Quickie Book Review: Buzz by Ed Koch

August 21, 2007

I like to read books about “buzz” because I’m always looking for ways to get a little traffic love for Bessed on a small budget. So I got the book Buzz by Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York.  It’s sort of a strange book, but it had a few insights that were worthwhile, which I will share with you now.

First off, I had forgotten that Ed Koch, a lifelong Democrat, had pulled a switcheroo and vehemently supported George W. Bush for president. As far as I can tell from this book, he hasn’t changed that opinion. Therefore it appears that going against your lifelong stated philosophy is one way to build buzz, as this worked for a while for Koch, and it got him another book deal.

But that’s being nasty.  Here are some good points and bad points about the book itself, in case you’re interested in picking it up.

It’s broken down into four parts, from “How Buzz Begins” to “Recognizing Victory”. Personally I felt like the chapters could’ve been thrown together any which way and made as much sense as they did in the order presented. This isn’t really a “how to go from Point A to Point B” kind of book; it’s just a lot of different ideas thrown together. That’s fine, I don’t need a framework, but these types of books always insist on making it seem like you’re getting a more cohesive picture than you are. All us readers want is a few good ideas, so dispense with the grand plans I say.

My takeaway from the book is that being honest and honestly enthusiastic will help build you buzz. Say what you’re going to do, do it, and be honest and as friendly as you can be along the way.  On the other hand, don’t back down when challenged, or people lose respect for you and they lose some of the hope you’ve given them. This strikes me as being more about personal buzz than buzz for your business, but I think there is some crossover. I also think this applies if you run a company with employees that look to you for leadership, especially if you’re a startup. After all, a lot of startups are riding on a vision, and they need a strong leader to make people keep believing in that vision.

Koch is a good storyteller, and there are some very good anecdotes here, including one about Mother Theresa and some chocolate chip cookies that I particularly enjoyed. (That Mother Theresa always did crack me up!)

One of the more bizarre chapters is the one in which Koch tells you how to create buzz by writing letters to important people. He reprints his exact letters to various New York City honchos as well as Pat Robertson, and even lets us in on a few e-mail exchanges between him and random people.  I have no idea how these letters create buzz, but even if they do, I’m sure they create more buzz if you’re already a well-known person like Ed Koch than if you’re me. Very strange.

If you’re looking to build your business’s buzz based on your product features or your marketing or social networks, etc., Buzz is not about that at all. But if you’re a CEO who wants to build buzz to your business via your own personal brand—and there’s nothing wrong with that—Buzz could be helpful. After all, Ed Koch came from nothing to be mayor of New York.  That’s a rise to stardom worth emulating.

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.


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