B2B Communications: Business Books Inspire Professional and Personal Growth Among PR Pros

News of the recent passing of Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, was met with an outpouring of recognition from the business community for the enormous impact he has had on the careers of a generation of professionals. According to Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten, co-authors of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time, there are up to 11,000 new business books published each year. However, very few of these can strike the cultural chords that can shape business thinking on a global scale.

Dr. Covey’s 1989 book is among the titles, along with How to Win Friends and Influence People, Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus, and other seminal works, that boast the greatest following from within a unique genre blending business and self-awareness topics. With such an abundance to choose from, we wanted to know what books senior business communicators rely on to find inspiration for professional and personal development.

One competition, the Business Book of the Year Award, launched in 2005 by the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs, “aims to recognize the business book that provides the most compelling and enjoyable insight into modern business issues.” The first award was won by Thomas Friedman for The World Is Flat, which examined the impact of globalization. Friedman’s book is often cited by communications professionals who relate the proliferation of personalized technology and increased sharing of information to the blurring of lines between B2B and B2C communications. Previous winners have explored diverse subjects ranging from China’s rising power to global poverty.

Our three participating B2B communications strategists turn to business literature for insights on how to deal with challenges such as organizational shifts, disruptive technologies and cultural changes. Although each brought unique points of view from diverse and complex businesses ranging from freight transportation and logistics to gamification platforms and building materials, ultimately they all turned to books that focused on understanding the core behaviors that drive external changes.

With a good stretch of summer still remaining, perhaps you’ll discover a new favorite among their recommendations (pictured).

Communications Primers: Top Book Picks

Provides the strategy and tactics to integrate game mechanics into any kind of consumer-facing Web site or mobile app. Profiles CEOs who have demonstrated the distinctive ability to do good while also doing well. Includes quotes from sources as diverse as Michael Jordan, Woodrow Wilson and Steve Forbes.


Director, Corporate Communications Con-way Inc.

I’ve just started reading Higher Ambition: How Great Leaders Create Economic and Social Change, by Michael Beer, Flemming Norrgren and co-authors. This one has some relevance with respect to business communications because it speaks to the challenges faced by today’s leaders in developing new leaders, and in shaping cultures that refuse to compromise between people and performance.

The CEO of my current company is one of those quoted in the book, and the storyline of the book resonates with me because we are facing some of those very challenges: how do you evolve a company and its culture, and get employees to embrace the idea that you can have respect for people and drive a high-performance organization together? How do you simultaneously solve for people and profits? How do you raise the aspirations and ambitions of your people, unlock their passion? Communicating the concept and the strategy in a way that is authentic is the challenge. You need to have a CEO that’s completely bought in and whose integrity is unassailable. Fortunately, we do.

I travel a fair amount, so most of my reading is done on airplanes. At home it’s the couch in the living room or the chaise lounge in the back yard.


Senior VP, Marketing Bunchball

Earlier this summer, I joined Bunchball, a leader in gamification. I wanted to quickly ramp up on gamification—applying game mechanics to non-game experiences—so I reached for Gamification by Design: Implementing Game Mechanics in Web and Mobile Apps, by Gabe Zichermann and Christopher Cunningham.

The book does a nice job of explaining the underlying psychology that makes game mechanics effective. Though written for designers, it has value for anyone who wants to understand the basics of gamification —and how to reinforce and shape the behaviors of people online.

Though still in its infancy, gamification is frequently listed in “hottest technologies” articles because it engages people more in communities, Web sites and applications. It’s a fast-moving space, and since this book was written, the market has evolved beyond the consumer space to address enterprise goals: teaching people to use complex software products, increasing sales engagement, training call center agents, and engaging employees and partners through internal portals.

So while I got a fine introduction to gamification from this book, it left me hungry to read more about gamification in the enterprise.

My favorite place to read? Well, really everywhere, but especially before bed each night and by the pool on weekends.


Public Affairs Advisor CEMEX Inc.

When I moved to New York about five years ago, I added culture shock to my full communicator’s plate—managing numerous projects and deadlines while trying to maintain my friendly and upbeat Latin American spirit. Whenever I felt overwhelmed, I turned to Dawna Stone’s Winning Nice: How To Succeed In Business And Life Without Waging War.

This book gives simple yet powerful advice on how to be your best at work and in your personal life, a potent mix of the values that we must apply in our dealings with others: respect, integrity, honesty, and empathy. In a nutshell, this book is about being classy, and heeding the advice of making others feel comfortable and appreciated at all times and in any situation. The most important lesson I gleaned from this book is that healthy business relationships, much like other long-term ones, have trust and comfort at their core. As a communicator, being friendly and engaged has made all the difference between a successful project and one that falls short of the client’s expectations. PRN


B2B Communications is written by Mary C. Buhay, VP at Gibbs & Soell Public Relations. She can be reached at mbuhay@gibbs-soell.com.