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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2008
I started reading Join the Conversation by Joseph Jaffe in December. It's now March and I've completed it. I usually pour through a book within a week or two, but this book was different. And not different in a good way. The book has good information, but it's hidden in between sophomoric humor, euphemism crammed sentences and a self-congratulatory tone. My advice - if you plan on reading this book start at chapter 18 (page 246). That's where the real information begins.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2008
I'm one of a number of bloggers Joseph Jaffe has sent his latest book, Join The Conversation, for review purposes. I've posted about the wisdom of this strategy previously on And I enjoy Jaffe's blog enormously.

Jaffe obviously thinks deeply about the notion of human voice and its multiplied effect when the power of the network is applied. And on the vast majority of themes, on the whole big picture thing, Jaffe and I will agree whole-heartedly (after all the tagline 'Join the Conversation' has always been applied to my blog from the off!). He is one of us, he is riding the Cluetrain, he understands the power of the network etc etc.

So, all that said, it's the details that I might get picky about. And as a former sub-editor, even poor use of metaphor or lazy english ("pretty unique", for example) can set my pen a-twitching.
As a European reader, the many illustrative examples of good and bad practice from US mainstream media are often lost on me. That can grate a little. I read my copy on a beach in St Lucia - so checking the references on the web as I went along was out of the question.

But these are just details.

Provocative or patronising?
Jaffe seems deliberately provocative at times - and this can result in a patronising tone... (depending, naturally, on your point of view). It was a tone that often got me riled.
For example on page 172 he refers to the Worst Chase Scenario in which a union advertised in a New York paper asking for consumers' worst experiences at a particular bank. Jaffe writes that he was disappointed that it wasn't the bank itself asking the question (me too!). And he says:
"I don't expect you to understand this idea - nor do I expect any company to implement this form of corporate nakedness anytime soon."
My response is that the argument that finding out the worst people think of you, engaging in conversation about it and trying to fix it is the bleeding obvious to anyone who has read the Cluetrain Manifesto, Communities Dominate Brands, Wikinomics et al.
On page 216 he writes "I introduced the concept that you are the community you keep." I'm sure many of us have toyed with similar notions ( I know I have - I am part of a community therefore I am). Jaffe does a lot of this "I did this", "I introduced that". And that's bound to grate with less-than-pushy Brits.

I'll be honest. I haven't read a book that wound me up more regularly in a long time.

But perhaps this was the intention? Perhaps the tone will aid the conversation - a strong point of view will always inspire a hotter conversation, and isn't that Jaffe's whole point? So I'll grant him that. As a strategy for inspiring conversation, it is brilliant.

And when I analyse the regularity with which I get snarky about his writing there's more criticism scrawled over the pages in the first half of the book and more whoops of praise and shared view towards the end. He's building a case, winding you up and drawing you in, ready to end up on a high of mutual agreement and goading to action.

But I do have some substantive criticisms.

Conversation as science: The risk of codifying art.
Jaffe refers, quite correctly in my view, to conversation being an art (as in not a science). Yet he deploys elaborate and complex codifications of 'how to do' conversation in a measurable, transferrable way. I was reading The Origin of Wealth alongside Join The Conversation which served as an interesting mash-up in its own right. TOoW refers to art as knowledge which cannot be captured (in a schema) in any way.
Jaffe is trying to create some rules which anyone can apply - a schema if you like - and he's trying to find new measures of success. And our traditional company structures and budgets require these so I'll say a big thank you for trying but reserve judgement on their usefulness. Applying the wrong scientific thinking to a complex adaptive system can often lead us to incorrect and damaging conclusions (and I will recommend The Origin of Wealth to anyone who wants to explore that argument a little more thoroughly, where it is applied to classical economics).

On the money... almost
Some of Jaffe's examples are just shy of the mark. He wonders why MasterCard doesn't create a 'museum' (his word) for all the MasterCard "Priceless" spoof ads which circulate free and unbounded around the web. I fear a corporation doing that would be in danger of mummifying the idea. There's something of taxidermy about it. I guess my objection is summed up in this post which suggests brands should sit down around other people's campfires, rather than march in and light one in your backyard.

