Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business Paperback – May 22 2012
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From the Back Cover
The one-stop resource for creating irresistible content and building a loyal following, revised and updated
How do you create the stories, videos, and blog posts that cultivate fans, arouse passion for your products and services, and ignite your brand? Content Rules equips you for online success as a go-to guide to the art and science of developing content that people care about. Case studies show how companies have successfully spread their ideas through blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other platforms—and used them to establish credibility and build a loyal customer base.
This revised and updated edition shows you how to:
Find an authentic "voice" and craft bold content that will resonate with prospects and buyers and encourage them to share it with others
Use social media to get your content and ideas distributed as widely as possible
Get to the meat of your message in practical, commonsense language, and define the goals of your content strategy
Powerfully communicate your service, product, or message across various web media and mobile platforms
Boost your online presence and engage with customers like never before with Content Rules. Find out more at ContentRulesBook.com.
About the Author
Ann Handley is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, a training and education company with the largest community of marketers in its category, and co-founded ClickZ.com. She is a monthly columnist for Entrepreneur magazine, a contributor to LinkedIn's Influencer program, and Amex's OPEN Forum. There's nothing more fun than following her on Twitter, where she has 170,000 followers, or subscribing to her own site at AnnHandley.com.
C.C. Chapman is a media creator, entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and online marketing consultant. He is the founder of DigitalDads.com and the host of PassionHit.tv. For more information, please visit cc-chapman.com.
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Top Customer Reviews
I found that after reading a couple of chapters I would have to log on to explore these links and bookmark the ones that fit my areas of interest. The authors also have their own website, which often has updates or further information that is useful.
For a hardcover book the price for this title is reasonable, and I've already found myself pulling it off the shelf to refresh my memory of something in it.
My favourite part were the case studies of HubSpot, Qvidian, AskPatty.com and Indium. These were exceptional as they come from real companies, contending with marketing on the web, using content marketing - and doing so in a unique manner.
Handley and Chapman wrote an excellent piece. Well recommended read!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Content Rules is compelling and honest from the introduction on. It is a book I can hand my clients, friends, teachers- almost anyone who wonders why people need to or bother creating content for the web- to help not only explain why compelling content is important, but how to create it. It helps people break down the barriers that often get in the way of creating compelling content, and instead gives them some parameters on how to make sure your authentic and compelling voice shine through. In addition, the examples and case studies in the book bring the rules to life, in a way that will help folks understand how to find their human voice, and why that is so important to success in contrast to another paragraph of over-polished, sanitized, personality-free "safe" messaging.
I'm really excited by Content Rules as a book I can enthusiastically pass on to friends, colleagues, clients and more. If it's between a more generic book on social media or online marketing and this one, you need Content Rules because it will help you understand the fundamental approach you need to take regardless of the tool, platform, network or marketing plan- you need to concentrate on your Content first.
However, perhaps it's essential to fully understand why most businesses tend to create poor content. In fact, much of the business communication that's being produced today clearly doesn't meet the needs of its intended target customer. To the vast majority of marketers, the task of creating content is still centered upon explaining what their product or service does.
In contrast, great content -- from the customer's point of view -- should provide meaningful and substantive insight or guidance about what products and service will do for them. As I concluded reading this book, it occurred to me that the authors had not made this point in the most compelling way. I was somewhat disappointed.
That said, Ann Hadley and C.C. Chapman have written a very comprehensive guide about how to develop a content marketing strategy and construct interesting information for your intended recipient -- utilizing a variety of digital media in the process.
Chapter 6, "Share or Solve; Don't Shill" is -- by far -- the most useful section of this helpful guide. It shares the six characteristics of a good idea or a story. What's missing, in my opinion, are examples of how companies typically fail to incorporate these basic principles.
Why is this explanation needed? Because this is a crucial concept and it should not be open to interpretation -- meaning, many marketers must essentially unlearn the common practices of legacy corporate marketing communications organizations.
Content Rules includes ten case studies -- what the author's refer to as success stories. I found some of these examples to be very insightful. In summary, the authors have tackled a subject that is very problematic, since knowing what to change is only part of the equation. Executing on that required behavioral transformation, having the will to discard bad habits, has proven to be very challenging.
