Revisiting Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point

the-tipping-point-740155Lately, I’ve been on a business book binge. In the last two months, I’ve read several books that friends in MBA programs have recommended. Surprisingly, I’ve found myself easily falling into the nonfiction routine I thought I’d left behind in college.

When a friend told me to read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, I shrugged it off because I’d already read it once. Four years ago, I read it as a college freshman – who was pursuing a biology degree. Relationship building, product marketing and trendsetting meant nothing to me, so I quickly skimmed through the book without thinking about what I was reading.

Now, with a public relations degree in hand and a budding career at a digital marketing firm, I’m engrossed in these concepts, so taking my friend’s advice and diving back into The Tipping Point seemed like a good idea. Exploring the novel again opened my eyes to some theories that directly affect my role as a communicator.

Gladwell introduces his readers to three types of people who are integral to the tipping of ideas:

  • Connectors – “links”
  • Mavens – “information specialists”
  • Salespeople – “persuaders”

There is a chapter about each type of person, and every time Gladwell described their roles, I found myself nodding along, thinking “This sounds like me!” Then I realized that it’s important for PR professionals to hone the skills represented by these three personalities.

Many of the traits are necessary for successful careers in public relations and marketing. We have to be “connectors” who are constantly building bridges between our clients and their audiences. As “mavens,” we should be prepared to provide our network with access to new information. And, finally, we need to accept our role as “salespeople” who are capable of negotiating with and persuading others, whether it’s co-workers, clients, journalists, or audiences.

Another striking and applicable theory Gladwell presented was the “Power of Context.” To describe this context, Gladwell presented an anecdote that showed how crime in New York City dipped dramatically after the city enforced a “zero tolerance” policy for lesser crimes such as vandalism in the subway system. Though this is an extreme example, it shows how vital context is to message reception and that certain environments can be created through proactive measures.

Needless to say, I highly recommend this book, especially if you are in the marketing industry. If the thought of reading a theory-based nonfiction book is intimidating, The Tipping Point successfully breaks the standard business book mold. Gladwell’s background as a journalist allows him to clearly explain his theories, and though some might seem far-fetched, his concepts can be applied across numerous industries and platforms, making this an easy and worthwhile read.

Have you read The Tipping Point? What were your thoughts about the book?

image credit: Borders.com

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10 thoughts on “Revisiting Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point

  1. Hey Meg,

    Nice to see your thoughts on the Tipping Point. I finally read it earlier this year because I felt like it was my duty as a PR professional.

    Like you, I found myself nodding along, thinking “This sounds like me!” I’m cool with being a connector and a maven, but I have a love/hate relationship with being a salesperson. I can do it, but it’s definitely not in my top 5 list of roles James likes to fill. I have to give it to Gladwell for clearly defining these groups.

    Also, being from New York, it was definitely interesting to see someone take that kind of lens to a city and issue that I was in the middle of growing up.

    I agree with you. Good read and I would recommend it for anyone interested in the industry.

  2. Haven’t read it, but I’ll put it on the “To Do” list and let you know so we can have intellectual conversations over wine and Chinese food (or whatever you eat up there) when I come visit.

    P.S. I like the new set-up, the top picture is fantastic and makes me entirely envious of you living in a bigger city than me. The massive amounts of white, however, freak me out a bit. What do you think that says about me? Hummm.

    P.S.S. If you had to classify me into one of the roles from the book, which would it be? It’ll be an interesting perspective when I get around to reading it.

  3. Gladwell’s other book, Blink, is also a worthy read. It’s about ‘thing-slicing’ and how we make snap decisions–more importantly, how we can improve our snap decision-making ability. Check it out 🙂 His new book comes out soon too!

  4. The first time I heard of this book was when I was a student in “Sciences-Po Paris” eight years ago. I had an american teacher there who told us about this book, but I had so many things to read by that time…

    Eventually, I bought it at Chicago’s university while visiting a friend a mine. I was working for an advertising agency and I thought it was an interesting book by the time but I felt the book did not match the expectation my teacher had settled…

    Since, I am working on building a social media and this book is just like one of my fundmental pilar, just like the theory of MacLuhan on the media…
    I recommend this book to every people that will work on social media or communication. A great book.

  5. I just read Blink and loved it…Tipping Point has been on my “to read” list for a long time. After reading Blink and happening upon your review post, I’m completely inspired to go pick it up and finally cross it off my list. On another Malcolm Gladwell note, I recently discovered Out Loud, a podcast from The New Yorker magazine…he was featured discussing his new book. I’ve since downloaded a bunch of other Out Loud segments…they’re great…you can find it on iTunes.

    On even another note…Meg…I really dig your blog and insights…I just featured PR Interactive over on my site…which is still in it’s embryo stages.

    Keep up the good work!

  6. Wow – wasn’t expecting this much great feedback! You guys are awesome.

    @james walker I agree – being confident in my “salesperson” capabilities is always something I struggle with as I try to strike a balance between being persuasive and coming off as pushy. I enjoy the former, despise the latter.

    @Tory Lynne It’s definitely a must read for anyone interested in word of mouth marketing, much like yourself. If I had to pick, I’d say you are either a salesperson or a maven.

    @allanmcdougall @allie @rich I’m looking forward to reading Gladwell’s new book, Outliers. It’s on my Christmas list! Also, have been wanting to read Blink for quite some time now, so I think you guys have given me the push I need to go out and buy it.

  7. I just saw Gladwell’s new book Outliers in my local bookstore the other day but didn’t pay much attention it – then I came home and saw this post in my feed reader. I had heard of the connector/salesman/maven theory before though, just didn’t know who was responsible for it. I guess I need to start reading a couple of Gladwell’s books now…

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