Why Writing a Book Made Me a Better Marketer


by Kathy Palokoff. goFirestarter

Writing a book has been a life-long dream. I'm a journalist — trained, agency-bred, blog-loving short form writer. Less is more. Deadlines are measured in hours and days. 80,000 words is Mt. Everest, and I can barely make it up two flights of stairs.

Writing a book is a significant life event that has made me a better marketer. Here's some thoughts:

Creating a New Language. I have always admired brands that either created new words or used existing words in cool ways like Apple Evangelist on their business cards or Genius Bar instead of help desk. With our book, we have created three types of Firestarters -- Innovators, Instigators and Initiators as well as different factors that affect Firestarters such as Ignitors, Fuel, Accelerants and Extinguishers.

By starting with fresh terminology, we have found that it really makes us think about the meaning of words and what appeal they will have. It also opens up a dialogue, a powerful interaction between people about their interpretation. Not a bad lesson for us marketers as we work to differentiate in a world of so many non-differentiated products and services. 

Creating Models. One of the key aspects of the book is creating a model that answers the question -- what makes someone a Firestarter? We are interested in what the difference is between Firestarters and other people, as well as how to ignite the potential in people to become Firestarters. It's pretty complex and that is okay. But like many ideas and technologies, we want to make it clear visually and with our language. The goal is always that our stuff should be self-explanatory and also self-provoking.

For years as a marketer primarily in the B-to-B space, I have struggled with this dilemma. How do you not dumb down information but still make it clear? One answer is to go at it visually, an ability that one of my co-authors is quite brilliant at. He is able to see the big picture and construct models. Then the language comes. Another lesson for us marketers who sometimes rely too much on words.

Creating Stories. My favorite part of being a journalist was writing feature articles. My favorite part of being a marketer is speechwriting and case histories. I love to capture a story. To date, I have written about and/or interviewed such amazing people and been deeply touched and inspired by their stories. 

For the first time, I have done these profiles from taped phone interviews versus note-taking. I have found this technique very time-consuming but rich. It has given me the ability to truly capture their voice and keep myself out of their stories. Again a wise thing to remember as a marketer. Crafting someone's story is an honor. Capturing their voice is a privilege. And trying to do it in 1500 words or less is so so difficult.

Kathy Palokoff