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Soph Reads Stuff – Copywriting: Successful writing for design, advertising and marketing 

This instalment of Soph Reads Stuff has been over three months in the making, and that’s because I’ve been tackling one of the most complex books yet; Copywriting: Successful writing for design, advertising and marketing. This book is like a copywriting bible. In fact, it’s packed with so many do’s and don’ts that it took me right back to Sunday School at Yateley Baptist Church. It’s Mark Shaw’s masterpiece, but I’ve done it again and only gotten the second edition, not the third edition that was released in 2022. Apparently, I do not learn. But you can!

With a pleasing 222 pages of content, Mark has handed down a career’s worth of wisdom, and it’s one hell of a book. Its copywriting-bible vibes are actually in the layout as well, with the main text indented on the majority of pages, with quotes or other annotations added to the side, just like you’d see in a study Bible. It even lays down the law for copywriters. Mark says, “Your rules are simple: never miss your deadline and never compromise the quality and integrity of your work.” Sounds simple, right? 

Regardless of your religious views, Copywriting is definitely one book you won’t want to miss if you’re in marketing. It’s a super-detailed handbook for copywriting, much like Everybody Writes, but specifically for those of us who specialise in writing rather than wider marketing. 

So, before I ramble on too much, let’s get down to the details. 

What’s inside?

My initial bullet point list of notes for this blog was around 600 words long – that’s how much great stuff there is packed into the neon-yellow pages of Copywriting. Don’t worry, they’re not all yellow. Most of them are white, with case studies and interviews on a lovely dove grey, while summaries, action points and exercises are highlighted on the odd sun-bright page. It’s an interesting format and definitely demands attention. 

Despite the dynamic formatting, this book is a bit of a slog to get through. Not because it’s boring – not by any stretch of the imagination – but because there is so much information to digest on each page. Mark explains and illustrates every point incredibly well, with case studies and clear examples to back up what he says. It’s also fascinating to see a breakdown of why some of the most famous ads in history were so successful.  

In Copywriting, Mark sets out the best practices for everything from website copy to catalogue design. There’s a great section on developing a tone of voice guide, including tips like creating a ‘word bank’ or company dictionary that includes specific words or phrases that encapsulate the feeling that you want consumers to get from you. He also touched on a few other basic skills for copywriters, like how to get a good brief from your clients. The whole book is like a crash course on my career. 

Another thing I loved about it was that the Copywriting isn’t all from Mark’s perspective. The interviews I mentioned earlier are from other influential copywriters, editors, and brand managers, including people from Land Rover and The LUSH Times – a publication that I hoarded as a 9-year-old obsessed with all things cosmetics. It delved into the use of community content and product features that made me want to be part of the publication one day, even as a preteen. 

The chapters on company newsletters and catalogue writing were actually my favourites, which came as a surprise given how much I enjoy writing websites in my day job. The case study on Argos catalogues took me right back to my childhood too. Does anyone else remember how magical it was when the Christmas catalogue arrived? I’d spend weeks hopefully circling all the Polly Pocket sets and eyeshadow palettes I wanted to find under the tree. 

There is so much else I could talk about from this book because each page is packed with copywriting gold dust. It even ends with a fascinating look at persuasive copywriting through the lens of bank robbers’ notes. They’re snippets of microcopy that have to be incredibly compelling and made for a fun twist at the end of an otherwise quite dense book. 

The main downside to Copywriting is its heaviness. Because it’s about, for, and by copywriters, it uses very concise wording, which may sound great, but it means that there’s a lot of information packed into a relatively short space with no space to breathe between it. That doesn’t make for the most exciting read and often takes a lot of time to process. 

It also includes some problematic language that could be offensive for some readers – maybe because of the different time it was written in – but it wasn’t the nicest read. Hopefully, that’s been taken out in the latest edition. 

My recommendation:

Copywriting is a great resource for anyone who writes regularly. Like Everybody Writes, it’s ideal for referring to when you’re in the middle of a specific writing task or for brushing up on some best practices when you shift focus during your career. 

I did find this one slightly harder to rate as it’s so information-rich and doesn’t have a narrative I could connect to like some of the other books featured on the blog. Normally, my ratings are fairly emotional reactions to the books I’ve read, but this one didn’t really give me any feelings. However, other than a few language choices, I really had very little to criticise, so I’ve settled on a very respectable four stars. 

Rating: 💜💜💜💜🤍 


This is a really solid reference book with plenty of case studies and interviews to give life to the information. It is a pretty dense book because it’s packed with practical information, but as it’s designed to be a guidebook rather than a novel, I think it’s still well worth a read. 

Want to chat about books? Find me on LinkedIn –> Sophie Colclough 🥰

Soph Reads Stuff – Building A Story Brand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen 

Hi book friends! 

It’s time for another adventure into the world of story branding, this time with a look inside Donald Miller’s Building A Story Brand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen. 

If you’ve been here for a while, you’ll know that this is the third book I’ve reviewed that deals with telling your story as part of your marketing efforts. The last two – Founder Brand and Storyategy – only scored 3 and 2 stars respectively, so it’s not been a brilliant experience to date. But who knows – maybe third time’s the charm?

