Other Posts by Ann Handley

How to Tell Your Company’s Story: The Reimagined Remix

There’s nothing I like better than when good content begets other good content. After all, producing content is a relative cinch. But producing good (or even great!) content? That’s a lot harder.

Which is why you’ve got to make sure you squeeze every last drop of engaging goodness out of every piece of content you generate. Or, as C.C. and I write in Content Rules, think REIMAGINED, not recycled.

How might that ebook become a series of blog posts? How about interviewing the ebook author for a podcast? How about mining the best questions from a webinar Q&A for a tip sheet you publish on your blog? How might parts of that white paper become an infographic? Or a video infographic? (My friend Tim Washer is a master at this.)

A few weeks ago, I presented an online seminar for Radian6. (Note to conference organizers: Radian6’s David B. Thomas brings something special to the role of moderator.) As part of my presentation — and I mean one SMALL part! — was about how to tell your story: How do you pull the stories out of your own brand or company? To assist, I created a series of prompts for marketers and content creators — almost like writing prompts from my j-school days.

My MarketingProfs colleague Veronica Jarski created this below based on that part of my talk — a so-called “infodoodle” of How to Tell Your Company’s Story. Part doodle, part… well, info!… I love how it’s a reimagined remix of part of my presentation. Take a look and tell me what you think:

It’s Frankenspeak Friday! (Are You Scared Yet?)

Today is Frankenstein Friday — an event that celebrates the birth of the famous freak. We’re co-opting the holiday to celebrate our favorite kind of related monster, Frankenspeak.

Frankenspeak is convoluted text that doesn’t sound like it was spoken by a human, but instead sounds like it was created in a laboratory. Sometimes it reads like someone bolted-on words to create a terrifying string of nonsense (“our mission-critical, scalable, high-performance, unparalleled, game-changing solution”) or bloated bit of buzzwords. Either way, it’s sales-y language and useless marketing hype.

C.C. and I wrote about the words and phrases that we’d like to ban from marketing, sales, corporate communications, business schools, blogs and boardrooms in the book. But since today is a day to celebrate the scary, here’s to Frankenspeak!

Happy Frankenspeak Friday!

The Promotional Video: Create Awesome, Not Meh

If we were playing a word association game and I said “B2B webinar promotional video,” what’s the first word that might come to your mind?

“Boring?”

“Dreary?”

“Ho-hum?”

In most cases, you’d be right, I’m afraid. Most companies create promotional videos that are all of those things, plus maybe “mind-numbing” and a “waste of time,” too.

But every once in a while, someone decides to have a little fun. I’ve talked about this before: ExactTarget brought a sense of energy and fun to its Connections 2010 promotional videos, too. And here, FOCR (Friend of Content Rules) DJ Waldow brings more of the same energy to a promotional video we shot for an upcoming webinar C.C. and I are doing in a few weeks with Blue Sky Factory.

If you watch closely, you’ll see that this video has all the hallmarks of a solid promotion.

Short? Yup.
Tie-in to live event? Check.
Call to action? You bet.

But what it lacks is something valuable, too: That deadly boring bit.

What do you think?

Content Marketing Inspiration in Thanksgiving Stuffing: Create Utility

So it’s Thanksgiving and I’m in charge of the stuffing. Which is ironic, because I’m not really much of a fan. Of stuffing, that is; I like Thanksgiving just fine.

It’s not that I don’t like to cook -– because I do –- but the wet bread thing (as in French Toast, bread pudding, and Thanksgiving stuffing) turns me off. In other words, it’s a little like asking the deaf guy to bring the music.

So I consult a few of cookbooks, a few websites, the Epicurious iPhone app. But mostly I’m distracted by stuff I’d rather make: The mashed potatoes with olive oil and parsley? Yum. Butternut squash soup with apple and bacon? Now we’re talking….

But still: The stuffing. Sigh. Then I happen upon a useful tool on Fine Cooking that instantly seems the answer to my wet-bread dream: A “create-your-own” bread stuffing interactive recipe maker that allows you to mix and match your favorite ingredients to create your own customized bread stuffing. (more…)

Content Rules Unplugged: Can Any Company Benefit from a Content Marketing Strategy?

Podcast of Content Rules Uplugged: Can Any Company Benefit from a Content Marketing Strategy?

On November 3rd, I got together with Junta42’s Joe Pulizzi at OpenView Labs to talk about content marketing and content marketing strategy for a new project Joe is working on.

I know it was November 3rd, because (as it happens) it was my birthday, and after all my haranguing Joe for pony for weeks (“Buy me a pony! Buy me a pony!”), he actually came through, delivering a compact little four-legged plastic bit of My Little Pony horsiness. Her name is Scootaloo. You can see her photograph alongside this text.

