Content marketing is a fairly recent speciality within the field of strategic marketing. If you follow Mad Men of still abide by old school advertisement principles, marketers needed only craft creative messages that audiences would submissively digest as is. That era, if it ever existed, is long gone. With the rise in popularity of internet sites, blogs and social media, content creation and its associated power has shifted from one-way to multi-directional where brands are required to charter their own course in order to stand out from the cluster. Content Rules, by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman, is a must-read for any practitioner serious about generating content that delivers consistent added value, driving customer engagement and helping the bottom line.
There are numerous insights and phenomenal advice throughout the book, so instead of repeating it all in a long-winded post I thought I would share the key nuggets that stood out while reading it. Chapters are short and written with a casual tone, so one can easily skip, come back or read a preferred topic over again. The book is split into three distinct sections that make it easy to read, stop and return to with minimal risk of losing flow or momentum.
The first section explains why content marketing is cornerstone to any strategic marketing approach, summarizes the lay of the land and details what the authors consider to be the golden rules of content marketing.
1. Embrace being a publisher
2. Insight inspires originality
3. Build momentum
4. Speak human
5. Reimagine; don’t recycle
6. Share or solve; don’t shill
7. Show; don’t just tell
8. Do something unexpected
9. Stoke the campfire
10. Create wings and roots
11. Play to your strengths
Creating online content thus should meet one of four objectives brands ought to have in place before they begin:
- To attract new customers
- To raise awareness about your company and create buzz about it
- To share more information about your company online to make it easier for people to find you
- To foster your community and give them a reason to tell others about you
In perhaps one of my favorite, Chapter 7 called “Stoke the Campfire”, the authors remind us that a community of fans, subscribers or followers cannot be forced or manipulated. Hence, “it’s better to build a smaller community of people who are interested in you than it is to build a huge community of meh.” (page 99)
Creating content that has wings and roots, which is covered in Chapter 8, means content ought to be findable, accessible and shareable so that it can spread across the online world and into offline through word-of-mouth.
Part Two: The How-To Section
The second part answers the promise held by the book’s subtitle: How to create killer blogs, podcasts, videos, ebooks, webinars and more that engage customers and ignite your business. From FAQ sections to photographs or case studies, the most important content tactics are covered with tongue-in-cheek style, reverting back to content rules with clever real-life examples making it easy to understand.
Every chapter is extremely useful, whether you are a newbie or someone pretty familiar with these online tools. It is meant to be a how-to resource that one can consult whenever considering to blog, podcast or host a webinar, for example. If you wish to expand your knowledge with any of these topics, Ann Handley, co-author of the book, is also Chief Content Office (love that title!) at MarketingProfs.com, a definite go-to online resource for B2B and B2C content marketing. Subscribe to their daily newsletter to keep abreast of emerging trends, research and studies.
The third and last part of the book is dedicated to 10 case studies of companies, from small to medium to big brands, and how they apply the concepts brought forth in the book. An excellent way to understand and capture how content marketing has helped, how and what were the financial or measurable results from those efforts.
All in all, an awesome read and, more importantly, a great resource to keep handy on your working desk. To revisit chapters. To refresh one’s memory about key concepts. And to share with friends and colleagues, of course…