Let’s find out. 

What’s inside?

Unlike Storyategy, Building A Story Brand had me hooked from the first line. It took everything I thought I knew about storybranding and turned it upside down by telling me “Your customer should be the hero of the story, not your brand”. That’s the complete opposite of Storyategy’s Character Archetype exercise, where Search Stack happily declared ourselves as the heroes. The contradiction could not be more on the nose. Making your customer the main character makes perfect sense when you think about it, but until I saw the argument spelled out in black and white like that, it genuinely hadn’t occurred to me. 

So, if your customers are the heroes of the story, who are you? 

According to Building A Story Brand, we should be taking on the role of guides. The most compelling stories feature a hero (your customer), who faces a challenge (their pain points), and needs help overcoming them from a wise, experienced friend. That’s where you come in. You or your company exist to help your customers solve their problems, and your marketing explains how to do just that. 

As if Donald hadn’t already gotten me hooked enough, he then brought in a Star Wars analogy. On page 78, he wrote: 

“When Luke Skywalker meets Yoda, he encounters the perfect guide. Yoda is the endearing character who understands Luke’s dilemma and empathetically coaches him to use the Force. This empathy would go nowhere, of course, were it not for Yoda’s authority as a Jedi himself.” 

While ‘empathetic’ isn’t quite how I would have described Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, you can clearly follow – and enjoy – Donald’s argument. 

Once you’ve accepted that you are a balding green little space wizard, Building A Story Brand takes you through the process of creating your Brandscript. This is broken down into 7 simple steps, each of which gets its own chapter in the book. What’s more, with each copy of the book you get access to online tools to help you build out your brandscript, saving you from scribbling notes in the margins and exercise pages. So not only is this book full of advice, it also comes with practical applications. 

Maybe my favourite thing about the book is the amount of practical tips that it includes. There’s a little bit of everything – from editing instructions to harsh truths. Here are the ones that resonated with me the most: 

  • The more you can cut out, the better your writing will be 
  • Make your CTAs clear and confident
  • Include a P.S. on nurture emails
  • Promote transformation in your case studies 
  • “Where there’s no story, there’s no engagement.”

Most of the above is just me paraphrasing the points, but that last one is a copywriter’s dream. It’s a perfect quote; excellently phrased, and presenting a powerful message. That’s how well-written this book is. 

My only criticism of the book isn’t even really criticism, it’s just a result of reading other similar books first. Building A Story Brand included ideas such as positioning yourself against a villain, which I’ve read and shared before. This made the book feel slightly less original than it could have been, but isn’t inherently a bad thing. These topics are generally strong principles that should be implemented by anybody taking a story branding approach, so I can’t really object to their inclusion in the book. 

My recommendation:

I’ve kept my cards pretty close to my chest for this one, but it’s time to spill the beans. I thought Building A Story Brand was a brilliant book. It was well written, well argued, and well presented. Everything from its tone to its font and layout landed perfectly. I also feel like I learned new and interesting things throughout the book, despite the fact that it repeated a couple of key points that I’ve heard before. 

Ultimately, for someone who’s new to story branding, this is the ideal book. It has a helpful framework to use alongside the lessons as you read, and it covers everything that you need to know about the topic. If you’re a writer and/or marketer like me, this is the storybranding book for you. 

However, as any Soph Reads Stuff fan will know by now, a book needs to make me FEEL things if it wants to take a top spot. Sadly, Building A Story Brand neither made me laugh nor cry, so it is, in my opinion, limited to a 4* review, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be raving about it to anybody who will listen. Not everything can make me cry as much as Steve Jobs. 

Rating: 💜💜💜💜🤍 


Building A Story Brand is by far the best book I’ve read on the topic. It’s well written, neatly presented, and makes far more compelling points about narratives and writing for an audience than the other story-based books that I’ve read so far. It’s definitely worth a read! 

Want to chat about books? Find me on LinkedIn –> Sophie Colclough 🥰

Soph Reads Stuff – It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be. 

Hey you. 

Are you ready to change your life? 

Then it’s time to dive into Paul Arden’s It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be. 

This book is quite different to any of the other books I’ve reviewed in this series, but it was recommended by my lovely friend and mentor Luca Rosi, so of course I had to give it a go. It’s safe to say that I was not disappointed. 

This almost pocket-sized book (if you wear men’s clothes, that is) is absolutely packed with advice that I honestly think is applicable to creative people in every profession. It’s the kind of thing that you read once, then twice, then dip back into for the rest of your life. 

According to his obituary in The Guardian, Paul Arden was “crucial to the rebirth of design-led advertising”, and is famous for several campaigns and slogans that are still used as examples throughout the industry. His unusual perspectives are what fuel the book’s content, as well as what made him so successful. 

What’s inside?

Arden’s book is a collection of thoughts, advice and case studies that are both visual and well-written. Every page is quite dynamic, even if it’s just solid text, thanks to a range of fonts that are used throughout the book. It’s a really quick read too, because the font is fairly big and is accompanied by plenty of illustrations. 

