Queen of content marketing wants marketers to stop wasting their customer’s time
“Those of you who think you are not writers, you’re wrong,” Ann Handley proclaims, regularly. The Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs is on a mission to convince not just every marketer, but every businessperson, that they are indeed writers.
Her new book Everybody Writes is the main instrument of proof and, I can tell you from reading it myself, it’s well worth the read and will both inspire and motivate as you create content. For this installment of ThisMoment in Content Marketing we sat down with Ann to talk about writing, user-generated content, being efficient and how “writing” means more than just typing prose in a Word doc.
The transcription of the interview is available below. Ann can be found online at AnnHandley.com, on Twitter at @AnnHandley and her MarketingProfs work can be found on its website or on its Twitter handle.
Click here to sign up for out upcoming webinar, User-Generated Content: A Content Dream vs. a Rights Management Nightmare, with Ann on January 6th at 2pm ET.
Thismoment in Content Marketing Episode 3 Transcript
Jason Falls: Hello again, and welcome to Thismoment in Content Marketing from our friends at Thismoment at thismoment.com. We are talking to the movers, shakers, cookers and bakers in the content marketing world. Who is creating compelling content? How? Why? And, what are the outcomes?
Today, we have a special guest. Oh, by the way, I’m your host, Jason Falls. We have a special guest today, the queen of content marketing. I’m not sure if that’s the first time she’s been called that, but I’m declaring her that as of today in the sovereign state of thismoment.com.
Ann Handley, she’s here with us. She is the author of ‘Everybody Writes.’ She is co-author of ‘Content Rules.’ She is the chief content officer at MarketingProfs, which is one of the more reliable resources for marketing education, information, inspiration on the Interwebs. And, you may not know this, she invented pudding. She also is the star of a thismoment.com webinar coming up on January 6 on user generated content. We’re not going to preview that webinar today, but you definitely want to mark your calendar for that. Come by and see that. Ann, how’s it going?
Ann Handley: Good. How are you, Jason Falls?
Jason Falls: I’m doing wonderful, but it’s not about me, it’s about you. ‘Everybody Writes’ is the new book, completely awesome. Love it.
Ann Handley: Thank you.
Jason Falls: The gist of this book, I think overall from a high level, is everybody can create content, everybody does create content, they just maybe don’t think of it the way that they need to to be a content marketer. There’s somebody out there watching this, I’m sure, that doesn’t think they can write, that doesn’t think they can be a content marketer. Convince them otherwise.
Ann Handley: Yeah, you’re right. It is about the fact that anybody can create content, everybody is a content creator, but I think more broadly than that, too, it’s really about not wasting the words that you use, not wasting the writing. Whether that is an email that you’re writing, or whether it’s an ebook, or whether it’s a tweet or a Facebook update or whatever, it’s really about communicating with clarity and brevity and not wasting your customer’s or prospect’s time. That’s really why I wrote the book, because I wanted to give that to businesses out there, to organizations out there.
I would say that those of us who think that we are not writers, you’re wrong, because if you are writing emails or posting a tweet every once in a while, or if you’re posting to Facebook on behalf of your organization or your business, then you are a writer. You are communicating in words, and you are a writer.
Jason Falls: Yeah. I think people, when they hear the word writer, they constantly think that I need to be Jack Kerouac and sit down and write on foot long scroll paper for 21 straight days and I’ve got a best selling book. That’s not it.
Ann Handley: Yes. No, that’s absolutely true. I think that word writer causes a lot of anxiety in people. Many of us have this sort of trauma from childhood where some teacher or some adult told us that we were a terrible writer, or we got papers back in class that were all marked up. What I really want to do is inspire adult onset writers, like I call them in the book, people who haven’t written in a very long time that don’t frame themselves as writers, inspire those people by giving them some basic tools to write better.
I talk about writing in ‘Everybody Writes’ as more of a habit and less of an art, like less of an art like Jack Kerouac’s style or Hemingway’s style. Certainly, there are people who elevate writing to an art form, but at the same time it’s a basic tool that any communicator should have. If you have a business, you are communicating with customers. That’s really the crux of it.
Jason Falls: And for the record, Jean Williamson, my sophomore English teacher was mine, and I almost burned her house down. But, I ended up writing a couple of books, so it must’ve worked.
Ann Handley: Revenge is sweet, isn’t it?
Jason Falls: It is. It’s great. I sent her an autographed copy of my first book just to piss her off.
Anyway, we were talking about not wasting the content, not wasting the writing. I know you’re big on repurposing content. For the layman out there that doesn’t quite understand what repurposing content means, take us through how, like, one blog post can become so many different things.
Ann Handley: Yeah, right. When I say wasting, what I’m really talking about is not taking advantage of this tremendous opportunity that we have to speak directly to our customers. Never in the history of marketing have we had this opportunity, and I feel like a lot of companies and a lot of organizations are really squandering that opportunity and thinking oh, yeah, that’s for the social team, or that’s for some silo over here, when really it’s the opportunity that we all have.
