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Book Review: Join the Conversation by Joseph Jaffe

Jaffe’s latest book, Join The Conversation, is about community and
dialogue in our new marketing landscape.  True to its title, Jaffe
leaves no room for doubt that the conversation is an operational
imperative.  Failure to do so is the equivalent of waiting for

Beginning with a powerful call to talk ‘with’ rather
than ‘at’ consumers, Jaffe rips into the ego of the corporation bent on
controlling the market rather than participating as equals with their
customers.  Loaded with examples of what to and not to do, the book
provides solid resources for anyone still needing convincing.

it be thought that Join the Conversation is merely an extended riff
from an outspoken industry rebel, Jaffe provides guidelines on
experimentation, budget allocations, finding the right people, and how
to strike balance between the command-and-conquer and the
free-for-all-anarchy approaches.

I do, though, have one major
issue with the book.  Jaffe asserts that in order to succeed as
marketers today, we need to drop communications in favour of
conversations.  From his point of view, communications are the single
biggest problem in marketing.  His point is simple: communication is
one-way.  It`s a monologue.  Communications, then, become the
catch-all for everything monolithic and pig-headed in the modern
corporation.  Conversations, on the other hand, are about dialogue,
community and humility.

By lumping all that is evil under the
banner of ‘communications’, we throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Conversations without communication are empty, without value nor
meaning.  Communication is, after all, first and foremost, about
conveying ideas with clarity.  If you’re not communicating anything in
your conversations, then you might as well talk about the weather.
Furthermore, not everyone wants
to join a conversation with a corporation (sadly).  Surely we need to be ready
and willing to participate as equals in conversation, but we also need
to have something valuable to add and we can’t simply rely on
conversations alone.  There are times when one-way communication is
best, so long as people can, if they want to, transform that monologue into a dialogue.  Or so says I.

the idea that communications and conversations are polar opposites does
spark an interesting debate.  It challenges us to look at what we’re
doing and really ask if we’re participating as equals or simply
attempting to force the market to respond favourably.  It requires
us to examine just how much we respect consumers.  By attacking the
foundation of modern marketing theory (e.g. communications), Jaffe forces
us to re-evaluate our entire industry.  Which may be the single most
valuable take-away from the book.

All in all, despite my
difference of opinions on a few points, I have to say Join the
is a must read.  Jaffe challenges our assumptions in an
extremely polarizing and confrontational manner, which I personally
love.  It’s lead to several debates with friends.  Plus, you have to
give credit for his complete lack of fear in taking on our entire

One Comment

  1. Joseph Jaffe
    Joseph Jaffe February 19, 2008

    I’m not sure I said all communications is the devil and should be dropped in favor of conversation. If anything, my point is that conversation is what comes “next” as in “after” as in “a more evolved and effective form of connecting”
    Communication gets our foot in the door…which can be broken if the door is slammed too hard on us 🙂
    Conversation on the other hand, is the act of opening the door and inviting us inside…
    In any event, I’m always encouraged when I’m taken to task AND I hate it when people agree with everything I say…
    At the end of the day, we’re on the same page and I appreciate your review, consideration and recommendation.
    Rock on!

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