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On Message: How a Compelling Narrative Will Make Your Organization Succeed

On Message: How a Compelling Narrative Will Make Your Organization Succeed

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by Zach Friend

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In this era of information overload and real-time communication where anyone can publish and broadcast to millions of people with the click of a button, there is no shortage of people talking about the need to get their message across, or having a “narrative.” But for business, marketing, and political campaigns, there is no definitive how-to on


In this era of information overload and real-time communication where anyone can publish and broadcast to millions of people with the click of a button, there is no shortage of people talking about the need to get their message across, or having a “narrative.” But for business, marketing, and political campaigns, there is no definitive how-to on crafting a compelling narrative that achieves lasting results. And without a narrative, no amount of framing, complex messaging, or facts will succeed.

On Message solves that problem, illustrating how effective communicators understand the power of narrative, emotion, and simple messaging, and posits that having a personal, emotional narrative is the basis for all successful communication.

Drawing on Zach Friend’s own experience and insights from politics, advertising, corporate communications, entertainment, and social psychology, On Message provides a simple process for applying the powerful principles behind crafting a narrative, ultimately paving the path to success. Specifically, readers will:

-Learn how to focus their communication efforts in a dramatically more powerful way on the most important factor, narrative;
-Master the mindset needed to become a better communicator and make a forceful impact on their audience and clients;
-Stop wasting time and energy gathering unnecessary facts and data that don’t advance their message; and
-Get results faster by using narrative as a productive tool that will fuel success.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The great film producer Richard Zanuck once said, 'The most important thing is the story. . . . Not the script . . . but the story.' It's the story people remember, the reason they love a movie. Zach Friend, something of a genius, figured out that's not just true about our favorite movies. It's true about everything anyone wants to tell you—or sell you. 'Things go better with Coke' promises you not just a great-tasting drink but a great meal experience.'  'Tell me a story, Daddy'—What your kid is really saying is 'Help me go to sleep in a nice way.' Zanuck was right. So is Zach Friend.” —Chris Matthews, Host of MSNBC's Hardball

“Whether calling upon his own experience with the 2008 Barack Obama campaign or mining wonderful nuggets of dialogue from quirky movies like Best in Show, Zach Friend has written an entertaining and insightful guide to crafting messages in business, life, and politics. And as much as I personally chafe as a reporter over excessive message discipline in politics, I have to admit that in the real world his advice is dead-on.” —Walter Shapiro, political columnist, former Washington Bureau Chief for Salon.com

“Zach Friend is so good at creating successful messaging, he convinced me to read his book on messaging. He is THAT GOOD.” —Lizz Winstead, Co-creator of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

“From a police department to the presidency, Zach Friend has been on the front lines of communications. Zach’s book, On Message, has something to teach everyone, from experienced leaders to political newbies.” —Jamal Simmons, political professional and analyst

On Message is exactly the kind of reminder that we can all use when telling our stories.” —Heather Stephenson, Co-founder and CEO of The Old School, former CEO of IdealBite.com

“Today, new streams of information are trained on us like so many fire hoses. In self-defense we filter most of it out. What gets through? It’s not data, facts, or slogans. It’s a good story. In On Message, Zach Friend shows us how great narrative evokes emotion, spurs engagement, and creates action. Best of all, Friend practices what he preaches: this book is loaded with stories from business, politics, and yes, even children’s literature, to bring his concepts to life in ways we can all relate to and use.” —Gary Stockman, former CEO of global public relations firm Porter Novelli

“For giving a behind the scenes insight and the secrets of successful political campaigns, Zach nails it. He has written an illustrative and compelling book that is a must read for anyone who wants the real story. Business leaders, elected officials, and anyone who wants to be successful in message needs to read this book.” —Debbie Mesloh, political advisor and corporate executive, Director of Government and Public Affairs at Gap Inc.

“This book is a road map for success in creating powerful, lasting messages that will help you stand out in an information-overloaded world. Use it as a manual for developing winning communications that really connect with your audience.” —Donnie Fowler, political TV commentator, National Field Director for Al Gore for President, former Vice President of TechNet

On Message has the kind of practical messaging approaches that newcomers and veterans alike can harness.” —Mike Maser, former SVP Marketing at AOL, current CEO of FitStar

Product Details

Turner Publishing Company
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.09(w) x 8.95(h) x 0.55(d)

Read an Excerpt

Establishing Your Narrative

What exactly is a narrative?

In movies or literature narrative is simply the story. In politics and business it is your story.

For Toyota, it is an established story of reliability and quality. For Ronald Reagan it is of optimism in America and conservative values.  For the Salvation Army it is the powerful impact your donation can make on someone’s life.  

All of these narratives are so commonly accepted we don’t even realize that they needed to be created in the first place.  

Narrative translates knowing into telling. It provides the bridge from facts and figures into something that we are wired to understand. In other words, narratives help us interpret the world. They guide us to highlight certain things and ignore others. They provide the framework for understanding complex issues and making sense of the world around us.

For your business, non-profit or political campaign, everything needs to flow from your narrative. If your narrative is weak, it will be defined for you. And if your messaging, framing and branding are incongruent with your narrative you will, simply, lose.

All good narratives need to be constructed. And luckily, they all follow similar models of construction.

What Makes a Good Narrative?

A good narrative is simple, emotional and true.

It’s unfortunate the last part even needs to be pointed out, but it seems that truth has become a prized commodity lately. And it’s important to note that you can’t create a false narrative and expect it will stand the test of time (right, Bernie Madoff?).

So how do you go about constructing a good narrative?

British literary critic Frank Kermode compared the structure of a narrative to the ticking of a clock: each tick creates an expectation for the corresponding tock. They create an expectation or challenge (tick) and a resolution (tock).

Meet the Author

Zach Friend is a policy, public affairs, and communications expert who has worked for Barack Obama and John Kerry's presidential campaigns, the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives and the Democratic National Committee. With Obama for America ’08, he was a press secretary and spokesman in the battleground state of Pennsylvania. He’s been quoted by MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, ABC, CBS, NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and Politico and is a blogger for the Huffington Post and Business Insider.

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On Message: How a Compelling Narrative Will Make Your Organization Succeed 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
BookLove32 More than 1 year ago
This book is a valuable resource for any business. It offers actionable solutions for improving your communication skills. I enjoyed that it offers advice on how to clarify your message so that it resonates with your audience. A fantastic book.
welchdesign More than 1 year ago
Interestingly, this motivational and enlightening book is a true charmer. The profound and practical strategies implemented are very applicable and useful. Indeed this stimulating book has totally refreshed and vitalized me . Surely it has broadened my knowledge on having compelling narratives. I had a very illuminating read. From beginning to end this book is well written, organized and researched. It’s just exceptional, nothing is amiss. Certainly this well expressive author has written a tremendous book worth reading.