonprofit organization where I work.

Stelzner asserts early on that companies have to shift from asking customers What can we sell you? to asking How can we help you? His call for such a paradigm shift is not groundbreaking, but he does break new ground, or should I say reach new heights, with The Elevation Principle. The most basic description of the principle is provide great content, get other people involved and tone down your marketing. And that formula will equal growth. Another essential point Stelzner drives home is the importance of knowing your audience, knowing their interests/desires/problems and then figuring out how to fulfill those interests/desires and offer potential solutions to those problems.

While The Elevation Principle thematically drives the book, the deeper message is this: conduct your business with heart. By heart, I don’t mean passion but rather intentionality and consideration of others. Again, these are not new principles since they’ve been seen in books from Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People to Kaplan and Koval’s The Power of Nice. However, Stelzner moves far beyond simply rehashing these principles as he gives relevant ways to enact them. One example of this is that he doesn’t just tell you to give gifts, he tells you how to give gifts in terms of the content you offer. He adapts these great principles to the new business environment.

One major strength of Launch comes in its use of concrete examples. Stelzner offers examples of his successes with Social Media Examiner and examples of his failures in previous ventures. Sharing what he learned from his failures proves equally important because it provides valuable insight in addition to helping readers not make the same mistakes. Another strength of the book is the way Stelzner defines terms for the reader. He doesn’t do it in a way that dumbs down the text but in a way that makes you think about the terms in new and creative ways. His definition of a call to action, for example, is clear and concise but also thought provoking.

The only major weakness of the book is in the seeming repetition of the ideas of “primary fuel” and “nuclear fuel” that come in chapters eight and nine. However, Stelzner uses this structure to elaborate on those ideas and to offer a deeper explication of those terms and how to create and employ these types of “fuel.”

Launch offers a refreshing mix of big ideas, practical application and inspiration. Books in this genre often inspire you to “greatness” then leave you overwhelmed because you don’t really know what that looks like for you, and you have no idea where to start. Stelzner shows where he started and how he got to where he is now and presents the principles and strategies that can help you propel your business beyond the competition.

Disclosure: Social Media Examiner solicited this review and sent me two free copies of the book.

The good news is that you can win the 2nd copy they sent me! This is how you can be entered to win:
1) Follow @mkvermillion and @Mike_Stelzner on Twitter, then
2) @reply to mkvermillion saying “I want #Launch by @Mike_Stelzner!”

Confessions of an online media specialist

Here’s the thing about Twitter: I don’t get it. I mean, I understand it – retweets and @Mentions and hashtags and Twitter parties and such. But it just doesn’t seem to work for me (nor with the demographic of my organization, but that’s another issue entirely). That’s great that it’s helping foment revolution across the Middle East, but I’d rather not use it. And this is not because I’m “old school” – I love Facebook, Tumblr (which shares similarities with Twitter) and LinkedIn. Just not Twitter.

I don’t know if it’s the delivery format of information (the Timeline) or the utter worthlessness of some users’ posts or the flood of updates or the fact that most of the people I’d care to keep up with aren’t on Twitter. And that last one may be significant: Twitter interactions with people who I don’t know in person offer me little to no sense of satisfaction, even if such communiqués may be helping me professionally. But the odd thing is that those same kinds of interactions on Facebook do feel rewarding. I’ve had a couple exchanges with Elena Verlee from PR in Your Pajamas and Amy Porterfield from Social Media Examiner, and those were quite informative and enjoyable.

So, there it is. I don’t like Twitter. It may just be because I think the verb “tweet” sounds utterly ridiculous unless you’re referring to what a bird does.

Is anybody else with me on this? Does anyone want to try and convince me otherwise?

[Addendum: I guess I sort of ended up convincing myself.]