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Page-turning comms: your summer reading list

3 July 2015

It’s that time of year when you’re either on the beach, in the garden or at the very least enjoying a quieter commute. Hopefully you have a bit of space to ponder and catch up with a great book. Here are the top five books which have changed the way I think about charity communications.

  1. The Brand Handbook by Wally Olins. I read this book some years ago when I was heading up a rebrand in-house. Rebrands are often emotive and highly charged. They involve a daunting amount of work and can be incredibly expensive and time consuming. This book demystifies the process, simplifying brands into tangible elements and demonstrating a way forward in the thorniest of projects. Do not embark on a rebrand without it.
  2. The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane. If you need to persuade and influence anyone as part of your job – and who doesn’t? – this book should be your bible. After all, stakeholder management is at least 50% of any communications role. Cabane explains how charisma is an asset if you need to lead people, grow your network or develop your career. Before I read this book I assumed that charisma was something you had to be born with. Cabane disagrees. She shares some simple, practical tips to be more persuasive in meetings, while presenting or when faced with difficult situations. I’ve used many of the ideas in this book; they are invaluable.
  3. Organisations Don’t Tweet, People Do by Euan Semple. An excellent read for anyone who is encouraging their organisation to make digital central to their work, rather than a bolt on. Digital transformation can be a scary process and Semple’s book is a series of ideas that emphasise the possibilities. The perfect secret Santa present if your CEO is a luddite.
  4. Copywriting by Mark Shaw. When I led a team in-house this book went missing from my desk all the time as it was so useful. It helps you put yourself in your audience’s shoes and write memorable copy for both on- and offline channels. Above all it taught me that the secret of good writing is ruthless editing. It’s beautifully designed, featuring lots of inspiring examples. I like to imagine Don Draper reading it while drinking an Old Fashioned. If you’re staring at a blank screen, this book will get you writing again faster than a double espresso.
  5. CharityComms’ Make it Matter by Joe Barrell. A methodical, thorough guide to charity communications strategies, covering everything from researching your audience to setting goals, developing key messages, and getting buy-in. If you can shepherd your organisation through the creation and delivery of a communications strategy it will make everything you do from then on so much easier. This is a reliable guide for those writing their first strategies and equally helpful as a refresher for old hands.

These are the five books which have changed the way I work. What are yours?

Zoe Amar

founder and director, Zoe Amar Digital

Zoe Amar is founder and director of Zoe Amar Digital, a charity marketing and digital communications consultancy who've worked with Action Aid, CAF, Crimestoppers and many other great charities. She also blogs for The Guardian. Zoe shares charity marketing resources over at and @zoeamar