Friday, February 11, 2011

Content Rules for Marketers: Notes from the Master

Yesterday I went to hear Ann Handley, co-author of Content Rules and guru at MarketingProfs, talk about the challenges that marketers face in creating catchy content for websites, blogs, and social media.

I picked up four types of info from Ann: stats, musts, messages, and stories/samples, plus this key point: Blogging is the single best way to create content, but …

Many marketers are afraid to blog and here are the three reasons they cite:

• I don’t know what to say

• It’s difficult for me to find topics to write about.

• I don’t know how to write copy that will excite our clients.

Nevertheless, blogging counts. Consider these stats:

• Companies that blog pull 55% more website visitors

• Companies that blog enjoy 97% more inbound links.

• The best content reflects the “soul of who you are” and that’s true for businesses, too.

So, to push yourself and your organization ahead, understand the following five musts when creating content. The good news? All are familiar terrain to writers (brand journalists), editors, and marketers!

  1. Share or Solve. Don’t be shrill and don’t sell.
  2. Show, Don’t Tell. Share examples, stories, case studies, charts, graphs, and pictures.
  3. Speak Human. Say it simple and straight. Be yourself.
  4. Build Momentum. Help readers understand what you want them to do (you are still a marketer, yes?). Go here; tell me this; buy that; click on; share your opinion, etc.
  5. Do something unexpected. With all the information out there, you’ll need to break through the clutter, so surprise them.


1. Let your blog serve as a sales force. Put up no walls and require no registration.

2. Think through your calls to action. What creative ways can you dream up to make something happen?

3. Host your blog and your website on something your organization owns (your own domain or your own Wordpress/Blogger spot. Facebook is owned by Facebook, so don’t site there. Feed in if you want to, but have your own Internet url.

4. Are you that marketer who must "do it all" for your organization? Start small, tap into your own passion, play to your personal strengths, and get help from a pro – even part-time help -- if you need it.

5. If you’re overwhelmed with content development, consider whether or not you can attract outside voices – customers, donors, members, other bloggers – to contribute.

6. Run your blog like a magazine. Explore whether or not there are various staff people in your organization who can contribute. Identify their passion and see if they’re willing to take on a “beat” in your blogazine.

7. Re-imagine content every chance you can. Do you have a large white paper? Break it down into articles. From there, write blogs. Film a video commentary with an expert. Develop some related podcast interviews. Make a slideshow. Feature pieces on your Facebook page. Tweet all of it.


• Content Done Right: My Sears Community. Lots of information here related to stuff that Sears sells, but w/o a direct sales message.

• Something Unexpected: Agilent’s “silly video”

• Re-imagining.

- Kinaxis may have a boring topic – supply chain management – but their site features a blog, of course, but also a “community” for learning, laughing, sharing, connecting.

- Openview Labs takes imagination everywhere with a corporate blogging ebook, video, podcasts, articles, and lots more.

The major takeaway?

Before the social media boom, brands relied on third-party ink to build credibility. No more. Today, brands are expected to build credibility by communicating and providing information .. and – in the main – marketers are given this responsibility.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo


Lyn said...

Good stuff!

Unknown said...

From one brand journalist to another, thanks! :-)

Ann Handley said...

Thanks for the coverage, Nancy. And it was great to meet you. Thanks for saying hello afterward.

Bridgeline Digital, who sponsored yesterday's event with ATS, has set up an entire Content Revolution Tour... mentioning it here in case your readers can catch the tour in a city near them:

Thanks again!

Unknown said...

Thanks, Ann. I highly recommend the Content Revolution Tour and ALSO got some great tips from Bridgeline's presentation. Becki Dilworth was terrific.

Brian Bolton said...

Hi Nancy - great post and overview of yesterday's event. Thanks so much for coming. And thanks to our partner American Technology Services for co-hosting the event for us:

Like Ann said in her post, we just announced the nine city Content Revolution Tour. Starts in Boston on March 2 and hits New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles (Irvine) and finally wraps up in San Francisco on April 13. All dates and details, along with the registration form can be found at

Ann is speaking at each event and a copy of Content Rules will be given to each attendee.