Ann Handley is the Chief Content Officer for MarketingProfs and author, her latest book, Everybody Writes Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, just launched last week. Ann joined our host, Steve Gershik on Leadspace Radio to talk about her book, sharing some insights into what it takes to create ridiculously good content and discussing nuances of content, story telling, brand journalism and why you should care. Here are a few excerpts from the interview.
LS: You also talk in your book about brand journalism which is a concept that’s not well understood among CMO’s or heads of marketing, not quite yet. What is brand journalism and why should companies care?
AH: So brand journalism, I get this question a lot and typically, when it comes to the journalism side, is not well understood. People will say, “But it’s really not journalism is it?” I’ve worked as a journalist so I have a really good sense of what journalism is and isn’t, but at the same time, I think it’s a kind of journalism and that is the reason why I use the words “Brand journalism” in the book.
It could also be called it straight out publishing, but I think “Brand journalism” is a really handy shortcut. It’s a really handy nickname for essentially describing an idea where the writer or the content creator is focused more on the customer, the reader, the end-user depending on who your audience is, ultimately more focused on the audience than they are on fulfilling a corporate objective. And the reason why I say that is because ultimately if your content pleases your customer, it’s also going to please your CEO or your boss or your client but the inverse isn’t true. If your boss or your clients or your CEO is the only one who is happy with it then is not going to fulfill your objectives anyway.
LS: Now let’s say a CMO comes to you and says, “Yes Ann, I get it. I need to do content marketing, I need a customer mindset.” What do you say?
AH: So the first thing I would say is to make sure you have someone who is empowered to execute on that. I mean it’s one thing to say “yes we understand that” but it’s another thing to put somebody in a position of power and give them the necessary budget and the resources that allows them to execute on that mandate. So making sure that you have the necessary processes in place, that you have the infrastructure there to support that person and that they are empowered across the organization. So I think that’s a really key thing.
Think through your staffing a little bit and think through whether that’s one person or an entire team, but I think somebody really does have to be empowered to be that content person who can execute on behalf of the C- suite.
LS: You say in the introduction of your book, “Want matters now isn’t storytelling. What matters is telling the story well.” What’s the difference?
AH: So I think the idea of storytelling as it applies to brands and content marketing for me, what really matters is telling an actual story well. So what’s the difference? It does conjure up bedtime books and fairytales and I don’t think we want to be talking about storytelling as brands. I don’t think brand storytelling is really as empowering as thinking about telling a true story well. I mean it’s a little bit of a play on words, but I think it can be incredibly empowering to think about telling your story and telling your true story really, really well.
It means that you focus on writing the words that you are using because words, as I write in the book, are our emissaries; they tell people who you are, they can make you seem super smart, they can make you seem really stupid and I want companies to really think carefully about the words that they are using to tell their story most effectively. So pay attention. Really use those words well because words are so powerful as we all know. Use the words that best convey what you are trying to convey to your customers.
You can listen to the full interview with Ann Handley via Leadspace Radio. Order a copy of her latest book, Everybody Writes via Amazon today. You won’t be disappointed and you’ll learn how to write ridiculously good content.