Another belittles Pontiac's suggestion that consumers "Don't take our word for it. Google "Pontiac" and discover for yourself."

Jaffe points out that those consumers who followed the instruction were confronted with ads for unrelated restaurants and rivals, rather than the positive PR the brand may have anticipated. He suggests that with a little more precision (read control) Pontiac could have been so much smarter.

Patronising? Perhaps Pontiac trusted consumers to be wise enough to know how google works and perhaps Pontiac also feared trying to control the search terms used would be against the spirit of the idea.

Isn't Pontiac saying, 'look we know loads of stuff is written about us. We figure we're good enough for there to be more positives than negatives - go take a look for yourself and use whatever terms you like.' ?

Am I crediting Pontiac with too much wisdom - or is Jaffe being too hard on them? Maybe we're both half right?

It's not just about selling stuff
My final critique is that despite an uplifting and over-arching final message "everything is at stake and everything is on the table" Jaffe consistently fixates on selling stuff to people.
This is quite a personal criticism. Jaffe's remit is of course to serve the world of marketing and to persuade traditional marketers of the error of their ways. And part of that is persuading them that life will be better for them should they see the light. And he achieves this in spades.
There is much value in this in the world as it is and as it may be for a couple of years more.
But for me the impact of the network, its power to disrupt what ever it touches, suggests that the message of engagement goes beyond joining 'consumers' (Jaffe's very deliberate term) in the co-creation of content/advertising, or even brand equity. It means that a new community-powered ecology emerges in which converged individuals are doing the co-creation of the very products and services. This very act is all the marketing a product ever needs. That which we create, we embrace... (Alan Moore, et al). I make this argument in rather more detail here.

In summary? (whaddya mean you stopped reading ages ago...)
Join The Conversation is a deliberately provocative, example-rich examination of the changing landscape of marketing being wrought by the high richter earthquakes of community dominance. It serves as a fine primer for marketing and media professionals and makes a good fist of offering some 'How To' advice on actually joining the conversation.
Those who've read The Cluetrain Manifesto and/or Communities Dominate Brands won't find too many new truths. But Jaffe's central themes are clearly presented and make a compelling case for change.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2008
This book has a wealth of good information. I want to begin by giving it credit there. Jaffe is a radical thinker and many of his more extreme ideas strike me as rather deluded and I wanted to bring them up before others potentially accept them as fact.

Jaffe contends that "shout" marketing will disappear. He is a huge advocate of 1 to 1 marketing. The conversation trend is certainly growing. In fact, this review is part of a conversation that helps consumers. But I am talking to you as another consumer, not a brand. If the brand were to join this conversation, it would be unwelcome.

What I don't think Jaffe understands is that the consumer does not want to have conversations with most brands. Look around you - at the products in your home. You can probably think of a "shout" (traditional) campaign for most of these brands. How many of them would you want to take the TIME to have conversations with? Not possible.

Jaffe accuses marketers of not knowing the individual (on page 14) and poses the question, "Do you know her name? Do you know what keeps her up at night?" as if (a) the consumer actually wants to talk individually with every (or even many) of the brands they buy, (2) the consumer wants you to know these kind of intimate details (what's next, asking when I first had sex?), and (3) the overhead of 1 to 1 marketing is not realistic for most companies.

The book has many examples like the one I cited above that make me think, "wow, this guy is blindly in love with the 'conversation' to the point that he WANTS to attack other forms of media." These attacks feel like political attacks - without merit, just to score a few points, and don't contribute in clarifying the real equilibrium of the different mediums.

I agree with another reviewer that his tone can be self-congratulatory and sophomoric. It becomes a bit offensive when you think he is completely wrong on a point and carrying on with his juvenile insults, as though he is so much smarter than everyone. Please.