Moreover, for those marketers who find it difficult to adopt these new practices themselves, the likelihood of being able to outsource this task is not promising. Finding an appropriately skilled consultant, a practitioner with proven results, will be equally challenging.
This year, I picked Content Rules even before reading it, because I love the title concept and I know one of the authors, Ann Handley, from when I used to write articles for ClickZ (back in the day, as they say).
Content Rules is a relentlessly upbeat guide to developing content for the Internet. The authors not only stress that "content is king" online; it's also queen, jack, ace, and most of the rest of the deck. Content Rules will show you how to find content in every corner of your organization, package it in every conceivable format, and syndicate it throughout the universe. Pretty impressive.
The authors begin by laying out 11 "content rules," then expanding those in the following nine chapters. This is the "theory" portion of the book; as theory goes, it's very easily digested. The authors stick to the conversational tone they advocate in Rule #4: Speak Human:
"It's not just about getting more traffic; it's about getting more traffic that gives a s**t." The authors quote social media consultant Jay Baer. That's human enough for me.
Highlights in the theory section of the book include:
1) Creating a content publishing schedule, especially the checklist for things to do each month on page 60. It's a good template by itself for an online marketing game plan.
2) Six characteristics of a good case history, signature article, or customer success story (pages 72-73).
3) What to look for when hiring a writer (pages 85-88). Here's one paragraph that pertains to our approach at SixEstate:
"Hiring someone trained as a print or broadcast journalist is a good option, because journalists are trained in how to tell a story using words, images, or audio, and they understand how to create content that draws an audience in. Their innate understanding of the audience also gives journalists a critical outsider's perspective -- a nuance that marketers can sometimes miss. They might be on your payroll, but they are better at expressing neutrality, which is a distinct advantage in creating marketing copy."
4) A terrific business-to-business (B2B) chapter with an emphasis on listening to and analyzing your target audiences and building customer personas. Contains a concise list of questions to ask about your customers on pages 125-126, along with a table used to analyze the results on page 128.
The second section of the book is labelled "How-To," but in one of the few weak spots, it starts off very badly with the Blogging chapter. How can you get through a blogging how-to without mentioning WordPress once? Or Blogger/Blogspot, for that matter?
The advice on headlines, tagging, use of artwork, and other topics is threadbare. The advice on scheduling is wrong (posting "twice a week is optimal"), as is the advice to "Never edit any comment that is posted to your blog." What about profanity filters, or formatting issues?
But the authors immediately rescue the how-to section with a great chapter on Webinars. It's full of details, software recommendations, examples, and sage advice. I love the tip, for example, that putting a video on the registration page for a seminar increases conversion five-fold.
Most of the rest of the how-to section is good, especially areas where the authors shine: ebooks and case studies. Even the video chapter -- the most complex and potentially expensive way to generate content -- is well done. I really like HubSpot's Rebecca Corliss` top 10 tips for producing a Web TV show (pages 203-205).
The Case Histories
At first, I was disappointed that the case studies were segregated from the text. However, the authors do not skimp on examples, case histories, and outside experts throughout the book. There are plenty of examples to go around.
One benefit of segregating case histories is that it really drives home how companies use a variety of tools -- blogs, newsletters, video, ebooks, white papers, apps, images, etc. -- to get their messages out. This blended approach, with a unique blend for each company, would be lost if we saw only how they made their blogs, or only their video operation. The section gives a good gestalt.
The best case history, in my opinion, comes from Ask Patty, a site that aims to make automobile marketing more female-friendly. The company puts a lot of effort into syndicating content (not just making it) through partnerships with top sites and media outlets, such as AutoTrader and the Chicago Tribune. "It's not all about driving traffic back to your site," says CEO Jody DeVere, "It's about meeting your consumers where they are."
One Big Caveat
I started by saying that this book is almost perfect. The biggest oversight is the mainstream media. Almost all the content is aimed at consumers, yet many of the best results the campaigns pull are when they get picked up by the major media.
Page 20 lists four objectives for an online marketing campaign. It needs a fifth: to engage in dialogue with the mainstream media in your field. How to attract and dazzle the media should be considered in all the content programs covered in the book.
