In this series, I am interviewing some of the most amazing bloggers and content creators, and digging into their preferences and processes so that we can all learn from their example.
Today’s interview is with one of my favorite writers in the world, the remarkable Ann Handley. Ann is a “writer, digital marketing pioneer, and Wall Street Journal best-selling author who inspires and empowers you to create marketing that your customers will love, igniting real results for your business.” (Shamelessly stolen from her website.)
Ann is brilliant and witty and charming, and I can’t wait to share her insights with you, so let’s dive in.
What’s your poison? Blog or Video or Podcast? Why?
I’d like to buy a Vowel, Pat: E. For E-newsletter. (Which is really just called a Newsletter. But I needed the Wheel of Fortune buy-a-vowel tie-in.)
If I HAD to choose (which we don’t, really, do we?), I’d say Blog. MarketingProfs has built its business with articles/posts, so it’s hard to ignore the power of that content annuity.
The broader lesson: All of the above; any of the above. Your “poison” should be anything your audience can subscribe to, because they want to hear from you.
Editor’s Note: Ann’s newsletter, ANNARCHY, is must-read material. Subscribe here.
What has been your most successful piece of content, and why?
My two books: Content Rules and Everybody Writes. They’ve launched and catapulted my speaking and writing career as well as served as the foundation for MarketingProfs corporate Training & Education programs.
How do you streamline your content creation process for efficiency and excellence?
- Keep a running list of ideas. And by “running list” I mean digital scraps of half-baked blog posts; not-well-thought-out ideas; hazy hypotheses; squawks, snarls, screeches and guttural content grunts.
- Write one day.
- Edit the next day.
- Edit AGAIN (adding humor, strengthening voice) the next day.
- Find edit/proof (read it out loud) the next day.
- Nothing happens without a deadline. Lemme repeat, with shouty caps: NOTHING. HAPPENS. WITHOUT. A. DEADLINE.
- Re deadlines: Don’t break the chain. If you post every two weeks, post every two weeks. No matter what.
p.s. Sometimes I don’t have actual “days” in between the drafts. (See #6, 7 above.) Sometimes “hours” or a “dog walk around the block” has to sub in for “days.”
Follow-up Question: Since you’re talking about the importance of deadlines and keeping with a schedule, such as publishing every two weeks, how do you recommend determining what that schedule actually is? What are some recommended considerations?
Start with research:
What are the triggers that prompt customer interactions (not just buying) based on the calendar, clock, buying cycle, seasons?
Proceed with sustainability: What can you produce consistently that’s of your best quality? (The world is not waiting for another mediocre blog post.) What will you be proud of?
Show up often enough. I know that’s annoyingly non-specific. But the game is long-term here. The point is to nurture long-term camaraderie, not score a quick win.
Long-term thinking is hand sanitizer to Bad Marketing: It kills it on contact.
Don’t break the chain. Commit to a cadence. No slacking. Or else I’ll come after you. And I’m very scary.
Where do you get your ideas for content?
Everywhere. Conversations with MarketingProfs clients/subscribers. Colleagues. Social listening. News. Standing in line at the post office.
RELATED: Track your ideas in The Blog Planner.
How do you, how do we put it… make money off this stuff?
Training. Sponsorships. Ticket sales for the B2B Forum. Speaking. Book sales. The psychic gratification of putting something in the world you’re proud of and that helps others. (The last one isn’t “money.” But it’s payment nonetheless.)
What would you say has been a defining moment in your career as a content creator?
The very first time I stepped onstage after my first book (Content Rules) was published.
I’d been a writer for a long time — I was used to the vulnerability inherent in putting your thoughts and ideas out into the world. But writing feedback is asynchronous, of course: You write one day. Days or weeks or years later people will tell you what they think. It’s not real-time.
Speaking IS real-time. You can tell immediately if your ideas connect, or if they don’t.
That first time on stage was terrifying to me, as it is to many of us. My heart was beating so loudly that I could hear it in my ears; I thought I was having an aneurysm.
(I wasn’t.) (I did fine.)
That experience pushed me to develop my speaking career. Which also turned out to give me the confidence and self-assurance I needed to share more of my thoughts and ideas. To tap the well a little deeper, to go a little further than I thought I could.
That’s been tremendously empowering both on- and off-stage.
Of course, that vulnerability is still there: I think it exists for any creator who cares about their work.
Wow this turned into a far deeper answer than I expected this to be 7 paragraphs ago. LOL
When it comes to content creation over the next year, what are your plans and intentions?
New book. Continuing to write/grow my newsletter (annhandley.com/newsletter). New training programs for MarketingProfs. Shenanigans on Instagram (@annhandley). Maybe challenge myself to do a video something? (Dropping a question mark there to give me an out LOL.) Above all: Have fun always.
Who is your favorite content creator and why?
I love the work of so many of my friends (Andy, Jay, Drew, Marcus to name but four). (I’m leaving so many people out.)
My friends in this business inspire me to do better (love!). They even occasionally frustrate me because they are so talented and prolific (ugh!). (That love/ugh tension is inherent in any creative person in relation to any other creative person.)
But as I’m writing this to you this morning, we are dealing with Coronavirus as a nation. Schools and most businesses in many of our communities are shut down. Everyone is uneasy.
This morning my friend Nick shared something new from children’s book writer/illustrator Mo Willems. Mo has launched a daily YouTube series to address all of this anxiety and uncertainty for kids are home: You talk and draw with Mo for about 20 minutes. I could not love this more.
So right here, right now at this moment in the early spring of 2020: Mo Willems is my favorite content creator:
What’s the one takeaway you want to impart on someone who, let’s say, is a blogging n00b. 🙂
Your voice matters. We need you.
#CoolContentCreators Interview Series
- How Andy Crestodina Excels At Content Creation
- How Chris Brogan Never Runs Out Of Content Ideas
- How Jenn Herman Built Her Authority and Reputation With Content
- How Guy Kawasaki Fuels A Successful Podcast With Content
- How Jay Baer Spins Ideas Into Blog Posts, Speeches and Books
- How Ann Handley Consistently Writes With Confidence
- How Melanie Deziel Builds Successful Content Systems
Don’t want to miss the next content creator interview? Subscribe to the Blogging Brute Newsletter. And if you know someone else we should interview next, let us know in the comments below!