But I bet he's a fun guy to have a pint with.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2007
I liked this book. It was basically simple, but it got a little wordy and longwinded. It was ALL about conversation as it relates to sales and marketing. It has the following 20 chapters:

1. Talking "at" versus talking "with"
2. The many-to-many model
3. Can marketing be a conversation?
4. The birth of Generation I
5. The rise of the prosumer
6. The new consumerism
7. The six Cs: Three phases of conversation
8. The consent-conversation relationship
9. What conversations are in your future?
10. Why are you so afraid of conversation?
11. The 10 tenets of good conversation
12. The 5 ways you can join the conversation
13. When conversation isn't a conversation at all
14. Where does conversation fit in?
15. Conversation through community
16. Conversation through dialog
17. Conversation through partnership
18. Getting started: The manifesto for experimentation
19. Does conversation work?
20. Do you speak conversation? Take the test

Back in 1999 and 2000 I took a job as a sales rep and my sales director was big on "relationship selling." He advocated contacting the prospect and shooten the crap with them on the first call. Then shoot a little less jibberish the second call and so on until the sixth call I was supposed to have developed a rapport with the prospect - a rapport that would eventually lead to a sale. Today marketing (in general) is grasping on to what can be called "relationship marketing." Build rapport with the target market one person at a time and hopefully make sales that way.

So how do you build rapport? That's kind of a dumb question - You build rapport through CONVERSATION. And this book is about conversation and how it relates to marketing. It advocates that marketers should get involved in community, dialog, and partnership. That translates into getting involved in MySpace, YouTube, LinkedIn, or some other online community where interaction between users of the site can take place.

This book is not a how-to for marketing managers and strategic planners to read and follow. But it does discuss the interaction of content, conversation, community, context, customization, and commerce as it all relates to the Internet and marketing. Ifelt this was a good book, but not a great one. 4 stars!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2008
Last week on my way down to WOMMA-University
I threw Joseph Jaffe's latest tome - Join the Conversation in my bag. Once the doors to the plane closed and I could no longer frantically update Twitter, I opened it up and started reading. (We sat on the ground a LONG TIME so by the time I made Miami; I was through the whole thing.)

Now a couple of weeks ago in my review I said that Groundswell is the how-to book for marketers wishing to play in a post-cluetrain world - and I now see that Join the Conversation bridges the intellectual divide between The Cluetrain Manifesto and Groundswell. The first half of the book is a bit scholarly - and while I was a bit put off by this at first, I really appreciate it having finished the book.

When Jaffe reaches back to George Orwell's on media and connects it to Web 2.0 a single word pops into my mind. Subversive. That's what this whole social computing movement is. It's subversive because it's a revolution that takes power out of the hands of giant corporations and gives it back to people. With the Internet as plumbing we can find our tribe and talk to them - regardless of time and distance. Jaffe makes the point that Orwell would have loved the subversive nature of this revolution - the new age of conversation. Power to the people!

Jaffe makes a passionate argument that markets are conversations - so of course marketers must be involved. Before reading the book I considered myself a bit of a Purist (on the Purist => Corporatist Scale) and I still do. What comes clear is how this apparent gulf between people and corporations can be bridged. It is simple really; corporations need to act human if they want to participate in the conversation. And that means giving up control, not always being right, respecting people building relationships instead of running campaigns, listening and acting like caring human beings.

Along with lots of great examples of how companies are doing things right in conversational marketing, he has some great counter examples - and he's not afraid to call them out! (TIP: If you find yourself asking the lawyers to contact one of your best customers who is doing something odd with your brand or product, you are about to nominate yourself for the "Join the Conversation Hall of Shame". )

My favorite thing about this book? Jaffe is very passionate about this subject and he doesn't pull punches. He is happy to get in an argument - and even offend if he thinks you don't get it. I also like the scholarly approach of the first half, because with this Join the Conversation provides the intellectual grounding in how corporations can get on board the Cluetrain.

