Carmine Gallo is a communication coach for the world’s most admired brands. He’s a Harvard instructor, leadership advisor, and bestselling author whose books, including Talk Like TED and The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, have been translated into more than 40 languages. He has worked directly with entrepreneurs and CEOs who run companies that touch your life every day: Intel, Amazon Web Services, Google, LinkedIn, Pfizer, Walmart, and many other brands. Carmine also writes monthly columns as a senior contributor for Forbes, Inc, Harvard Business Review, and Inc Magazine.
In this conversation, Carmine talks about his new book, The Bezos Blueprint.
Geetesh: Carmine, your new book, The Bezos Blueprint is about Jeff Bezos’ communication strategies. Tell us more about what attracted you to Jeff Bezos’ ideas, and motivated you to write this book?
Carmine: Very early in Amazon’s history, Bezos connected effective communication to uncommon innovation. Innovation requires intelligent human beings with excellent communication skills. Award-winning author Walter Isaacson says he’s often asked who, of today’s contemporary leaders, he would put in the same category of his historical subjects Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, and Steve Jobs. His answer is Jeff Bezos. Isaacson says, They were all very smart, but that’s not what made them special. Smart people are a dime a dozen and often don’t amount to much. What counts is being creative and imaginative. That’s what makes someone a true innovator.
I like Isaacson’s answer because I’m often asked who’s the world’s best communicator? In my book The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, I call the Apple cofounder the world’s best corporate storyteller. In Talk Like TED, I feature TED Talks as a platform to celebrate the world’s best public speakers. For the title of world’s best business communicator, it’s Bezos.
I’ve interviewed many former Amazon executives who have moved on to start their own companies. Most of them cite the annual Amazon shareholder letters as models of business writing and communications. Some business leaders think the Bezos letters should be required reading in business schools. According to Netflix cofounder and first CEO Marc Randolph, Jeff Bezos’ first letter to Amazon shareholders should be required reading for every entrepreneur. I keep the letter in a folder on my desk and re-read it at least once a year.
For The Bezos Blueprint, I analyzed nearly 50,000 words, more than two decades of Bezos shareholder letters, to identify the writing and communication tactics you should adopt to tell the most compelling story around your product, company, or business.
Geetesh: For readers, we are lucky because you have provided these ideas in a few chapters that are easy to grasp. Your learning before writing this book would have involved extensive research, some contemplation, and so much more. Can you tell us more about these aspects?
Carmine: Bezos personally wrote twenty-four letters from 1997 to 2020. I analyzed and scrutinized every one. I dissected and inspected every sentence. Few business leaders use metaphor as skillfully as Bezos. He built flywheels to power Amazon’s growth. He planted seeds that grew into massive business enterprises. He created “two-pizza” teams, explained why failure and invention are “inseparable twins”, and hired “missionaries over mercenaries”. Bezos spoke in metaphor, and he always wrote ideas, no matter how complex, with words that were simple, understandable, and actionable.
In addition to researching Bezos’ shareholder letters, I tracked his earliest speeches to his more recent presentations to show that most great communicators go through a gradual transformation. They refine their message and delivery over time and extensive practice. Great speakers are made, not born. I also interviewed former Amazonians who built their own successful companies using the same “Bezos Blueprint” they learned at Amazon. For example, according to Ann Hiatt, who worked three feet from Jeff Bezos for several years, The greatest gift in my life has been sitting next to the smartest CEOs in the world and learning step-by-step how they think, act, motivate, and make decisions.
I divided the tactics, interviews, and ideas from my research into three parts.
In Part I, I set the foundation by focusing on persuasive writing skills and tactics. Readers discover why strong writing skills are more essential than ever, the road to the top is paved with fewer words, and innovative leaders use simple words to explain complex things.
In Part II, I examine the elements of building a story structure that will inspire your listeners. Great presentations start with great stories.
Finally, Part III is all about delivering your message. I share tips on how to use symbols to convey big ideas, how to make your mission a mantra, and how to humanize data to make a bigger impact with listeners. Readers will also learn how to use a message map to shape their idea into a one-page story that can be the foundation of a conversation, pitch, or presentation.
I am excited to offer this “Bezos Blueprint” to professionals in every field and across every discipline so they can reimagine the way they write, speak and lead.
Bezos Blueprint Book Offerings
Did you know that if you purchase 25 or more copies, you can get free material and time with Carmine at varying levels depending on the quantity purchased?
Geetesh: How is The Bezos Blueprint different from your other books?
Carmine: While all of my books focus on elements of leadership with a lens on communication, this is the first time I get to take a deep dive into the art of writing. Let’s not forget that almost every presentation begins with the written word, either in PowerPoint notes or another document. Great communication starts with strong writing. It’s more vital and relevant today since business leaders need to think about the words they use to motivate teams, convince investors and inspire followers. In The Bezos Blueprint, readers will learn why simple is the new superpower. Readers will also learn how Bezos and other leaders used metaphor and analogy to tell compelling stories about their initiatives. I also tackle ideas like the importance of using symbolism and humanizing data when telling your brand story.
Readers will also learn the three most important factors in their development as presenters as well as how the use of video analysis is the most effective way to assess those factors.
Geetesh: Amazon is big. How can a small business benefit from the techniques Bezos used at Amazon?
Carmine: Before Bezos hired his first employee, he was focused on building a team with good communication skills. Next to customer obsession, effective communication has always been the number one priority at Amazon. Communication fueled the company’s astonishing success. Amazon’s earliest investors were not placing a bet on the company; they were betting on the person behind the idea. They were sold on Bezos and his vision. You can have a great idea, but the secret to success in any endeavor is convincing someone else to take action on your idea. John Doerr, an early investor in Amazon, told me, What I saw was an amazing founder and an amazing opportunity. He [Bezos] has a technical background and a dream that he could get big fast and change the way the world works.
Bezos also had what he coined the “Day One” mindset.
In his first shareholder letter in 1997, Bezos wrote that today is “Day 1” for the Internet and Amazon.com. For the next two decades, he used the catchphrase as a metaphor for creating and sustaining a culture of innovation no matter how large a company becomes. The Day One mindset isn’t about the skills you failed to learn yesterday; it’s about learning new skills to avoid failing in the future. Day One will set you up to succeed for what promises to be the most transformative decade in human history.
Few people can afford to be complacent when it comes to improving their skill. Learn the tactics in this book and you won’t decline. You’ll rise. It’s a blueprint for success no matter how small your company.
Jeff Bezos is a dreamer who turned a bold idea into one of the world’s most admired brands. In The Bezos Blueprint, communication coach and Harvard instructor, Carmine Gallo, reveals the leadership and communication strategies that Bezos pioneered to fuel Amazon’s astonishing growth.
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