Marketing Book Worth a Look: Ask More by Frank Sesno

April 5, 2017

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To ask or not to ask? That isn’t quite Shakespeare’s question, but if you posed it to Frank Sesno, his answer would be unequivocal.

Sesno dives deep into the details of questioning in his new book, “Ask More: The Power of Questions to Open Doors, Uncover Solutions, and Spark Change.” Although the book wasn’t written specifically for marketers, the title alone makes it a natural fit for any marketer’s bookshelf. After all, marketing is the science of persuasion – we create content to inspire emotions and actions. But ask yourself: How often do you employ questions at the heart of your marketing?

“Most of us don’t really understand how questions work—or how to make them work for us,” Sesno writes in the book’s introduction. “Smart questions make smart people. We learn, connect, observe, and invent through the questions we ask.”

Take a Look: Ask More: The Power of Questions to Open Doors, Uncover Solutions, and Spark Change, by Frank Sesno

Why Sesno Wrote Ask More

Sesno is a former CNN anchor and correspondent and current director of the School of New Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. He devoted himself to this book, in part, to fill a gap he noticed in our collective education.

In school, he notes, we study math, science, literature, and history. At work, we learn about outcomes and metrics, profit and loss. “But never do we study how to ask questions strategically, how to listen actively, or how to use questions as a powerful tool toward accomplishing what we really want to achieve,” says Sesno.

Sesno’s career as a journalist comes into obvious play here. In the book’s foreword, Wolf Blitzer, a CNN colleague, notes Sesno’s skill not as an interview but as a questioner. The book illustrates the difference.

Sesno brings the research of an academic and voice of a self-help guru. He laces his book with stories throughout history that were shaped by the power of questions. Ultimately, Sesno intends the book as an instruction manual to empower even the most hesitant among us to identify and ask the right questions, and absorb the answers.

Why Marketers Should Read It

Effective communication is at the heart of marketing, and the ability to ask the right questions is half the “effective communication” equation. For this reason alone, marketers should give this book a thorough read.

Sesno divides questions into eleven categories—diagnostic, strategic, empathy, bridging, confrontational, creativity, mission, scientific, interview, entertaining, legacy—each with subcategories. That might seem excessive, but it raises the book’s utility. It’s interesting to understand which lines of questioning come easily to you, while at the same time, gaining insight into kinds of questions you might not naturally consider.

You will also learn about the potential payoff of your questions, which isn’t always an answer. The payoff might be presenting a different perspective or providing grist for people to chew on and, ultimately, arrive at answers on their own—long after you’ve asked the questions.

In the chapter devoted to “creative” questions, Sesno delves into questions that inspire people to tap into their imaginations and set their sights high. He tells of California politician Gavin Newsom and actor Ed Bernero using these particular questions “to transport people to a place where they cannot fail.”

Sesno admits the book isn’t a prescription. It doesn’t coach you how to ask questions in every situation. But the more you absorb and practice different lines of questions, the more empowered you will become to engage in the types of thought processes and communication that results in compelling content.

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