The book is broken up into sections, separated by double pages of black, featuring nothing but a small, simple title. The first section is all about achieving through ambition rather than skills or previous achievements, because achievement is in the past, and creativity is the future. It’s a really cool way of looking at things, and is a comforting reminder that your best work probably doesn’t exist yet. 

Despite that, Arden has used plenty of examples of his own success in the book. Ads that he wrote or created feature heavily alongside other contributors. As it’s actually a book about advertising it’s not surprising that the case studies in this book are ads, but it’s quite relatable. Copywriting is, after all, the art of persuading people with your writing, so ad writing feels a lot more familiar than I expected it to.

The book is also packed with actionable advice for all creatives, including Arden’s thoughts on taking responsibility, seeking criticism and communicating clearly. Every page is like a miniature mindset-reset, which is why I’ll be coming back to it for years to come.  

Arden also extols the virtues of being wrong in It’s Not How Good You Think You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be. Towards the end of the book he writes that being able to prove that you’re right means that you’re stuck in the past and aren’t able to see the potential of the future. His advice was to embrace being wrong, or at least the possibility of being wrong, in order to come up with more innovative solutions to each task or brief. Sticking to what you know is right is apparently one of the quickest ways to kill creativity. 

Arden’s book is fundamentally different from the other books in this series purely because of how it’s laid out. There aren’t comforting paragraphs that you can sink into for a few hours. Each page is snappy, dynamic… they even pop. It’s every marketer’s dream, right? Or is it every bookworm’s worst nightmare? While it’s brilliant content and great visuals, I have to admit that I did find it a little abrupt. It’s a great example of the concise and compelling nature of advertising, but it’s not the pleasant reading experience that I’d need to give something a five star review. 

So what is the verdict? 

My recommendation:

Arden’s book is a brilliant guide for anyone pursuing a career in the creative industry. It’s something I would highly recommend reading, and I’ll certainly be going back to it again and again. 

However, my own personal rating system (which you may be familiar with from the last instalment of Soph Reads Stuff) dictates that only books that genuinely move me earn a five star review. It’s Not How Good You Think You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be. has everything else that I could possibly want in a book though, so I’m granting it a 4 out of 5. Sorry Luca.

Rating: 💜💜💜💜🤍 


It’s Not How Good You Think You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be. is a wonderful book by a man who was, by all accounts, a brilliant creative. It’s definitely worth a read if you’re in a creative industry, and some of his career advice is probably applicable even if you aren’t. All I’m missing is the emotional connection, but as with my last review that is entirely a personal preference. 

Want to chat about books? Find me on LinkedIn –> Sophie Colclough 🥰

Soph Reads Stuff – Oversubscribed: How to Get People Lining Up to do Business With You 

Hi book friends! 

After a brief hiatus to move house (aka two months of utter mayhem in the Soph Reads Stuff habitat), I’m back with a review of another industry favourite. This time I’ve taken on Oversubscribed by Daniel Priestley – and I managed not to cry while I read it, which was a pleasant relief after the emotional carnage that was Creativity Inc. 

While I didn’t love Oversubscribed the way I did my last book, it’s definitely another good one. It’s jam-packed with practical, actionable advice that everyone and their business partner has told me has transformed the way they think about their company’s marketing strategy. It didn’t have oodles of childhood memories, but it did have plenty of great ideas, and even a few funny doodles along the way. So, as I don’t want to give too much away in the introduction, let’s get to the good stuff shall we? 

What’s inside?

You will be pleased to know that I do in fact learn from my mistakes, so I picked up the second (and latest) edition of this book. You can tell which is which by the number of people queuing on the cover – a detail I thought was quite clever given the tagline and subject matter. 

Once you’re in, Oversubscribed really is a step-by-step guide to becoming, well, oversubscribed. Priestley starts with a clear, intriguing premise about why companies should want to be oversubscribed, and then proceeds to back it up with case studies from his own businesses and the companies he’s helped as well. He also shares the core values that organisations need to have if they want to become oversubscribed, and that’s all in the introduction!

The entire book is clearly and confidently written, with a tone that can only be described as quiet success. Priestley does tell readers at several points throughout the book that he has in fact done really well for himself, but it never comes across as arrogant or self-centred. It’s just a matter-of-fact statement about the results of his methods, which makes you believe everything he’s telling you is actually true. Much like Dave Gerhardt from Founder Brand, this is an author who has figured something out, and is sharing it with the world in his helpful, well-written book. 

I wrote so many notes while I was reading Oversubscribed, and I could easily give you a play-by-play of almost the entire book, but I think that would start to count as plagiarism. Instead, I’ll give you the three best nuggets I got from it, and hope that’s enough to convince you. 

The first great piece of advice is that you don’t need your entire industry to want to buy from you. You just need two people to try to outbid each other until they’re at a high enough price point that you only need one of them. When you’re at that stage, you can single out the clients who understand what you do, value it, and are willing to pay accordingly. It’s also a bonus if they’re bought into your way of working, because if you value a partnership approach and they want everything handed to them on a silver platter, that relationship is going to turn sour pretty quickly. 

