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Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less Hardcover – February 10, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


I get several hundred emails per day. I wish people would just ask for what they want in the first sentence. I don't need to know their whole life history to make a decision. Getting people to be brief would save everyone a lot of time.
— Guy Kawasaki, author, publisher and entrepreneur

You could write a book about trying to get people to pay closer attention and stop getting distracted and interrupted, or you could help people be succinct. Joe has chosen the better path.
— John Challenger, CEO Challenger, Gray and Christmas

"We are entering an age of infobesity. Brief is your new weapon to cut through the clutter and stand out."
— Sam Horn, author of POP! and Eyebrow Test

As a military leader, telling a story that's clear and concise helped me to thrive in a sometimes hostile media environment overseas. I’m convinced that following Joe’s counsel and insights has made me a more effective and efficient leader.
— Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell, IV (ret.)

Brevity requires discipline, confidence, and preparation, but you will stand out, and your people, including potential clients, will love you for it. Use McCormack’s practical advice -- the results will astound you!
— Marshall Goldsmith author of the New York Times and global bestseller What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.

From the Inside Flap

Most day-to-day communications are unfocused and unclear. That’s an inexcusable waste of everyone’s time and resources. Brief isn’t a nicety, it’s a necessity. In a world where we are inundated with information and highly inattentive, we have very small windows of time to make an impact with no margin for error. The problem is most people don’t have the know-how or verbal discipline to do the upfront groundwork and get to the point. As a result, they waste precious opportunities with decision-makers, and get too “comfortable” and verbally sloppy with co-workers and long-time clients. Brief is a step-by-step approach to getting to the point quickly and ensuring that your message is delivered with maximum impact.

With real-world case studies and illustrative examples of messaging successes – and failures – author and senior marketing executive Joseph McCormack provides an easy-to-follow framework for communicating more effectively and efficiently. McCormack breaks down how to become a master of high-impact brevity with his four proven approaches:

  • Map It – BRIEF Maps to condense and trim volumes of information
  • Tell It – Narrative storytelling to explain in a way that’s clear, concise, and compelling
  • Talk It – TALC Tracks that turn monologues into controlled conversations
  • Show It – Visuals that attract attention and capture imagination

Brief walks you through the more intense and complex process of distilling all of your information into the most effective message possible, regardless of length. You’ll learn to trim your ideas for your intended audience and to communicate in the most appropriate timeframe for each situation. As attention spans get shorter and decision-makers have less time to absorb your ideas and presentations, it is imperative that you craft your message carefully, the first time, and tailor it specifically to your target.

Written for business executives, sales and marketing professionals, entrepreneurs, and anyone who aspires to be a lean communicator, Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less provides the tools you’ll need to be tight and get it right.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (February 10, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118704967
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118704967
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Joe McCormack is on a mission to help organizations master the art of the short story. In an age of shrinking attention spans, non-stop interruptions, and floods of information, the messages business leaders send out are getting lost in a sea of words.

An experienced marketing executive, successful entrepreneur and author, Joe is recognized for his work in narrative messaging and corporate storytelling. His new book, Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less (Wiley & Sons, 2014) tackles the timeliness of the "less is more" mandate.

A passionate leader, he founded The BRIEF Lab in 2013 after years dedicated to developing and delivering a unique curriculum on strategic narratives for U.S. Army Special Operations Command (Ft. Bragg, NC). He actively counsels military leaders and senior executives on key messaging and strategy initiatives. His clients include W.W.Grainger, Harley-Davidson, USG Corporation, BMO Harris Bank, SAP, MasterCard, Heinz, Hoffman-La Roche and Jones Lang LaSalle.

He founded and serves as Managing Director and President of The Sheffield Company, an award-winning boutique agency. In 2010, he launched Navigant Studios as a new business line that specializes in short- form visual media and storytelling production.

He speaks at diverse industry and client forums on the topics of messaging, storytelling, change and leadership.

Previously, he served as SVP, Corporate Marketing at Ketchum, a top-five marketing agency in Chicago, where he introduced new service models to enhance messaging and deepen relationships with market influencers.

He received a BA in English Literature from Loyola University of Chicago where he graduated with honors. He is fluent in Spanish and has broad international experiences. He, his wife Montserrat and children live in suburban Chicago.

