Book Review: “Tell to Win” by Peter Guber

This is an uncompensated and independent review of Peter Guber’s book, ‘Tell To Win’. I received an ‘uncorrected proof’ copy a while back and have finally made time to pen today’s post.

Peter’s long and successful career as a Hollywood movie producer (Rain Man, Gorillas in the Mist and Batman, to name just three) and as an entrepreneur, have provided plenty of material for stories and anecdotes.

I was particularly drawn to the author’s experience of creating and using stories that helped him win a deal, convince an investor, or persuade the rich and famous to help with a project or two.

However, most stories (I counted at least 89!) are centered around how well known people, such as Fidel Castro, Jack Warner and Wolfgang Puck, have tapped in to the human desire to emotionally connect with a vision or dream through the power of storytelling.

Peter’s a great believer in the importance of positioning a story within the context of a person’s values and aspirations. That’s why it’s difficult to fake a story or copy someone else’s, because people usually see through words that are masking subterfuge and deceit.

Reading ‘Tell to Win’ from start to finish was hard work! There were so many stories and details, that I often found myself leaving the book down for a while. Not a bad approach, as I realized later the author’s cleverness in including a cast of characters large enough to appeal to all ages and a wide demographic.

Of course, as a businessman, Peter has a long list of stories that were incremental in clinching deals, but he also shares some that cost him dearly. He stresses the importance of the back story and how due diligence is essential before making a pitch.

Although the thrust of the book is towards oral stories and the emotional strings they help pull, there’s much to think about for b2b customer success story and case study writers.

The two big ones for me are:

a) the back story for both the customer AND the client (who hires the writer).
This means getting in the same room or on the dog’n’bone (Cockney slang for telephone) and detecting all those vital details that are never going to appear in an email.

b) The headlines, slogans and killer lines!
Here are two of my favorites:

i) World famous designer Norma Kamali’s exertion to the leading actress in the movie, “The Deep”:
“Oh, just throw a T-Shirt on over it”.
30 plus years later I can still see the look that launched a thousand wet t-shirt contests.

ii) “Under Armour”. This is actually the brand name for a best-selling line of sports under shirts. And a very powerful image it is too. Who wouldn’t want such protection, regardless of sport or ability?

I’d recommend this book to all case study writers, for sure! However, there is little here about writing or telling stories. If anything, the emphasis is on connecting with others by using the emotive appeal of story and narrative, whether it’s a single word, phrase or a life’s work.
Business people who are trying to persuade others to do things for them will also find much to think about (b2b marketers come to mind!)

– Mark ‘IT case study writer‘ McClure

Posted in Book Reviews, Case Studies, General Writing
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About the Author
Author: Mark McClure - A freelance b2b case study and white paper writer to the computer networking industry. Based in Tokyo, Japan. About the 'Samurai Writer'.

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