The Hype Handbook

Michael F. Schein

What do Warren Buffett, Charles Manson, and Dale Carnegie have in common? They all used hype to spread their messages according to Michael Schein, author of The Hype Handbook: 12 Indispensible Success Secrets From the World’s Greatest Propagandists, Self-Promoters, Cult Leaders, Mischief Makers, and Boundary Breakers. 

Schein should know since he’s been studying hype, marketing, and mischief-making since he was in grade school. After a stint fronting a punk band, he built his career in marketing. In running his own marketing agency MicroFame Media, he has served clients including eBay, LinkedIn, and Citrix, to name a few.

In his highly readable and almost lyrical book, Schien unpacks so many counterintuitive insights about how to get the right kind of attention that you will certainly find tools that will help you be more successful on your path.

 I spoke to Schein to learn some insights that startup founders and all professionals can use to get more attention.

 Pick a Fight.

Conventional wisdom says you should suck up to the big players in the field. Schein suggests the opposite: set up antagonistic scenarios with prominent figures.

Schein’s personal experience with this was memorable: he picked a fight with digital marketing giant Gary Vaynerchuk.

“I wrote an article on why Gary Vaynerchuck is flat out wrong. He responded to me that night by video, calling me out by name with a 20-minute rant about how I didn’t know what I was talking about. I was a nobody, and it started my career.” 

“Don’t confuse this with trolls,” Schein said. “When I picked that fight with Gary Vaynerchuk, I never insulted his looks, his voice, or his attitude. I just challenged his ideas.”

Schein suggested that startup founders pick a fight with an idea rather than a person. A great way to do this is to find a conventional point of view in your corner of the world that you know is wrong. Drew Houston did this when he founded Dropbox. Conventional wisdom said that email attachments and hard drives were enough to solve the problem of saving and exchanging files. 

Houston didn’t agree. He thought that instead of attaching documents or backing them up to hard drives, there could be what he called “this magic folder that you could access from anywhere and never need to back up?” Houston’s contrary idea got people’s attention and Dropbox built a massive business.

Michael F. Schein

Copyright Michael N. Meyer

Don’t try to convert customers

Every marketer knows that when you put out some content on your website or in your email, you have to have a call to action.

Schein has a word of advice: don’t.

“We’ve gone overboard with calls to action,” he said. “Instead, think about creating intrigue and anticipation.”

A masterful example of this is Apple. Its marketing mirrors their “less is more” approach to technology and design. When Apple unveils a new product it doesn’t beg you to buy it. Instead, it often gives you a single image showing someone interacting with the product or a single word.

 Take a leaf from Apple’s playbook and go with less, not more.

Build a secret society

The best way to build hype? Get Oprah to endorse you. Or, depending on your audience, maybe Joe Rogan.

If you don’t have access to the mega influencers, find your own mini-Oprah. Connect with micro-influencers on social media and through your own network. When you can get other people talking about you and what you do, you create hype.

 You can also build your own personal tribe. Schein built his own inner circle this way when he was starting out in his business.

 “I knew very few people when I started out. So I started with traditional networking – I met people and I did favors for them. That was great, but they were just consultants like me!”

 He realized that he needed to build connections with people who could actually hire him.  He followed leaders on Twitter, but rather than responding to their insights about business he waited until they shared something personal.

 “I did this with a massive consultant in innovation whom I wanted to get to know,” Schein told me. “He tweeted a lot about business, but one day he mentioned a chocolate shop in my neighborhood. So I connected with him on Twitter about that and before long I was sitting in his office hanging out. You have to realize people are human beings.”

Schein also used the assets that were cheap for him but expensive for others to gain access to more big-ticket events. He wrote for a few magazines, for example, and even though he didn’t get paid for those articles he could use the credentials to get press passes to conferences.

“So if someone’s paying $5,000 to go to a conference, it’s not the same kind of person you’re meeting at a cocktail one day at a neighborhood pub,” he said. “You get access into their secret society that you might not be able to afford otherwise.” That was how he got to meet more influential people who could actually hire him.

The Hype Handbook is a bible of strategies that you can adapt to your own business and life to create buzz and spread the word about your cause.

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Roland Millaner


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