This omission is brought home in the very first case history, for the Reynolds Golf Academy. The owner uses video (and other tools) to reach his target audiences. But his first video was created by Golf magazine, which is where he got the idea (and 1.8 million views). And his biggest media hit was a write-up in The Wall Street Journal -- again, over a million viewers.
The major media still has major impact. For our clients, the most important result from a blog is not the loyal following it builds, but how that following gives the blog the voice of authority with the major media, leading to major media coverage, which supercharges results. So it's important to take the mainstream media into account when designing your content.
With that one exception, Content Rules is excellent. Hopefully, this book will convince many senior executives that online PR is about content, not traffic tricks or SEO gimmicks. Hopefully, readers will invest in a long-term strategy of accumulating a wide variety of compelling content rather than using stunts to briefly spike their numbers. I'm delighted to see how well the book is selling and how many positive reviews it has garnered. Congratulations to Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman on a significant contribution to the canon of online marketing.
# # #
Steve O'Keefe is co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of SixEstate Communications. He has taught Internet PR at Tulane University since 2001, as well as courses for Stanford University, UCLA Extension and PRSA, among others. Steve wrote the bestselling book "Publicity on the Internet" in 1996.
Packed with real-world examples, this book teaches you (as noted on page 24) to go for consistent doubles and triples instead of always swinging for the fences- consistent doubles and triples wins games.
I personally was able to take away a lot of specific tips, including methods to re-imagine content (instead of just plain old repurposing it). I also liked that the authors kept the focus on the customer perspective (so critical) and demonstrated how to use content to create trust instead of just using it to shout (or "shill" as they call it).
My favorite part is the case studies/examples that line the back of the book. Not only did C.C. and Ann do a great job in featuring a wide variety of companies, they included ideas that you can borrow (they says steal, but I am a more of a fan of inspiration instead of imitation) and a section they call "Ka-ching", which demonstrates how each company actually derived value from the example.
With strong content itself, written in a colloquial and easy to read manner and with solid examples, this is definitely one to dog-ear/markup and reference on an ongoing basis. A strong value.
We don't need to rely primarily upon the media or some other conduit to communicate with our prospects and customers - we can do it ourselves.
Eventually, every company is going to have to think of itself as a TV station and a magazine. Telling your story and answering customer questions with thoughtful, relevant, engaging content can improve your awareness, lead generation, conversion rate, sales, and loyalty.
This is the premise of Content Rules, the new book from Ann Handley (Chief Content Officer for MarketingProfs), and C.C. Chapman (founder of DigitalDads). Without question it is one of the most clear, concise, useful and actionable business books I've read in years. And because creating or curating content is important for all companies, it's a book that I hope will find a broad and enthusiastic audience.
Content Rules combines big picture thinking about the role of content, with step-by-step advice and helpful tips about precisely how to create content that matters. Interwoven throughout are instructive examples of companies doing it right, and links to specific pieces of content that epitomize the lessons within. The book concludes with an entire section of case studies, wisely covering businesses of many sizes and types.
Content Rules helps you make content that engages, by recommending that content be created through the eyes of your customers - the people that you're actually trying to influence. As stated beautifully in the book:
The inherent tension in marketing is that companies always want to talk about themselves and their products or services. Everyone else, meanwhile, only wants to know what those products or services can do for them. Creating content as a cornerstone of your marketing allows you to truly place yourself in your customer's shoes, to adopt their vantage points, and to consider their thoughts, feelings, and needs. In short, it allows you to get to know the people who buy from you better than any customer survey or poll ever could.
Even if you have never created a piece of online content in your life, you could do so successfully with help from this book. Once you've been disavowed of the notion that the content should be about your company per se, the authors advocate for understanding or discovering the stories you can tell; thinking through what behavior you want content consumer to engage in; selecting valid success metrics; and atomizing your content by breaking it into smaller pieces.
Content Rules wisely emphasizes that content marketing is a process, not a project. Just as a magazine doesn't have a single issue, nor should your content program, and the book provides several useful guidelines for establishing an ongoing editorial calendar, with content created not just by the marketing department, but from all over your company.
It's an easy and compelling read, lends itself to skimming and highlighting, and has real case studies and examples that you can mimic in your own business.
Content Rules takes a complicated and critical element of modern business and demystifies it with humor, instruction, and panache. Nicely done.
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