Today I interview my friend Phil Cooke once again. This time, we talk about his new book, Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media. If you’re an author, speaker, musician, blogger, or artist of any kind, you should have this book on your bookshelf. Here’s the interview.
As you know, I loved your book, One Big Thing. How does Unique differ from that book?
Phil Cooke: Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media is really my life message. I believe the greatest challenge facing leaders and creative artists today is getting their message heard through the clutter of competing voices. We live in the most disrupted and distracted culture in the history of the world, and it’s more difficult than ever to break through and get noticed.
One Big Thing was really an outgrowth of that message. In my experience, the single most important key to starting the process of getting your message heard is to be the best in the world at a very small niche. I tell people in Hollywood: don’t try to be the best film director in the business. Start by being the best director of a certain type of film, or a certain budget level, or a certain genre. That’s the secret of getting noticed. The question is – What’s that one big thing for you?
Tell us a bit about the experiences that shaped the insights in the book.
Phil Cooke: I’ve spent about 35 years producing media programming for some of the largest churches, ministries, and nonprofit organizations in the world, and that work has spanned the analog era to the digital era. So I’ve been on the front lines of the media revolution and believe me – it’s changed everything. Sadly, most pastors and ministry leaders aren’t keeping up with the radical cultural and communications changes happening today. Unique is about helping them connect with today’s culture in a much more compelling way.
Give us two or three of the most important pieces of advice for people who use social media today.
Phil Cooke: First – I don’t care that you’re having a Latte at Starbucks. Certainly you can use social media for fun things, but it’s really a powerful strategic tool of influence. Stop thinking about it as a toy, and start thinking about how you can impact people’s lives.
Second – People follow you because they want to know what it’s like to be you. So give them an intimate, behind the scenes look at your life. If you’re a pastor, let us know your struggles planning your next sermon or your challenges in leadership. Not everyone can sit and chat with you, but you can give them remarkable insight about your life and ideas through social media.
Third – Don’t forget that social media is “social.” Too often, leaders say something on Twitter or Facebook and then check out. But see how people respond to your comments, and then respond back to them. They want to know that you’re listening, and if you are, it will dramatically increase the engagement of your friends and followers.
What has the response been to the book so far?
Phil Cooke: I’ll never get rich selling my books, because I write primarily to ministry and nonprofit leaders. (Laughing). But the greatest thing I’m hearing about Unique is that pastors, CEO’s and nonprofit leaders are buying multiple copies for their entire leadership team, department heads, and board of directors.
One major ministry leader sent 35 copies to his team and said, “Read this book – it’s what I’ve been trying to say all these years.” Having your entire team read through Unique is a fantastic way to get everyone on the same page regarding your message, identity, and branding. It will help save a great deal of time and money, and get your team focused on sharing your story more effectively.
Explain the concept of branding and who would benefit from “branding.”
Phil Cooke: A brand isn’t scary or weird, it’s simply a compelling story about a product, person, or organization. Ultimately, it’s “What do people think of when they think of you?” In today’s hyper-competitive and distracted culture, that initial perception is so important. Your potential audience, customer, donor, or congregation has a lot of choices today, so that first, initial perception matters more than ever.
Many authors read this blog. What are two or three pieces of advice that you can give them about how their work can get noticed when they are competing with other authors with big marketing dollars . . . advice that your book treats in more depth.
Phil Cooke: Three things:
Too many writers write about a wide range of subjects. As a result, potential readers don’t really know who they are, or in what area they’re an expert. But John Maxwell sells millions of books because he only writes on leadership. John doesn’t write on prophecy, finances, travel, or anything else. John has developed a global reputation (and brand) as an expert on leadership, and that’s why publishers fight over his next book, and he’s invited to speak to leaders around the world.
What else do you want readers to know about your book?
Phil Cooke: I have two married daughters and I’ll be paying for their weddings for the rest of my life. So please buy my books . . . 🙂