5 questions with Ann Handley

February 23, 2015 jeff.slutz@myemma.com

If you've ever dipped a toe into content marketing, then chances are good you've found Ann Handley's expert tips and advice. As the Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs and best-selling author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, Ann has inspired and helped countless marketing pros get better at what they do. That's why she was one of our first calls when it came to finding experts to speak at Marketing United. And after reading this quick interview, you'll see why we're so excited to have her.

1. What are you most looking forward to about Marketing United?

There's something special about inaugural conferences. There's almost a bunker mentality, in the sense that we are all in this together so Let's do this!

Maybe a "bunker mentality" is a weird analogy, because we aren't in battle. But on the other hand, there are a lot of crummy conferences out there that dole out content with the same measure of joy that a 19th century orphanage might've doled out gruel. So I guess it is a kind of "battle" we're in against conference mediocrity.

2. Can you give us a sneak peek into what your keynote will be about?

My PowerPoint will feature 14-point type and 72 bullets per slide.

And I'll read them.


In monotone.

But don't worry – I'll use Comic Sans so it'll have a sense of whimsy!!!

I keeeeed.

I'm going to talk about my favorite theme of late: How we don't need more content; we need better content. What does that mean? And how can marketers like us create content our audiences will thank us for?

Heavy on the how-to, actionable, and realistic. Because I want you to walk away feeling inspired to do something. (And by "you," I don't mean you-Jeff. I mean you-the-Emma-audience-which-includes-Jeff.)

3. What are the traits that most great content marketers have in common?

A drive to serve the reader, not the writer. They have a relentless focus on the audience – a customer-centric and not corporate-centric point of view. (That's why journalism training can help mould content marketers, because journalists are trained to serve the reader.) (Or is it "mold"? I should look that up.)

A love for creating content. They are passionate about creating stuff, and would do it even if they didn't get paid to do it. In other words: They are content creators first, marketers second.

A curiosity about new tools, techniques, technologies.

An understanding of the incredible value that a good editor can bring to refining the final product.

A reliance on data + creativity. They high-step through the data weeds to inform out what works and what doesn't. But they also rely on their own experience and sensibilities and creativity.

A copy of Everybody Writes near their laptop. It's astounding but true -- in an independent poll,* 99.8% of the Greatest Content Marketers That Ever Lived** have a copy on their desk.***

* There was no such poll.
** There is no such list.
*** This is not really true. But a girl can dream, can't she?

4. What's the one bright and shiny new marketing tool that you're currently in love with?

BufferApp. I don't know if I'd quantify our affection as "love," but it's definitely "like." It's not new, but it's new to me.
Snapchat. I use it as a parenting tool (!). But I'm curious about it as a marketing tool. I don't have it figured out yet, but it's interesting to me. So "infatuation," not "love."
Writing. Everything old is new again.

5. Nashville is home to stars of all sorts. Which celebrities are you hoping to spot while honky tonkin' in Music City?

John Michael Morgan. I've heard he lives there.

Also, Emma. We need to take a selfie ("us-sie?"). I've long admired her (and her glasses, duh). But we've never met face-to-face. We need to fix that. :D


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