By Roger C. Parker published June 11, 2014

7 Books That Will Inspire More Successful Content Marketing

successful-content-marketing-booksSeveral exceptionally helpful, relevant books have hit the market since my last round-up of recommended books for content marketers.

The seven books outlined below complement essential content marketing guides like Joe Pulizzi’s Epic Content, Jay Baer’s Youtility and Andy Crestodina’s Content Chemistry. Though they offer a narrower perspective than the above books, they compensate by going deeper into specialized topics that are essential for successful content marketing, such as creativity, presentations, productivity and visual thinking.

Individually, each of the following books can make a major contribution to the content marketing experience you, or your team, must deliver on a consistent basis. But together, they create a library of the latest thinking that can inspire and energize by providing fresh perspectives and new tools.


1. The Doodle Revolution: Unlock the Power to Think Differently, by Sunni Brown

Sunni Brown’s Doodle Revolution describes a fresh approach to visual thinking, showing how everyone can tap into the power of doodling — one of the most overlooked tools used by creative thinkers as diverse as Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and Nikola Tesla.

Although frequently disparaged, doodling forms a link between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, unlocking the power of visual thinking to enhance content marketers’ creativity and ability to share ideas with others.

Brown begins by addressing both the reasons doodling is frequently overlooked as a creative tool and the frequently heard objection, “I can’t draw!” She then provides a capsule course in the anatomy of a doodle, showing the basics of hand-drawing text and simple graphics. Each chapter contains assessments and exercises, helping readers build their confidence as they familiarize themselves with the simple building blocks of a storytelling graphic.

Chapter 4, Infodoodle University: Mastering Visual Thinking, contains two excellent sections: The Art of Subtraction and Structuring Information. These do an excellent job of describing the essence of visual thinking. After reading the chapter, you’ll probably never again takes notes at an event or meeting because you’ll have learned why it’s easier and more effective to use doodles to summarize key events. (For example, if you attended Content Marketing World 2013, you may remember Kelly Kingman’s graphic note-taking in real time.)


2. Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, by Carmine Gallo

Although the primary focus of Carmine Gallo’s Talk Like TED is on public speaking and presenting, its importance transcends presentations; you can apply its lessons to any type of successful content marketing project.

Carmine Gallo, a communications consultant whose previous bestsellers included The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs and The Creativity Secrets of Steve Jobs, analyzed hundreds of the most popular TED presentations and interviewed their creators. He then distilled their best practices into the nine lessons described in this book.


For example, in chapter 7, Stick to the 18-Minute Rule, Gallo describes what he calls “The Power of Three” and shares a simple template he uses for planning presentations with his clients. His Message Map Template is a marvel of simplicity. It contains a headline that states the main idea to be communicated and three key points, each one accompanied by three supporting points. You can use it for planning everything from articles, blog posts and presentations to eBooks and white papers. (With Gallo’s permission, I’ve converted this template into a mind map you can study and download.)


3. Difference: The One-page Method for Reimagining Your Business and Reinventing Your Marketing, by Bernadette Jiwa

Many authors talk about the importance of continually reinventing yourself and your business by focusing on what makes you different from your competition. However, most books skirt the issue of how to identify those differences so you can communicate more effectively.

Jiwa’s Difference is one of the few that actually provides a methodology (the 6-pillar Difference Method) and a tool (the Difference Map) to help you identify your points of distinction.


Working with the downloadable Difference Map template and referring to the completed Difference Maps she provides reinforces the book’s lessons and makes it easy to develop a fresh perspective on your firm’s (or your client’s) key differences.


4. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown

Greg McKeown’s Essentialism takes the idea of single-minded focus (described in Gary Keller and Jay Papasan’s The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, which I discussed in my last book round-up) to the next level.

Essentialism‘s four sections describe 19 tactics that business owners and managers can use to distance themselves from distraction and disturbance without alienating coworkers. Most involve selection, delegation and clarifying.

My favorites include:

  • #14: LIMIT: The Power of Setting Boundaries
  • #17: PROGRESS: The Power of Small Wins
  • #18: FLOW: The Genius of Routine

Each of the 19 tactics is illustrated with anecdotes and stories, supported by the latest psychological research. There are also ideas and tips for implementing the ideas, backed up by a visual summary you can photocopy and hang on the wall. In addition, page 111 contains a simple SELECTIVITY exercise to help you identify relevant criteria for your decisions.


5. Show and Tell: How Everybody Can Make Extraordinary Presentations, by Dan Roam

Several years ago, Dan Roam’s Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures, legitimized “amateur” drawings as a communications tool. His everyone-can-drawapproach has had a major effect on collaboration, innovation and presentations in business.

