Relevance: A book review by Bob Morris

RelevanceRelevance: The Power to Change Minds and Behavior and Stay Ahead of the Competition
Andrea Coville with Paul B. Brown
Bibliomotion (2014)

How to forge a lasting bond with the people you need to influence to create and sustain a competitive advantage

Years ago during dinner with a venture capitalist in San Francisco, I asked him how he and his associates evaluated formal presentations from those seeking funds. He replied, “We’ve already checked out the credentials and financials or they wouldn’t be meeting with us. We have three questions in mind: ‘How will you use the funds?’ ‘What makes you different?’ and ‘Why should I care?’ How they answer that last question usually tells us what we need to know.”

I thought of that reply as I began to read this book. According to Andrea Coville, who wrote it with Paul B. Brown, an organization will be able to establish and then sustain a bond with its stakeholders to the extent that it remains relevant to their needs? For example, the highly valued employees it seeks to attract and retain will ask “What’s in it for me”? Profitable customers it competes for will ask “Why you and what you offer?” There will always be questions to answer and problems to solve. Now more than ever before, stakeholders will ask “So what?” In recent years, they are also keenly interested to know what an organization cares about, other than sales and profits. It must have social as well as commercial relevance.

Colville explains how almost any organization can become and then re main relevant to those on whom its success depends. I agree with her: “You cannot be all things to all people. But you can be relevant to all people based on some aspect of your offering. You can find out which will resonate by dividing your marketing [i.e. creating or increasing demand] by very specific categories: age, income, politics, whatever, and determine how you can make what you have relevant to people in each of these categories.” She discusses three basic “intangibles” and explains how relevance occurs through content, context, and contact.

o The Three Dimensions of Relevance, and, The Relevance Challenge (Pages 8-14)
o Relevance: The Right Word at the Right Time (21-24)
o Thinking Upside Down (43-46)
o Categories/Segments of Relationship Framework (61-63)
o Context (71-74)
o Manipulative? (89-92)
o Countering Probable Negativity (97-98)
o Do Try This at Home (102-107)
o The Innovation Process (100-114)
o Things Change (123-127)
o The Rate of Change, and, Nuts and Bolts (137-141)

I commend Coville on her skillful use if several reader-friendly devices that include “Takeaway for Chapter X” (Chapters 1-10) and then “Final Takeaways” in a concluding chapter; “Things to Do Monday Morning” (Chapters 1-10); and boxed mini-commentaries throughout her narrative. These devices will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later.

In this book’s Executive Summary, Andrea Coville identifies a challenge in today’s global marketplace: relevance is more valuable, more complex, more difficult to establish, and then more difficult to sustain now than ever before. She wrote this book to help her readers respond effectively to that challenge.

I presume to add one final point. It is no coincidence that the companies annually ranked among the most highly admired and best to work for are also annually ranked among those that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their industry segment. In a word, they are relevant.

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