The second concept that really stood out to me was the 7/11/4 structure. This refers to the amount of interactions that each customer needs to have with you before they’ll trust you enough to buy from you. That means having enough content online that clients can spend 7 hours reading your blogs, scrolling through your social media or browsing your website. They need to have 11 separate interactions with you in at least 4 different places, whether that’s LinkedIn, a website, a Zoom call, Facebook, etc. Building that variety of contact will make you seem familiar and trustworthy enough that they will think about buying from you. 

The final titbit I’ll leave you with is the closing chapters of the book. Once Priestley has talked you through why you should become oversubscribed and then how to do it, he talks about his hopes for when you’ve made it. The penultimate chapter is about doing good with your company and money by giving back to the community or wider world, which is a touching message from such a successful author and entrepreneur. The line that really stuck with me is this: 

“Being oversubscribed isn’t a marketing exercise for me. It’s about playing full out so that I can affect the most number of people I can and create something special.” 

Perhaps that driving goal is what makes Priestley come across as so genuine and humble throughout the book, despite his rampant success. It makes him likeable, relatable and memorable in a market that’s often full of self-aggrandising business owners and celebrity entrepreneurs. From start to finish, it’s a really good book. 

My recommendation:

Oversubscribed is a brilliant book. I can see why so many founders and marketers alike have recommended it to me, both personally and online. It was a dream to read, with good quality pages, an easy-to-read font and immaculate grammar. The ideas presented throughout the book are simple to understand, easy to implement, and – from all accounts – life-changing. 

My only real criticism of Oversubscribed isn’t really a criticism at all given the type of book it is – it’s more of an opinion. The only thing missing from the book (for me) is the emotion. Platform made me laugh, Creativity Inc. made me cry, and both of them earned five stars as a result. While Oversubscribed definitely taught me a lot, it didn’t make me feel a lot, which is the only thing holding me back from giving it a glowing five stars. 

As this book is very much about marketing your company, you could argue that it doesn’t need to make you feel things, it just needs to help you learn. However, I know from reading both Platform and Creativity Inc. that it is possible to do both, so I’m giving Oversubscribed a very well deserved four stars. 

Rating: 💜💜💜💜🤍 


Oversubscribed is an excellent book that’s well made, well written and full of great advice. It’s definitely worth a read, and even more worth implementing into your company’s marketing strategy. It only didn’t get five stars because it didn’t make me feel things, but that’s a personal preference for when it comes to handing out ratings. If you’re not a particularly emotionally-driven person, this is probably the perfect marketing book for you. 

Want to chat about books? Find me on LinkedIn –> Sophie Colclough 🥰

Soph Reads Stuff – Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration 

“What’s wrong? Why are you crying?”

It was a Wednesday afternoon and I was working from home, curled up on the sofa with a book and my partner. 

“It’s stupid, and you’re going to laugh at me.” I sniffled. 

“Is it the book?”

I nodded disconsolately. 

“Wait, isn’t that a work book? Why are you crying at a work book? Aren’t they about, like, marketing?”

It was several minutes before they were able to coax the answer out of me. 

I was crying because Steve Jobs is dead. 

That wasn’t new information either. 

I was reading the afterword in Creativity. Inc, the latest in the line of books I’m reviewing. The entire book is wholesome, nostalgic and insightful, but the afterword is something else. It’s a moving account of ‘the Steve they knew’ at Pixar, and it had me bawling harder than I did the first time I saw Nemo’s mum die. It’s a fitting end to a book whose dedication page simply reads “For Steve”. 

I was culturally aware of Steve Jobs’ passing years ago, but I can’t say it ever moved me. I’d never been a fan of Apple products, and when you consider his portrayal as an egotistical and difficult man throughout much of the media, you can see why I’d never taken an interest in his life and work before. Reading this though, Steve became a man whose obstinate genius and brusque affection reminded me of my late grandad. It was a completely unexpected side effect of what can only be described as a truly brilliant book. 

What’s inside?

Creativity, Inc. is an autobiographical leadership manual by Ed Catmull, the former President of Pixar and Disney Animations, which is co-written by a journalist called Amy Wallace. They’ve woven Ed’s hard-earned leadership lessons into a beautiful book that feels like being hugged by all your favourite characters from when you were five. 

Although I’ve never met Ed, or even heard of him before Will lent me his book, Creativity, Inc. makes him feel like an old friend. The writing style is warm, natural and engaging, with flawless copy and a delightful array of anecdotes that are so well-written that they read like a conversation with Ed himself. I know that’s the point, but it’s lovely. 

The body of the book takes you from Ed’s early life through academia and into the workforce, underpinned by the narrative of his first dream; making the first computer-animated feature film. Once Toy Story was released in cinemas, Ed found himself with a new dream; to find a way to keep Pixar alive and thriving for as long as he could. Leadership gave him a new purpose and propelled him into a series of choices that would lead to the whimsical culture that is so important to Pixar’s success. 