Show and Tell summarizes the essence of extraordinary presentations in three points:

  1. Tell the truth.
  2. Tell it with a story.
  3. Tell the story with pictures.

He then describes the four types of presentations, each requiring a different story and timeline (or sequence):

  • Reports, which convey facts
  • Explanations, which introduce insights or abilities
  • Pitches, which recommend a new action
  • Dramas, which inspire a new belief or perspective

Show and Tell includes an example of the timeline appropriate for each type of annotation, along with notes for each step in the story’s development. Once you begin thinking about other types of content marketing projects in terms of Dan’s universal presentation tools, you’ll find it easier to organize and plan your presentation text and graphics before you turn to PowerPoint slides. You’ll probably find Dan’s storyline examples relevant for other types of content, as well.


6. Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program, by David Meerman Scott and Richard Jurek

Marketing the Moon is the first content marketing case study to move from the home office to the living room coffee table. It’s an exhaustively researched, carefully written and graphically rich book that contains hundreds of photographs and images of documents (like memos and letters) not usually accessible. 

Marketing the Moon deserves to be included in discussions about the history of content marketing and its various turning points. When discussing the history of content marketing, frequently cited examples include:

As David Meerman Scott and Richard Jurek describe in Marketing the Moon, however, the Apollo Lunar Program (begun 50 years ago this year) deserves recognition for its innovative approach to content and a story that helped change course of history.

Ultimately, the success of the Apollo Lunar Program was based on NASA’s focus on content and story, not “pushing an agenda.” Rather than restricting access, NASA provided unprecedented access to the players — in particular, the astronauts — allowing the media and players (including vendors) to tell the story everywhere — including Tomorrowland segments of the Disneyland prime-time television show.

As a result of this early example of “letting go of the conversation,” America’s media and citizens “bought into” the story of Apollo and willingly supported the huge expenditures, which made the successful moon landing and return possible.


7. The Power of Visual Storytelling: How to Use Visuals, Videos, and Social Media to Market Your Brand, by Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio

The Power of Visual Storytelling provides a detailed overview of what you need to know to take the visual content marketing to the next level. It describes the importance of visual marketing, introduces seven elements of visual storytelling and summarizes the key advantages and bests practices of the major social media platforms.

It can also be used to help you evaluate your current visual content efforts and locate the resources you may need to create compelling graphics. At every step, there are useful lists of best practices, options, questions, tips and tools. Best of all, the extensive lists are keyed to specific platforms topics, such as tips for engaging on Facebook, Tumblr, SlideShare, etc.

One of the most useful lists provided is on image sizes to use for the popular social media platforms. The number of options available reinforces the importance of obtaining the right resources (described earlier) for adding text to graphics and taking full advantage of the image placement options available.

Shared characteristics

After spending time with each of the above books, including interviewing many of the authors and creating mind maps of the books, certain parallels become obvious:

  • Design plays an important role in each of these books: The page design for each of these books is as carefully considered as the cover design. In many cases, the text and graphics found on the left- and right-hand-facing pages were designed together. In many cases, topics are restricted to the two-page spreads. This required extra work, editing text and graphics to make everything fit. This approach pays off by creating books that are visual treats that stand apart from their competition.
  • Each book contains more than just the author’s ideas: Talk Like TED, for example, reflects the personal insights of many of the creators of many of the most popular TED talks in different categories. Marketing the Moon benefits heavily from David Meerman Scott’s and Richard Jurek’s conversations with astronauts that took place during astronaut gatherings over the past few decades.
  • Engaging and action-oriented: The books do more than share ideas. They’re filled with worksheets, templates, exercises and questions to encourage interaction and application.
  • Publishing best practices: In their own way, each of the books reflects the kind of content that today’s readers are looking for. The books are visually oriented and tightly organized. They are typically organized into sections, containing relatively short, focused chapters. Studying these books will help you organize long-form content for your own content, like eBooks, premiums and white papers.

A positive outlook

All in all, the seven books reflect well on the current state of publishing informed, practical books about content marketing topics in 2014.

Best of all, if the above books are any indication of what’s likely to appear during the remainder of 2014, we all have a lot to look forward to — especially as Content Marketing World 2014 approaches.

If you’ve read any of the above, or feel I’ve overlooked one of your favorite creativity, presentations, productivity or visual-thinking books published during 2014, please share your impressions or suggestions, below, as comments.

Looking to read up on the latest strategies and techniques for successful content marketing? Browse CMI’s Essential #BestBooksReading List for Content Marketers to see Roger Parker’s other top recommendations.

Author: Roger C. Parker

Roger C. Parker is a Content Marketing Institute Top Performing Blogger who offers content marketers assistance and resources for implementing serial content marketing programs. The author of 40 design, marketing, and productivity books, he uses visual thinking to help others turn ideas into reality. Follow Roger at @rogercparker.

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  • Gianluca Bregoli

    I have read Epic Content Marketing. Definitely a very good one! Clear, well-written and full of insights.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks so much Gianluca…really appreciate that.

    • Brian Gomski

      I thought Epic Content Marketing was fantastic! I did the audio version and Joe had great inflection in his voice and kept me engaged throughout the entire book. It had a lot of good references to current content marketing programs to follow up on for further reading as well. I am looking forward to reading the others on this list.