OpenView’s studio space, overlooking Fort Point Channel, is both stunning and inspiring. With its sound booths, video studio, radio talk-show setup, and audio equipment that is so sensitive I swear it could capture the sound of hair growing, the OpenView space is a kind of Nirvana for content creators like us. And so after we finished up Joe’s project, we spontaneously recorded an unplanned, unscripted podcast to get Joe’s thoughts on content, marketing, and to answer the question: Can any company benefit from a content marketing strategy? Even a really silly, simple one? Even a ridiculous one? Like… say…. Scootaloo? (more…)

What Does Storytelling Have to Do with Business?

A few weeks ago I gave a presentation at ExactTarget’s user conference called Content Rules: What Stories, Blogs, Video & More Should Be Doing for You (and Your Clients).

The upshot was how content (like stories, blogs, videos, and so on) should be a cornerstone of any brand’s marketing, and I talked to an audience for the first time about some of the concepts C.C. and I explore further in our book. (Which was cool, by the way.)

The following day, a panel of marketers representing companies of all stripes—from the long-established (Kodak) to the hip upstart (Threadless), and a few in between (Virgin America, Benchmark Brands) offered up their take on trends in marketing and business, like: What’s the role of a marketer in an organization? How have social media and technology altered the evolution of that role? And how do you get your customers (and would-be customers) to engage with your brand and the products you sell?

One of the major themes that emerged there was (surprise!)… Content! And specifically, what stories, blogs, video and more should be doing… Yeah. Like I said.

It was gratifying to hear some of the same themes I talked about the day before reinforced by the CMOs of some pretty smart companies. I’d like to think it was just because they all attended by presentation the previous day (ha!), but the truth is that producing great content is something so many companies are increasingly embracing; I loved the panel’s comments around the idea of “storytelling” as a cornerstone of what they’re doing to market online.

So what does storytelling have to do with business?

“Storytelling” is one of those works that I always find impossibly squishy in a business context. For me, it always conjures up more performance art than industry.

But the idea of storytelling as it applies to business isn’t about spinning a yarn or fairytale. Rather, it’s about how your business (or its products or services) exist in the real world: how people use your products—how they add value to people’s lives, ease their troubles, help shoulder their burdens, and meet their needs. Think in those terms when producing customer stories, case studies, or client narratives—so that people can relate to them. In that way, your content is not about “storytelling,” it’s about telling a true story well. (more…)

Living by the Content Rules: Have Some Fun

One of the key messages of Content Rules is that creating content as a cornerstone of your marketing offers your organization an enormous and unprecedented opportunity. Among them:

To engage directly with customers (or would-be customers)

To communicate with personality, empathy and real emotion

To create value

• And also: To have a little fun

It’s tempting to dismiss that last point, maybe. Who cares if your content is fun? Does fun make the cash register ring? And, anyway, what if you’re a B2B company selling dead-serious stuff? Won’t it undermine your credibility, marginalize your message, and disrespect your products if you don’t approach your marketing with solemn gravity? (more…)

Home Stretch!

C.C. and I are in the home stretch of finishing the book!

The manuscript is due July 1 July 15 Monday (!) (thank you for your patience, Shannon and Beth!), which means that this little corner of my office is where I’ve been spending all my waking hours lately.

If this photo had audio, you’d be hearing persistent, intermittent knocking on my office door. That would be my family, “Hello in there! When are you coming out?” Good thing it doesn’t; you might be more tempted to answer it than I have been. (Sorry, guys.) (Also, it would be embarrassing for me to have you witness my grouchy response.)

Anyway, I thought you’d enjoy the annotated (“Ann-otated?”) version of my writing space:

A few notes:

  • “Critical reminders from DM Scott” are Post-It notes from the first conversation I had with David about this book, last January. He said, “Write for rock bands, churches, B2B, B2C, nonprofits, entrepreneurs, consultants, individuals, and so on. Don’t limit yourself to the world you know best.” So we haven’t. (more…)

14 Stages of Writing a Book

1. Confidence. I’ve crafted a killer proposal to write a book based on an original, amazing idea and a unique approach. My book solves a problem lots of people have, and by writing it I’ll create bounty and blessings for all. I write a proposal oozing with wit, charm and warmth: I smugly mail it off, channeling Jack Nicholson as The Joker, “Wait’ll they get a load of me….”

2. Anxiety. Why aren’t they getting back to me? Hello? Where is everyone? Why haven’t they accepted the proposal? Wait – will they accept my proposal?! Crap! My cell was off! What if they tried to call? Is it hot in here… or is it me?

3. Elation. YES!!! I’m writing a book! (more…)