The biographic narrative is compelling, providing a rich history of what was happening at the time and a wealth of context for readers who, like myself, hadn’t been born yet and struggle to conceive of a world without the internet. 

Ed comes across as a genuinely humble, collaborative and creative person throughout the book. Even as he guided his company to the heights of success, he constantly talks about his own limitations. There is an anecdote about finding the right table for meetings, which acknowledges both his position as a leader and his own shortcomings as a result. It’s lovely to hear from a leader who is totally motivated by collaboration, and who is open about owning his own mistakes. 

I love Ed’s takes on creativity and culture too. He seems driven by a fundamental belief that people should be happy and free, which is a beautiful worldview. The collaborative environment that Ed talks about throughout the book is evidently something he has adopted very personally. Creativity, Inc. is full of accounts of other people’s thoughts, opinions and input. It’s a beautiful tapestry of all the best creative minds that have passed through Pixar during Ed’s tenure. Together they provide the pieces for well-rounded leadership lessons that anyone could apply to their own company. 

Ed also discusses a fundamental commitment to Pixar’s company values. He took steps such as refusing allocated parking for anyone in the company, giving employees the right to self-expression at their desks and prioritising communal celebration as a company. Values are an essential part of any company, and it was fascinating to learn about what drives the company that produced so many of the films I was raised on. Values are also what interested me when I applied to Search Stack. It was the creative-first approach that they talked about on their website that made me instinctively feel that I would be at home here.

Towards the end of Creativity, Inc. Ed talks about taking over management of Disney Animation during their acquisition, and there’s a sense that he’s proving his leadership ideas in the process. He didn’t just build a company and afford its success to his own ideas. He’s actually got demonstrated experience of taking over a floundering company and making it better with his own methods. Ed’s first success with his model of working at Disney was Tangled, which has been my all-time favourite Disney film ever since it came out. Knowing that Pixar’s leadership team had a hand in making it makes absolute sense to me, and gives it a special something. 

My recommendation:

By now I’ve rambled on for nearly 900 words, so I think it’s time I gave you my verdict. Creativity, Inc. has earned a full five stars, and I don’t have a single bit of criticism for it. I loved every single page, and I’ve never been so moved by a leadership book in my life. While I’m not in a leadership position at present, I’ll be taking everything I learned from this book into any future role and recommending Creativity, Inc. to every manager I meet. 

This book gives you the inside scoop on the films that characterised my earliest childhood memories, from Monsters Inc. to Finding Nemo. Having Ed’s insights set against such a familiar backdrop makes Creativity, Inc. feel like a cosy retreat, which is not what I expected from a leadership book, but everything I would expect from Pixar. 

Rating: 💜💜💜💜💜 (I’d give it more if I could tbh)


This is the best book I’ve read on Soph Reads Stuff so far, and I can’t see it being replaced for a very long time. It’s a beautiful autobiography with helpful anecdotes, gorgeous writing and impactful lessons. Everybody should read this. 

Want to chat about books? Find me on LinkedIn –> Sophie Colclough 🥰

Soph Reads Stuff – Storyategy: Unlock the power of your brand with a story based branding strategy

Welcome back to Soph Reads Stuff! 

In a shocking turn of events, I’ve found a book I didn’t like. That’s not to say it was terrible – there were definitely some good bits – but there were so many issues with the book that I have to give it the lowest rating to date. 

Now, you might be wondering whether it’s worth reading the rest of the blog if you know the book is bad, but here’s why you should: humans are psychologically programmed to trust and enjoy negativity. We’d much rather read a bad review on Amazon than wade through the 407 5* reviews that say the product is perfectly good. So, here’s my negative review for all the book people who are tired of viral favourites being over-hyped on TikTok. 

This instalment of Soph Reads Stuff is focussed on Matt Davies’ Storyategy: Unlock the power of your brand with a story based branding strategy. It’s a sleek, slender stroll through story-branding, complete with exercises for you to do with your leadership team at the end of each chapter. Sounds great, right? 

What’s inside? 

Lots of Storyategy’s content is incredible, if you can see the forest for the trees. There are lots of good references throughout the book, from touching on Jungian philosophy and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to Star Wars analogies. The book also includes practical guides and workshop suggestions to do with your leadership team, making it almost like a workbook for marketers. 

There were also a couple of sections that I particularly enjoyed, including a description of the 12 archetypal characters and 7 major plotlines. In fact, I enjoyed those bits so much that I’m incorporating them into my own work. Just in case you’re curious, here are the said archetypes and plotlines listed in the book:

These sections were really engaging, with interesting breakdowns of each character and narrative to help people and brands find which stereotypes they align with. Personally I think I’m a blend of the Innocent, Lover and Caregiver archetypes, and it’s been said several times that my life should be turned into a sitcom, so I can definitely vibe with the Comedy storyline. 

I was also inspired by a couple of the activities that Matt suggested and ran a workshop for the Search Stack team to decide which character we are as a company (we’re the Heroes, obviously). We also talked about which story we’re taking you on, and how we can translate that into our copy (we’re Defeating the Beast by saving you from boring and outdated recruitment marketing methods – you’re welcome). It was a really fun session, and has informed some exciting new content that you’ll see in the coming months!