      • Joe Pulizzi

        Thanks Brian…awesome review.

      • rogercparker

        Dear Brian:
        Thanks for reminding everyone about the audio book. I didn’t realize Joe had narrated it himself. Very few authors can speak as well as they write. Did you listen to it while driving?

        • Brian Gomski

          I have an hour commute each way so I listened to it 2 hours a day. I have listened to my fair share of audio books and there is a sense of passion when the author reads it themselves that can’t be reproduced by voice talent. Of course, I have listened to some authors that had no business narrating. Lol. Joe is one of the good ones.

          • rogercparker

            Thank you for expanding your original comment and your impressions of other audio books.

    • rogercparker

      I agree: it’s excellently organized and very well written. Inspiration on every page.

  • Hashim Warren

    I never heard of Difference. Added it to my wishlist..

    • rogercparker

      Dear Hashim:
      Thank you for the comment. Bernadette Jiwa has two additional books, Make a Difference and Fortune Cookie. All three of her books are great; also available as Kindle ebooks at very affordable prices.

      Happy reading!

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Mr Parker – can I HUG you?! 😉 Thank you so much for introducing us to this varied list of books!

    I have purchased the Kindle version of Joe Pulizzi’s “Epic Content” – can’t wait to dive into the words of the Father of Content Marketing 😀

    Thanks again


    • rogercparker

      Dear Kitto:
      Thank you, and hugs to you, for making my day!

      You’ll love Joe’s Epic Content; it was my lifeline when my flight was canceled coming back from Content Marketing World last year, and it’s still on my desk for daily reference. Let us know what you think of it as you read it.

  • Bobby Burns

    Great list, Roger! I just added these to my Amazon “Wish List”. With Father’s Day coming up I could justify that many new book purchases, you think?!

    • rogercparker

      Dear Bobby:
      Thank you for your comments. Given each book’s combination of relevancy to content marketing, fresh perspective, and in-depth tips, the library would be eminently worthwhile.

      An added bonus; the production quality (mostly hard cover, readable page layouts), of these books is first-rate.

      Enjoy! Let us know your reactions as you engage with the books!

  • Simple [A] Team

    Summer’s poolside reading lists everywhere just got a tad longer. Great list!

    • rogercparker

      Thank you!

  • Christopher A. Craft

    I’ll be checking out these books for sure. Awesome and resourceful post.

    • rogercparker

      Thank you, Christopher.
      I appreciate the comment. Any interesting discoveries?

  • Jenny Hudson

    Thanks, Roger for an informative article. I will check these books out.
    Jenny Hudson

    • rogercparker

      Dear Jenny:
      Thank you for your comment. What’s your favorite discovery from the list?

  • Charly Suter

    Fabulous list Roger, very inspiring. Have you ever read “The AC/DC Strategy – Rock’n’Roll and the 14 Strategic Campaigning Guidelines for Marketing, Communication” I can higly recommend this to you, it gives you great impression on how to market the content and build a strong campaigne.

    • rogercparker

      Dear Charly:
      No, I haven’t read “The AC/DC Strategy” but it sounds quite interesting. I will check Amazon after I press “Send.”

      I assume, by the way, that you’re also aware of David Meerman Scott’s Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead?

  • Tom Leonard

    Roger, that is a great list. I need to get some reading (and then writing) done here.

    • rogercparker

      Dear Tom:
      Thanks for your comment. Have you uncovered any other recommended books since your comment? Best wishes on your writing projects.

  • Debbie Miller

    Great list, thanks! I also just read On Writing by Stephen King. Although it’s not specifically directed toward marketing, it’s definitely applicable as well and contains great insight into the process of writing and storytelling.

    • rogercparker

      Dear Debbie:
      Thank you for reminding me how great On Writing is. Each edition gets better and better. I agree it is a totally unique book; as exciting to read as any mystery fiction, but full of relevance for marketers and storytelling.

  • Stephen Bateman DipM MCIM

    Thank you @rogercparker:disqus for your recommended books – I read Bernadette Jiwa’s book “difference” in one sitting following your recommendation, then applied the difference map to my own business and it has helped me truly nail my online value proposition – thanks again!

    • rogercparker

      Dear Stephen:
      Thank you for your kind words. I’m so happy that the Bernadette Jiwa book made a “difference.” BTW, she has a new book out.

  • Martin Zhel

    A great list of books. I can say not the most common ones that you find being recommended. Among these my favorite is “the Power of Visual Storytelling”. I really learned a lot from these books. I will add several other great books to the list:

    1. The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott – the book that best describes the content marketing revolution in my opinion

    2. Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars… by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman – one of the best books that shows how to creating amazing content

    3. Epic Content Marketing by Joe Polizzi – describes really well the process to create great content

    To be honest, I haven’t found many books that speak about how to use content marketing to rank for search engines. That’s why I wrote one recently. You might want to check it out

    Let me know what you think.