The idea of repurposing, or as I like to call it reimagining, that’s what C.C. Chapman and I called it in ‘Content Rules,’ is really just the notion that content is hard but you come up with a great idea and there are very many ways too express it across very many platforms in very many ways. So, you might have a blog post, but maybe that blog post has some nice meaty data backing it. Maybe you could turn it into some sort of infographic using some really simple tools like Visual.ly, for exammple, one of my favorite content creation tools. Or, certainly you can write a series of tweets around it. You can then tailor it to your Facebook audience. It’s just a matter of really thinking about what can we pull out of this and reimagine it in different ways for different audiences.
The inverse is also true. You can take a bunch of blog posts on a similar theme and bundle them together as an ebook or as some sort of bigger content asset that you can then share with your own audience. I think there are lots of different ways to squeeze as much content juice out of every piece of content that you’re creating. Nothing should really be one off. A webinar can become a transcript, can become a series of blog posts, and so on. It’s really a matter of how do we really express this in different ways for different audiences.
Jason Falls: When you’re talking about… I mean obviously there’s the part of creating longer form content, and I think when people think of creating content and writing even for the web, they think of blog posts or longer form pieces. Is there a difference between creating that kind of content and sort of the day to day engagement which is content, the conversation piece of being social of tweeting back and forth with people? Is it a different mindset? Are there tie ins? Are there similarities? How do you balance those two?
Ann Handley: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think for me, the through line through all of that is being relentlessly customer centric. In ‘Everybody Writes,’ I talk about having pathological empathy for your customer or for your prospect. Really, what that means is, I guess it’s less nefarious than it really sounds, but really what it’s about is always thinking of things from their point of view. I think that’s true whether you are creating longer form content, like an ebook or a white paper, or whether you just are creating a simple tweet.
You and I have been talking about this for a long time, but just don’t broadcast. Really make it about your customers. What’s in it for them? Really have that relentless focus on their needs, their wants, their pain. I think the most successful companies, if you look at their content across any engagement platforms like Twitter, like Facebook, LinkedIn groups and so on, and then if you look at their blogs and their white papers and any other content they’re putting out there, I think that’s the through line. It’s always focused on the customer.
Jason Falls: Real quickly, a little tiny hint of what’s coming up on January 6 with user generated content. What are some initial things that you would say to someone who, hey, we’re considering doing a U.C.G. campaign or effort, what are the red flags, what do we have to watch out for?
Ann Handley: Certainly having permission to do that, so communicating with them this is exactly what we’re going to do. Finding a simple way to aggregate all of those things. I think having some kind of engine behind it that maybe can handle the permission aspect as well. You should definitely tune in on January 6, because it is going to be a rocking good time with me and Thismoment guys.
Jason Falls: I’m absolutely positive it will be. And, I hear they’re even going to wear pants.
Ann Handley: Oh, damn it, I thought that…
Jason Falls: You’ve got to put that in the rider, or they’re going to be polite. That’s the way it works.
Ann Handley: I felt like I was pretty clear about that, but whatever.
Jason Falls: All right. Real quick, word association routine here to end it. Tom Cruise or George Clooney?
Ann Handley: Clooney.
Jason Falls: George Clooney or Johnny Depp?
Ann Handley: Johnny Depp.
Jason Falls: Johnny Depp or Jason Falls?
Ann Handley: Jason Falls.
Jason Falls: Very good. Good answer. You know what they all have in common?
Ann Handley: They’re all incredibly ridiculously handsome.
Jason Falls: Not what I was going for, but yes. They’re all…
Ann Handley: Oh, is it about pants?
Jason Falls: No. They’re all from Kentucky. You’ve got to throw that in there. Where can people find you on the Interwebs, Miss Ann?
Ann Handley: You can find me at annhandley.com. I have a highly engaging and fun blog there. Yeah. Or, you can find me on Twitter at @annhandley. Or, you can just Google me, because I’m pretty sure I have the entire first page of the results.
Jason Falls: Yeah. There’s a politician in North Carolina that hates me.
Ann Handley: Oh, really?
Jason Falls: Yeah.
Ann Handley: You know, I used to have a politician, Mary Ann Handley, she was a state senator in Connecticut. Then, she retired, and I was like booyah. Just own it now.
Jason Falls: Oh, the magic of the Googles. We love it.
Ann Handley: I know it.
Jason Falls: Excellent.
Ann Handley: Bunch of [Inaudible 0:10:08] man.
Jason Falls: Well, Ann, we’re really looking forward to January 6. Thank you for stopping by and hanging with us today. We will see you down the road certainly for that webinar and I’m sure more to come.
Ann Handley: Yeah, thanks so much.
Jason Falls: Very good. That’s been another episode of Thismoment in Content Marketing, quite a fun one, and dashingly handsome plus gloriously beautiful if I do say so myself. Thanks to Ann Handley for coming by. Thanks to you for coming by and watching. We’ll see you next time here on Thismoment in Content Marketing.