Sadly my issues with the book started almost immediately. It kicks off with some harsh truths for leadership teams, with scathing condemnations of lacklustre branding. There’s nothing quite like a roast on page 4 to get your reader’s attention, but it wasn’t a welcoming start to the book. 

Storyategy is littered with visuals, which range from helpful to ‘Huh?’. I think the book would be just as helpful if the graphics had been taken out, and in my opinion about 40% of them should have been. Nobody needs a page 23 that’s just a blurry portrait with the caption ‘Can your customers and your people see your brand clearly?’. There are diagrams sprinkled throughout, and while some of them are helpful for illustrating Matt’s points, several of them are totally unnecessary and just disrupt the flow. 

And then there’s the writing. While the bold, black pages make Storyategy feel sophisticated, powerful and dynamic, sadly the copy inside is anything but. For a book that is proclaiming the power of stories, the writing inside was depressingly lacklustre. The sentences were awkward lengths, the punctuation was *funky* and it felt like I was stuck in stop-start traffic. Just the full stops and commas were enough to rile me, as they wandered beyond the Cambridge/Oxford debate and stumbled into a bewildering mess of erratic pauses and nonsensical structure. 

Matt advises companies to consult with professionals when writing up their brands’ stories, and I can’t help wishing he’d taken his own advice. The book is self-published… and it shows. I scoured the acknowledgements and found that the author had thanked someone for “proof-reading and sense-checking” the book, but there wasn’t an editor in sight. It’s a shame really, because I think it could have been so much better if I wasn’t irritated by every other sentence. 

My recommendation:

So, I’ve teased you long enough. What’s the verdict? 

I’m giving Storyategy a two-star review because I just can’t get past the bad structure, both in its text and its visuals. While it has some redeeming content that saved it from a single star, the book is riddled with problems, and probably would have made a better PDF or eBook with less verbal padding and unnecessary graphics. 

I will hold up my hands and say that the majority of my criticisms are coming from a purely copywriting perspective. If you’re not a word nerd like me, you might enjoy the book a lot more. It could also be a cultural difference as the author is an American and therefore has different grammar rules to adhere to, but I haven’t had an issue with that before. 

It was also fairly reminiscent of the content in Founder Brand, with familiar content such as saving your customers from an ‘evil’ in your industry and using your company narrative to sell your services. That’s not necessarily a flaw, it just means a large amount of the book felt more familiar than fascinating. 

Rating: 💜💜 🤍🤍🤍


This is the worst marketing book I’ve read so far. It has a dodgy structure and fairly aggressive start which put me off the majority of the book. It has some interesting workshop ideas inside to help you establish your own storybrand, but you could just get in touch with me instead of wading through some fairly lacklustre copy. 

Want to chat about books? Find me on LinkedIn –> Sophie Colclough 🥰

Soph Reads Stuff – Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content

Hey friends! I’m back with the third Soph Reads Stuff blog and we’re tackling a big one – the marketing heavyweight that is Everybody Writes by Ann Handley. 

Ann Handley is a champion of digital marketing, with two best-selling books under her belt and a distinguished career as a keynote speaker and marketer. She’s also the Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs – an experience that she references heavily throughout the book. Basically, Ann is who I want to be when I grow up, and Everybody Writes is the copy handbook I need as a baby marketer. 

If, like me, you’re constantly Googling things like ‘how many words should a blog be’ and ‘good LinkedIn hooks’, this book will become your new bible. Ann has thought of everything, tried it, and then answered all our questions. She’s been there, done that, and gotten the T-shirt. While there are a few draw-backs to this book, it’s definitely one I’ll keep going back to. So, let’s get into it. 

Everybody Writes is a much heavier book than the two that I’ve tackled before. I started reading it nearly six months ago, and it’s taken me until last week to actually finish it. That’s not to say it’s boring – far from it. Every page is packed with helpful information, witty anecdotes and a brilliant amount of literary puns (which I am an absolute sucker for). Ann’s sense of humour resonated with me before I’d even started to read the body of the book, and if you read this quote from the Acknowledgements you’ll see why: 

I cry about everything too, so I immediately felt like Ann and I were on the same page. Ann also said that she’s “more Eeyore than Seabiscuit”, which is the most relatable analogy I’ve ever heard, so I would very much like for us to be friends. 

Everybody Writes covers pretty much everything from websites, blogs and social media posts, and then a few more things that I’d never even thought of. It starts with a series of rules covering how to write, grammar and usage, storytelling, and publishing, followed by guides on how to craft various types of content and finished with Ann’s recommendations for content tools. A lot of the stuff that was covered in the first few sections had already been drummed into me at uni, but for somebody whose background is more generalised and less writing-specific, these nuggets of writing goodness would be invaluable. 

What I loved about Everybody Writes is that every single page adds value and knowledge, while Ann’s humorous anecdotes make you feel like you’re in on the joke. Ann’s advice also demonstrates her expertise, because every single rule is based on personal experience and industry insights. Rule #39 is a personal favourite, covering mondegreens and eggcorns, which are one of my biggest pet peeves (hello, “Pacifically”). 

