Book Review: Now is Gone

When I got back into the office from a trip to The Garden State a couple weeks ago there on my desk was a package. Hmmm, I thought. I’d already gotten this month’s Bloggers Gone Wild: Spring Break WOOOO!!! Edition VHS and everyone I know had already tried to assassinate me. So I was curious to see what was inside.

To my pleasant surprise I found it to be a copy of Now is Gone by Geoff Livingston with Brian Solis. The book purports to be a “primer” for executives to acclimate themselves to the new media world and figure out, if they already haven’t, how to create effective marketing relationships in that world. Livingston places heavy emphasis on the idea of relationships, saying time and time again that they are what needs to be focused on and not traditional marketing. Not only because doing so allows you as a marketer to know what people are saying, but it gives the people formerly known as the audience the sense that they are participating in the success of a company or product that they feel an affinity for.

The strongest point Livingston makes in the book is that it’s not enough to just take your existing marketing and put it on the web. It needs to be high-quality, appropriate for the people you’re trying to reach and delivered on a platform that they are already using. The combination of those three things may not insure your marketing efforts will be successful, but it gives those efforts a better chance of not blowing up in your face.

If there’s one thing that I took issue with in Now is Gone, it’s Livingston’s tendency to paint things as definitively right or wrong or to characterize the social media world as if it operated with a single collective conscious. At one point Livingston warns public relations practitioners that if they send out a heads-up to bloggers and that pitch does not result in the story being written up then it’s a failure and they need to scrap the entire program since it’s obviously not adding value to the larger community.

While I agree that PR people should approach bloggers carefully (that’s why it helps to have someone who knows the community and that language) and that pitches need to be individually crafted to make the story as valuable to the blogger as possible I don’t think failure to achieve pick-up is a sign of a bad program. I get pitches all the time that aren’t that attractive to me, but sometimes that’s just because I’m in a bad or just funky mood. Since blogging is so highly personal – even if I’m not blogging about personal matters – sometimes I just can’t get excited about a story that would normally be right up my alley. Bloggers are moody, something that occasionally renders any hard and fast rules about engagement moot.

Considering that Livingston is aiming at the higher levels of the org chart with who he’s trying to speak to the book does succeed more often than it doesn’t at making its points. Marketing in the social media-powered world of 2007 is not like marketing as few as 10 years ago. The rules are different because the balance of power is shifting, the risks are higher and the demands even more demanding.

While there are points of view in Now is Gone I don’t exactly agree with, it is worth picking up and reading. It’s just like reading anything else. There are things I completely agree with and others I don’t, but when it’s all been tallied up it does add something to the conversation. I’d rather read something and disagree with the author than read something and have no opinion. I think that can be said of just about everything in my RSS list as well as my book shelf.