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2008
Jaffe's first book, Life After The 30-Second Spot, quickly became the "must-read" book for all Marketing and Communications professionals. It was a steadfast look at how the Internet and technology was changing the media landscape, and what Advertisers needed to start paying attention to. I enjoyed Life After The 30-Second Spot so much that my company, Twist Image, bought a crate and handed them out liberally to employees, colleagues and clients.

Jaffe's latest, Join The Conversation, telescopes deeper into online communities and dissects how everything from YouTube to Blogs are changing the media landscape. The book even includes a chapter titled, Why Are You So Afraid Of Conversations?, that was user-generated (Jaffe set-up a wiki and empowered anybody who saw fit to write a couple of paragraphs for this chapter - of which I took part). The book is rich with examples coloured with Jaffe's commentary (pointing out the good, the bad and the bleh) and this is what makes it so valuable. Case studies, business cases and research tends to be the call from the C Suite when Social Media and Web 2.0 programs are mentioned. Join The Conversation displays the many companies (big, medium and small) who have tried it, what the results were and, according to Jaffe, how those programs could have been extended or improved upon.

On first read, the book seems slightly disjointed and lacking flow (almost like a bunch of individual Blog postings), but by the end it all comes together and by second glance, it makes perfect sense. Along with his own, unique research into what Advertisers and Marketers think about "Conversational Marketing," Jaffe builds a strong case for why companies (and Marketers, in particular) need to do more than simply experiment with these channels - but fully embrace them. And while we all still question whether or not Marketers are wanted as a part of these very dynamic conversations that are taking place, one need look no further than Join The Conversation for a plethora of insights into how it can work when done with authenticity, transparency and, above all, passion.

Join The Conversation is Jaffe at his best. His own passion rings through on every page (along with his snarkiness) and there's enough humour and sarcasm to keep the pace fresh and fast. The book also snuggles in perfectly between Life After The 30-Second Spot and his Blog/Podcast, Jaffe Juice. Tag-team this with Meatball Sundae by Seth Godin and you've got your fill of Marketing books covering the New Media, Social Media and Web 2.0 landscape.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2008
The title of the book tells the story: "Join the Conversation--How to Engage Marketing-Weary Consumers with the Power of Community, Dialogue, and Partnership". That being the case, is it necessary to read Jaffe's 290 pages? In a word--yes.

Jaffe's an entertaining guy and the book reads well. He warns that marketers who want to survive and prosper had better stop talking AT their customers and learn to talk WITH their customers. And that conversation had better feature more listening than talking. In other words, don't confuse communication with conversation. Yelling through a megaphone is communicating, but it's not a conversation.

The book is full of anecdotes, examples, and case studies, with a heavy dose of Joseph's sense of humor.

Joe Jaffe is a bright young man who knows what he's talking about. He has taken some heat for blatantly using his blog and podcast to acquire an iPhone and a lap top computer, but the man practices what he preaches, and he's good at it.

I believe that any book is worth the time it takes to read it if you come away with just one profitable idea. "Join the Conversation" more than delivers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2008
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2007
Faster than his -Life After...- book, Joseph Jaffe hits marketing right between the eyes. Yes, the book still has the quintessential -points after points, and here's the graph people- approach, but Jaffe also knows when it's time to move on. It reads fast, almost as fast as the conversations that are taking place on the internet. The conversations we either make ourselves part of, or else. David Ogilvy used to say: We sell, or else. If he's reading Joseph's book up there, he might change that to: We converse, or else. Jaffe spells out what's coming and I am happy to belong to the people who see it exactly so.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2008
This is an absolute MUST for anyone who works in Marketing or Advertising.Even if you're scared silly of the constantly mutating new media technologies, Jaffe's point is comfortingly simple: your customers are already out there talking about you - all ya gotta do is listen.

Jaffe reveals exciting times ahead with bucketloads of opportunities to engage and involve the generation. If you're looking for something to get you fired up this year - then 'add to cart' now. You'll be quoting from this book 7 days a week.
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