I think it’s clear at this point that I loved Everybody Writes. It’s going to get a pretty high rating, but I would be failing as a reviewer if I didn’t point out some of the issues with the book. 

Firstly, it’s not an easy read. Structurally, it’s less like Platform’s enjoyable, narrativised romp through personal branding and more like one of those monstrous textbooks that haunted my undergraduate degree (I’m looking at you, The Norton Anthology of Theory & Criticism). It’s a much better book than a Norton anthology of course, but it’s not for the faint of heart. You have to really commit to getting through this one. 

Everybody Writes also shows its age by referencing outdated sites such as LinkedIn ‘Pulse’, which used to be a separate app rather than the integrated system that currently populates your newsfeed. Ann has addressed that issue by releasing a second edition in October last year, which was about three weeks after I got my hands on the copy I have now (annoying, I know). For that reason only, I’m giving the first edition a four star review, and recommending that you don’t make the same mistake I did by buying the outdated version. 

Overall, Everybody Writes is an excellent resource for anybody who works in marketing, whether you’re a copywriter or not. As Ann says, in our industry, “everybody writes”. Armed with her book, you’ll be able to write more engaging and grammatically sound copy for socials, blogs and more. 

Rating: 💜💜💜💜🤍 


This is a great book, packed with useful advice on almost every aspect of marketing copy you could think of. It’s not an easy read because of how much information is packed in there, but it’s an invaluable resource for marketers everywhere. Definitely worth a read!

Want to chat about books? Find me on LinkedIn –> Sophie Colclough 🥰

Soph Reads Stuff – Founder Brand: Turn Your Story Into Your Competitive Advantage 

Welcome to the second instalment of Soph Reads Stuff! This time we’re taking a deep dive into the marketing phenomenon that is Founder Brand

If you’ve ever been on Entrepreneur TikTok or the marketing side of LinkedIn, you’ve probably heard of our author, who is none other than the incredibly successful Dave Gerhardt. According to his own profile (and the back of the book), he’s “One of the top marketing minds in the country” (if you’re in America). He’s also a serial podcaster and solopreneur, which is a fancy word for self-employed. Basically, he’s a pretty cool guy. 

Founder Brand is Gerhardt’s blueprint for success. Released just over a year ago in February 2022, it was an instant best-seller on Amazon. The Kindle edition is currently ranking just below #600 in the Marketing & Sales category. But, is it any good? 

The book starts by introducing Gerhardt’s background as the former Chief Brand Officer at Drift and previous Chief Marketing Officer at Privy. He tells readers how each of these experiences have played into the strategy that he lays out in Founder Brand, from building an audience to creating compelling narratives that sell your product or service on social media. 

Much like Platform, Founder Brand is full of personal proof, which builds credibility for the author. The premise is also an interesting one; using your story to relate to potential customers and build a following for your brand. “Selling on social media” is presented as a conversation rather than the ecommerce platforms that most people would associate with the phrase. By using social content to convince your audience of the value in your product, you’re also creating conversations and communities for the people who buy into your brand. It really is a genius strategy. 

From the very beginning, Founder Brand is very clearly aimed at founders, and goes as far as to address them directly throughout the entire book with the second person pronoun ‘you’. It does also acknowledge its potential usefulness to marketers who work with founders, which is why I gave it a go. The founder I work with is pretty cool (Hey, Haydn!), and it would be great to learn how to market our company off the back of his personal brand. However, there is something rather disconcerting about reading a book that is literally addressed to someone else. 

If you can get past the unnerving feeling of being in the wrong book, Founder Brand is objectively well-written. Gerhardt uses clean, accessible language and includes plenty of illustrations to clarify his points. This breaks up the information-rich text well, and gives an insight into the kind of social media that Gerhardt himself enjoys. There’s clearly a lot of thought behind the content in the book, which reflects its message; ‘always offer value’. 

The bulk of Founder Brand is broken up into three ‘Levels’: 

  1. Become a storyteller, 
  2. Become a publisher, and
  3. Become a master of the feedback loop.

Gerhardt uses this structure to talk you through the strategy of creating a founder-led brand. He also tells you how to replicate his success through handy how-tos and memorable methods, such as creating a ‘villain’ that you can save customers from. Gerhardt also makes great points about how your audience thinks and how marketing makes a difference to your whole company. 

Hustle culture is rampant in our society, so it’s no surprise that this book is popular. Founder Brand tells you how to sell your product or service by positioning yourself as a successful and interesting entrepreneur. It also promotes starting your own podcast and talking about yourself or your work. What’s not to love?

It doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, but that would be a weird metric to subject this book to anyway, so I can’t really level it as a criticism. Fundamentally, my issue is that I just can’t relate to it. Perhaps because I’m not a founder, and therefore not its target audience, or perhaps because I don’t identify with the people who pop up in Gerhard’s anecdotes. They’re less relatable than the sparkling, chaotic merriment of Johnson’s personal branding extravaganza that I explored in Soph Reads Stuff #1. Add to that the feeling that I shouldn’t actually be reading it, and the book loses a great amount of charm. 

