- Tue, February 22 2011
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
There are a slew of books out there on storytelling. I’ve read many, so I’ll admit I was hesitant when asked to read and review another one. In this case, it was a complimentary advance copy of Tell to Win by Peter Guber. I agreed, though, because I was intrigued to read advice from someone whose entire life is about telling and selling stories. Guber, who is Chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment Group, produced or executive produced many stories in film, including Rain Man, Batman, The Color Purple, Gorillas In The Mist, and Flashdance. He also has six minor league baseball franchises, is the owner and co-executive of the Golden State Warriors, and made three billion dollars in profit during his tenure at the helm of leading companies such as Columbia, Sony Pictures, Casablanca and Mandalay Entertainment.
So the man knows stories. He certainly shows it in Tell to Win. The book flies along fast and vivid, like a good movie. Guber tells story after amusing story about his career and experiences of high-profile people in and outside Hollywood, using the strings of anecdotes to weave a larger message about why stories work and how to tell them well. He also shares his own failures (in fact, he refreshingly opens the book with one), showing what happens when he forgets to know his audience and speak to them through story. The book reads like an entertaining memoir with a moral to each story told.
Here are two examples:
1. Guber features his wife’s LASIK surgeon, who told a story with a simple basket. “How do you convince patients who qualify for surgery that the radical benefit promised is real?” Guber wanted to know. After all, you’re trying to sell the concept of cutting into someone’s eye, and it’s not a choice a patient will make lightly. The surgeon pointed to a basket containing hundreds of discarded eyeglasses, right between two chairs in his office. “See,” the surgeon said. See, indeed. Why you see that basket, you know the story.
2. The author also features Bill Haber, who left the entertainment world to lead Save the Children. He realized the importance of making donors feel they were playing a role as heroic as any in Hollywood. He started up child sponsorship, a program with stories of hope about individual children around the world. “Tell people that they can make a difference in one child’s life. That’s how you change the world.”
I judge the value of a book by the amount of notes I make in the margins. What I truly loved about this book was I wasn’t just underlining key points (though I was); I found myself thinking of new stories I could tell in my own work. I think that’s because this is a book written by and for the right brain—every point is made through the emotional landscape of stories rather than the analytical framework of theory. It shows imagination, so it inspires creativity. I can’t remember the last time I read something that prompted so many new ideas for me.
If it’s not clear, I recommend this book! It’s fun to read - but more important, it doesn’t just tell stories—it sparks stories.