33voices interviews Ann Handley
Ann Handley: Get your community bonded around you
This is Moe Abdou. I’m thrilled today to be with Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs and co-author of a really awesome book called Content Rules.
I’m curious, tell me the big aha for people who have given you guys feedback over this first quarter of its release.
It’s funny that you asked, we were just talking about this the other day. Publishing a book is a little bit like birthing a baby. I don’t know if you’re a parent or not, but right when that child is born it’s like sort of this moment of craziness and euphoria. And then right about between four and six months things start to settle down. It’s more of a routine and you have a little bit more of a chance to feel like you can reflect and be a little more in control of your life. That’s exactly where we’re at with Content Rules, the book.
C.C. and I just got together on Friday. We were sort of talking about this issue like, “Our baby is now four months old. Where are we at?”
I think there are a couple of things that were sort of surprising or “aha” moments for us. The first is that we really wrote this book for small businesses, for entrepreneurs, for sole proprietors especially to approach content as sort of their mantra like the case for Content. Why every business out there is now a “publisher.”
A really nice side story to that, and this is the aha moment, is that a lot of our sort of friends in the social media space, you know, people who have been creating content for a long time, who have been blogging for awhile, have come to us and said, “This book really inspired me. I’ve had a blog for a couple of years but it’s kind of like ‘meh.’ It’s like I needed a shot in the arm and this book gave me that”. That was really gratifying.
The whole time through the writing, C.C. and I kept saying our friends are never going to read this book. What are they going to get out of it? Lo and behold, four months later, they actually did. That’s been really fun and really awesome for us to experience.
I echo that thinking for sure and I have shared it with literally, I think anybody that I meet. Nowadays, we’re all content creators whether it’s a Facebook status, whether it’s text message. It’s all content that’s being created for some reason or another.
I think one of the things that I realized in talking to people about your book is that they don’t realize it when they’re doing a Facebook status or a text message that they’re really creating content. When they’re asked to create something formally, they seem to tense up. They seem like that I have to now switch my tone so I can appeal to a different audience. I think that’s a mistake. I don’t know if you have experienced that.
I absolutely agree with you. First of all, I agree with that whole notion that people don’t realize that they already are content creators.
One of the things that C.C. and I talk about when we give presentations is that, again, it’s kind of this parenting analogy that creating content is also like having a baby. Everybody is all excited when you first think about the notion of a child and conceiving of a child that all that stuff is really fun.
But then you come down to it and weeks and weeks into it, it’s hard work and it’s a long term commitment. It’s like for the rest of your life, you suddenly realize that you have to deal with this child/blog/whatever. It’s not as much fun anymore.
That analogy starts to fall apart when you think about the fact that not everybody has to become a parent. The reality is that if you’re doing business online, you have essentially already given birth. That means that if you have a website, if you have a Twitter feed, if you have a Facebook fan page, you’re already a publisher.
A lot of companies will say to us, I’m not a publisher. I’m in the business of selling software or shovels or services or whatever but what they don’t realize is that in fact they already are publishers. You’re already out there representing your brand online. So think about that.
And to your second point that a lot of times the company sort of tense up and that they don’t just sort of speak human as we talk about in the book. I think that’s absolutely true. We don’t think of ourselves as – or a lot of us, I should say, who aren’t writers – don’t think of ourselves as easy content creators.
I think there are lots of reasons for that. It kind of goes back to when we’re in school and there seemed like the right way to write according to the rules of grammar and then the wrong way to write which was pretty much all of us including me. I think that there is sort of that tension that’s created even in grade school that a lot of people still carry within them.
I talked to a lot of people who always say to me, “I can’t write.” The reality is you can. Can you talk? I always say then write like you talk. Write in a very conversational tone and stop thinking about those rules of grammar.
I think that’s the kind of thing that can sort of help people through that sort of ‘paralyzation.’