Every once in a while, you read a business book and it becomes obvious that what you’ve been doing is…wrong. You know at that moment that you need to start doing things differently.
I had that feeling the first time I read “Personality Not Included: Why Companies Lose Their Authenticity And How Great Brands Get it Back” by Rohit Bhargava. At the time, Rohit was a co-worker at Ogilvy and I was reading the book as a professional courtesy. I mean, sure, he was a smart guy, super nice, and seemed to understand marketing, but I wasn’t expecting much. Most marketing books are bland and theoretical. Short on insight and long on catchphrases.
But Rohit’s book was different. It was clear that Rohit had taken great pains to write a book that went beyond basic theories social media and marketing. It was an insightful, actionable book that is as relevant today as when it was published in 2008.
In his second book, Rohit tackles a range of marketing topics. The umbrella concept of “Likeonomics: The Unexpected Truth Behind Earning Trust, Influencing Behavior, and Inspiring Action” (2012) is “likeability,” but that’s just part of the story. He shares case studies and anecdotes that reveal why believability and trust are so powerful for brands.
Rohit no longer works at Ogilvy, but he continues to be a thought leader in marketing and social media. In his new role, he jets around the globe delivering presentations, speeches, and workshops. He also manages to maintain the Influential Marketing Blog, which is a must-read for marketing professionals.
In between this busy schedule, Rohit participated in an email interview about storytelling, marketing, and the future of publishing. (And, yes, he really is a very likeable guy.)
BUDDY SCALERA: So you are an author of two major marketing books. In your official author voice can you describe “Personality Not Included”? And in the same voice, tell me about “Likeonomics”?
ROHIT BHARGAVA: Official author voice … hmm, not sure I actually have one of those! Both books have pretty simple premises, though. Personality Not Included is all about the idea that personality matters when running a business. The book is written as a practical how to guide for anyone to inject more personality into their daily interactions and how to use that to be better storytellers and generate more positive word of mouth.
Likeonomics is a book about why we do business with people we like … and how anyone can master the ability to be more likeable without being a pushover or an insecure approval seeker. The second book features lots of behavioural research, deeper stories and takes the angle of introducing a single big idea and breaking it down into five big principles (my TRUST framework) to describe how anyone can learn the art of using likeability to build better personal relationships and achieve greater success.
When I first met you, you’d recently published “Personality” and then “Likeonomics.” We were both working at an Ogilvy company (I still am). Now you’ve moved on to something new. Can you tell me what you do now?
Now I split my time between three big things – publishing, speaking and consulting. One of my big passions is sharing stories and inspiring people to create better marketing through keynote talks at large events. I have been booking events all over the world since leaving my full-time “day job.” On the consulting side, I introduced something I called “Concierge Marketing” which was actually modeled after the trend towards concierge medicine that has been so popular lately. The idea is that I have a very small number of clients that I work with exclusively in a sort of outsourced digital CMO type of role to help with anything they need help with. It’s really the perfect match for my background as a longtime agency guy to now help brands manage their agencies and inspire them to deliver their best work.
These books certainly changed your career and elevated your personal profile in the industry. What role would you say your books played in your current career path?
There is still nothing quite like having a book to be able to establish credibility in any field … and I’m lucky to have had two very well received best sellers that are still both doing well despite having been out for a few years. But the one advantage I have always had is that I love to write. For many authors of business books, the writing is their least favourite part. Not for me. The books were an outlet, and they played a big role in helping me to establish my own identity outside of the job I was doing or the company I happened to be working for.
You recently announce a new ebook called “ePatient 2015: 15 Digital Healthcare Trends That Define The Connected Patient of the Future.” Can you tell me what that will be about?
Absolutely – it is one that I’m very excited about. I’m doing it in collaboration with a longtime healthcare researcher and together we are digging into some new data to spotlight 15 up and coming trends that will describe the digital healthcare revolution to come in the next 18 months. It is a very ambitious project, but one that I think anyone who works in healthcare as well as any of us who may one day be patients will get a lot of useful insights from.
It’s interesting that you have been published twice by traditional print publishers and now you are doing an ebook. Why are you self-publishing this as an ebook?
There are really only two pretty simple reasons that any author would consider switching to ebooks – timing and finances. The economics of ebooks are great – keeping 70% of what you sell on Amazon is a lot better for any Author than keeping 20% or less of a “traditional” book depending on the deal you have with your publisher. On the timing side, I also have the benefit of being able to get an ebook to market in a matter of months instead of the year or longer than it takes for a traditionally written book. Those two benefits combine to make epublishing really exciting right now. That’s why I’m working on my next three books simultaneously right now!
You are working on three books? Sounds like you have a lot on your mind. What can you tell your readers about what’s coming up?
I definitely do! One of the most exciting things for me about being on my own is that it has given me the chance to pursue multiple passions at the same time. And the nice thing is that there are always different groups of people to share each passion. The three books are VERY different from one another, and that’s what gives me a lot of confidence that they can work when released so close together. The first is a research based ebook and report on the state of patient healthcare behaviour online. It’s called “ePatient 2015” and it’s being written in partnership with research company called Enspektos.
The second is actually a continuation of what has been a several yearlong project of mine to help support and bring more attention to pioneering women in business. Several years ago, I launched an ebook featuring stories of about 40 successful women, and I’m working on the third edition of that “Personality Project” as I had called it. The new edition will be out sometime in the summer, and will feature 25 more amazing women and their stories. The last book will be one focused on personal success and will be out in June just in time for graduation. It’s focused on all the lessons of success that we are rarely taught, but that mean everything for whether we do well at work, get a job, or launch successful businesses. I’ll be announcing more about that one very soon.
As long as I’ve known you, you’ve also maintained your blog (http://www.rohitbhargava.com/blog). How do you keep up with the books, speaking, blogging, and this new approach to Concierge Marketing? Are you a list maker? Obsessive scheduler?
I do make lists and try to keep track of everything. I’ve also invested in getting some more virtual assistant type of help, though I’m still struggling with the right way to use this kind of assistance. Hopefully I’ll get there soon on that! I do focus on blocking out time in my schedule for writing, and that is very important. The distraction of the internet is ever present, so I do something go “old school” and either flip off the switch on my laptop for wireless – or map out presentations, story flow, wireframes or that type of work with a pen, paper and post-its. Going offline is super important for me. I secretly love that many long flights don’t have wireless yet.
What’s one great piece of advice that you wished you had received early in your career?
I’d say to ignore the advice people say of just getting things done. I mistakenly believed for a long time that my value at work was measured by my ability to execute on someone else’s instructions. The problem with that is it leads to a sort of intelligence blindness where you give yourself permission to stop thinking because you’re just following someone else’s orders. Thinking for yourself is critical, and questioning directions or developing better ways to get a job done are what really lead to success and also to gaining respect in the workplace. When you show that you are able to think about a task and come up with your own solution, instead of just executing the step-by-step approach you are given, then you usually get more responsibility and rise up faster as a result. The perfect way to go nowhere is to be a yes man (or woman).
What’s one thing every marketing professional should do, if they want to be better at their job?
I would say read useless information. I have become passionate about paying attention to random pieces of information or knowledge in the world. One of my favourite stories to use in keynote presentations, for example, came from watching a documentary about Rockefeller on the History Channel. I talk about the strange beginnings of cinnamon and how it become such a sought after spice 1000 years ago as well. I am a big fan of paying attention to the world around and being a life long learner of information, because ultimately it does make your marketing better. Getting a subscription to AdAge or reading Mashable every morning is great – but when marketers are more knowledgeable about the world, they understand people better and become better influencers. That should be all of our goals.