What’s your angle? How well-written is your content? Will it pique interest, capture and keep it, and inspire action?
Ann Handley has been a writer ever since she was a little girl, and has since learned the ins and outs of how to leverage exceptional content for publishing and marketing success. But lucky for us – she hasn’t lost her passion for the craft! She joins us to share more of her story.
Location: Boston, MA
Current Role: Author, Speaker, and Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs
One word that best describes how you view the state of marketing today:
Unprecedented (Can I have two? Exciting!)
Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
When I was 8 years old, I wrote in my diary that I wanted to be a “writter.” But even then I thought my diary was boring. I wanted an audience — someone to interact with. I craved community, comments, Twitter, Facebook (even if social media hadn’t happened yet!). The Internet hadn’t happened yet, either.
As a kid in the Boston suburbs, my ability to build an audience was limited. So I created a neighborhood newsletter, which I delivered on my bike to my neighbor’s mailboxes.
When I got older, I wrote to a bunch of pen pals around the world. And because my life was pretty boring, I invented new lives for myself and wrote about them to my pen pals. I researched places I’d never been and things I’d never seen. I wrote about the life I didn’t have.
It was entertaining. It was content. Even if none of it was true (I detailed that weird story, here).
Eventually, I learned to spell “writer” and I became a writer, journalist, editor, and (when the Internet happened) a content publisher.
I worked at newspapers, magazines, and became the first Chief Content Officer at one company (ClickZ, which I co-founded in 1997) and now hold the title at another (MarketingProfs).
I write books. I speak all over the world. I love helping other people up their marketing game.
What do you wish businesses knew (but you’re pretty sure they don’t)?
That the best marketing isn’t manipulative or salesy. Instead, it’s the opposite: The best marketing is sincere.
My friend Andy Crestodina and I both believe in the benefits of long-form content.
Andy said: “More bloggers are going deep into the subject matter, answering questions from every angle, and making a sincere effort at producing the best page for the topic.”
You know what word I love paired with “marketers?” “Sincere.”
We don’t hear those two words paired enough. We need to.
What do you see as the biggest challenge faced by marketers today?
Focus. Focusing on the right things (not all the things).
How can they overcome this challenge?
1. Slow down and figure out your strategy.
2. Select the best tactics that align with that strategy.
Do less with more intention, more integrity, more empathy, and more humility.
Take yourself out of the story. Tell people not what you sell, but how your company serves them. Be relentless in how you communicate that.
Said another way: Slow down. Do less. And obsess.
If you could tell all marketers just one thing, what would it be?
Marketing is fun. If you let it be.
Technology has already transformed marketing in so many ways. How do you see tech continuing to revolutionize the marketer’s role?
Wow, this is a big question. How long do we have?
Marketers have more technology, more tools, and more data available to us than we ever have before.
You would think that would make marketing success a slam-dunk, right?
Notttttt so much.
Technology has transformed marketing in so many amazing ways, but it doesn’t do much on its own. As much as I love technology and data, I value people and empathy more. And it turns out that the latter is really what will revolutionize your storytelling.
What are you currently reading, or what would you recommend for marketers?
I’m currently reading a book of short stories, Uncommon Type, by Tom Hanks. Each story features a vintage typewriter (I love and collect vintage typewriters)!
What book I recommend? I recommend every marketer read a non-business book they’ve been meaning to read for a while… but never got around to reading. But it has to be a book they want to read, and it had to be well-written (legit — no trash allowed).
Why? You learn a lot about writing by reading great writing!
P.S. — if you need a place to start, here are 12 of my favorites.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _______ answer these same questions.
Andy Crestodina, Strategic Director, Orbit Media Studios.
Connect with Ann: Website • LinkedIn • @MarketingProfs
Sign up for Ann’s *new* newsletter, here!
Special thanks to Ann for her time and insight!
Know someone who would be a great fit for this series? Email Michael at: Michael.Becker@Emarsys.com.