I really WANT to like it, I do. Founder Brand is a well-written piece of prose, straight from the mind of a fascinating founder, marketer and creator. Despite that, I can’t personally recommend it for anyone other than founders. If you’re a founder though, this book is literally FOR you. It’s great for getting you into the right mindset when it comes to marketing, and it’s an enjoyable read from both a visual and literary standpoint. 

Rating: 💜💜💜🤍🤍 (5 if you’re a founder) 


Founder Brand is worth a read… IF you’re a founder. It’s technically a good book, but as a young femme employee, I didn’t resonate with it. It’s inaccessible to a wide audience, which isn’t necessarily a flaw given its target market, but it does make it hard for me to personally recommend to other marketers. 

Want to chat about books? Find me on LinkedIn –> Sophie Colclough 🥰

Soph Reads Stuff – Platform: The Art and Science of Personal Branding 

Hello and welcome to our first ever book review! 

I’m Soph, Search Stack’s resident copywriter, and I read things. Since starting here I’ve been working on building my personal brand, so the big boss bought me a copy of Cynthia Johnson’s Platform to read over the Christmas break. Without giving too much away, I’m going to tell you why I loved it and why you will too. 

Personal branding often feels like the realm of influencers and innovative geniuses, but this book makes it feel accessible to anyone. Platform is an in-depth, anecdotal guide to building your brand online, which takes you from the basics of curating your online presence to building an engaged community through effective networking. Packed with entertaining case studies, engaging copy (like a section called “A Three-Way With A Robot”) and witty anecdotes, this book is helpful and hilarious. 

Platform follows Johnson’s journey, from her origins as The Social Media Girl to her status as a respected authority on personal branding. One of the pervasive themes of the book is learning to control your perception, whether that’s by exclusively sharing work-related content on your social media channels or scrubbing those unfortunate tweets you posted in 2008 from the internet. Johnson’s case for taking control of your personal brand stems from the fact that everybody has one, whether it’s been intentionally created or not. Being in charge of which information and images get shared allows you to curate your presence in a positive way, and opens you up to new opportunities. 

The idea of authenticity isn’t unique to personal branding, but Johnson articulates it in a thought-provoking way. Her introduction has a ‘will the real experts please stand up?’ feel, which illustrates why responsibility is important while building a brand. She talks about being offered opportunities that weren’t relevant to her expertise, purely because of her sizable following. Through this experience, Johnson highlights the impact of picking the right platform, whether that’s the social media channels that you post on or the brands that you choose to promote on them. Everything you create should align with your personal values and branding, as well as genuine expertise. 

The use of personal anecdotes as case studies gives Platform a personal and engaging feel. Johnson weaves in psychological theories such as the prisoner’s dilemma to deepen your understanding of why certain strategies work, all supported through her own experiences. Her stories weave humanity and personality into the text, making it an avidly consumable book that somehow gets you to root for the LA Dodgers and think a little better of Elon Musk. 

Platform is a perfect blend of knowledge of humour that communicates Johnson’s own brand, giving it a form of credibility that is unique to its subject area. Not only does the book provide useful how-tos and handy strategies, it consistently demonstrates the benefits of using them. It’s an ideal starting point for anyone interested in building their personal brand. 

One draw-back is that Platform was published in 2019, so social media platforms have already moved on from some of the algorithms that Johnson wrote about. Despite that, the overarching themes are still as relevant today as they were four years ago. Our social media platforms still act as third parties to our interactions, and connecting with real people remains the best way to grow your networks. Publishing texts based on social media is always going to limit their applicability in some ways, but Johnson’s work has enough timeless advice that it remains a valuable resource in this rapidly changing space. 

Platform is a helpful reminder to combat our impostor syndrome and publicise our success. As Johnson says, “We can’t assume that our work is so good that it will stand out in the crowd and be discovered by people who may not understand what we do.” Sharing your experiences will build your reputation online and open new opportunities to do what you love, which is ultimately the goal of a personal brand. 

Johnson’s perspective is one of success, which some could read as privilege. She does, however, consistently acknowledge the huge amount of work that went into her own personal brand, and isn’t shy about telling the readers how much effort would have to go into emulating it. My only conclusion is that Platform is a well-crafted, thoughtful and useful text. 

Cynthia Johnson’s engaging prose and illustrative anecdotes make for a great read. Platform is one of those brilliant books where reading it doesn’t feel like work, because each piece of information is deftly woven into a wider narrative that you can genuinely buy into. It’s a great pick for anyone who is interested in personal branding, and even those who aren’t. As Johnson says, “Having a personal brand is inescapable.” 

Rating: 💜💜💜💜💜


This is a great book. It’s an easy read that’s full of fun anecdotes, lots of useful information and cool case studies. If you want to know more about personal branding, Platform is the book for you. 

Want to chat about books? Find me on LinkedIn –> Sophie Colclough 🥰