Customer Reviews

I was skeptical before reading this book.
Kelly E. O'Leary
This was a fairly quick and easy read and the visuals provide a concise summary of the text.
Che Smith
Joseph McCormack's book Brief makes this point about all communication.
Dwight G. Duncan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dwight G. Duncan on March 31, 2014
Format: Hardcover
As a lawyer, I've often had to read and write briefs. All too often, the briefs in cases are long and tedious. No wonder that courts set word limits on filings. We should keep our written submissions to a minimum, and so enhance credibility. After all, that's why they're called briefs. Joseph McCormack's book Brief makes this point about all communication. Whether it's business presentations, meetings, homilies, e-mails or tweets, less is often more. Captive audiences tend to be abused, after all. It's always good to leave audiences wanting more rather than less. As Samuel Johnson wrote of Milton's Paradise Lost, "None every wished it longer than it is." From his experience in the field of marketing communications, McCormack makes a compelling case for keeping it short and to the point. He urges us to meeting an increasingly ADD (attention-deficit disorder) culture with an ADD approach of Awareness, Discipline and Decisiveness: awareness of the need to be brief in our information-inundated world, discipline to be clear and concise, and decisiveness to know when and where to be brief. Long story short is to keep the long story short. Or, as one of my colleagues says about commencement addresses, follow the five B's: Be brief, baby, be brief. Thank you, Mr. McCormack!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By RoyGBiv on February 12, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read it on a cross country flight; could not put it down - easy to read yet so much substance.

McCormack combines tangible lessons on how to practically apply his principles with entertaining stories and witty examples.

His approach to communication is intuitive but rarely followed. He clearly lays out the why then the how of clear and efficient communication.

This is about getting more done at work and in life by being disciplined with communication. Just consider the time wasted by our long winded bosses!

To be clear, its not about speaking in 140 characters or less. To quote the book, "To be brief doesn't just mean being concise. Your responsibility to is convey a message well enough to cause a person to act on it." And he tells you how.

After I read it, I felt compelled to practice it for the betterment of those around me.

Immensely helpful, extremely practical, essential.

Read it today, better yet, buy it for your boss.
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Format: Hardcover
I am among the staunch advocates of the Lean Six Sigma philosophy and its potentialities in terms of doing more work and doing it much better in less time and at a lower cost. What we have in this volume is what Joseph McCormack has learned about how to unleash the power of brevity so that what you say and what you do have much greater impact. In essence, he is convinced that - in countless situations, but certainly not all -- less is more. Years ago, he and his firm were retained to develop an original curriculum for U.S. Special Operations Command to improve the quality of communications. The result was a step-by-step approach to get to the point quickly.

How effective was it? After a few days, McCormack observed significant improvement: Participants "were able to leverage storytelling skills and BRIEF techniques to be clear and compelling when explaining complex missions. They delivered complicated information efficiently and effectively, with clearer context and more compelling explanations. They used fewer PowerPoint presentations. As a result, the leaders fostered better and more engaging conversations."

McCormack makes skillful use of several reader-friendly devices that include "BRIEF Bits" (memorable insights on how to be more BRIEF, each accompanied by a military figure to emphasize the importance of discipline), "BRIEF Basics" (various critical techniques that are essential to mastering Lean brevity), "Executive Attention" (vignettes about two executives and their interaction with others' inability to be BRIEF), and "Long Story Short" (essential points at the beginning and conclusion of all chapters, 1-20). These devices will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By MICHELLE O'HAGAN on February 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In his book, BRIEF, Joe McCormack makes the case that the ability to be brief begins with your ability to respect your audience enough to do some serious preparation. Whether it is a dinner for two or a business presentation for hundreds, it is your responsibility to know what your audience needs and give it to them in short order.

And if you won’t do it out of the goodness of your heart, McCormack also points out that *not* being brief will cost you money, promotions, raises and the respect of friends and colleagues.

Organized in punchy chapters (some just two pages long) and peppered with sidebars and illustrations, BRIEF provides multiple entry/exit points for quick bursts of useful information.

Throughout BRIEF, McCormack provides examples of entrepreneurs, business executives and military personnel who have embraced his methodology of narrative mapping and deployed it throughout their organizations with great success. This is the beauty of BRIEF; it is scalable. No matter who you are or what you do, you’ll find something valuable here that will change the way you interact with--and are perceived by--everyone you know.

If you’re already a lean communicator, do the rest of us a favor and send BRIEF to someone who isn’t.
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