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Jan 27, 2017

Approx. 3 min. read

Influencer Insights, Part 12: Ann Handley

In order to fuel the best marketing, we need stories and art. Putting the value of your audience first is the essence of great content, says Ann...

In order to fuel the best marketing, we need stories and art. Putting the value of your audience first is the essence of great content, says Ann Handley.

We are excited to continue our Influencer Insights with content authority Ann Handley - a renowned keynote speaker as well as a Wall Street Journal best-selling author. When she is not speaking or writing for her monthly Entrepreneur Magazine column, she works as Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs. Handley is a LinkedIn Influencer and also shares her insights on content, marketing and life with her 380K followers on Twitter.

You've written two books on creating good content, the most recent being your book Everybody Writes. How did you first enter the world of content marketing?

When I was 8 years old, I wrote in my diary that I wanted to be a “writter.” Eventually, I learned to spell the world and I became a writer, journalist, editor and (when the internet happened) a content publisher. I worked at newspapers, magazines, and became the first Chief Content Officer at one company (ClickZ, which I founded in 1997) and now hold the title at another (MarketingProfs).

I’ve always relentlessly focused on audience – in my mind that’s the essence of great content marketing: Producing things your audience will value.

Related: Influencer Insights, Part 11: Tamara McCleary

In Everybody Writes you say that "If you have a website you are a publisher, if you're on social media you are a marketer". Is this something you learned over time or do you feel you've always had this outlook on digital presence?

I think I’ve always had that general outlook – at least since founding ClickZ in 1997. But the tools and platforms have evolved to make the case even stronger.

Do you think that brands are not taking full advantage of their employees regarding content creation?

Sometimes, along with their customers. This spot from a fan of Adidas (and film student) is amazing. Not sure why Adidas didn’t jump all over that. There’s definitely great knowledge inside organizations. Often that knowledge and stories are locked in the heads and hearts of your subject matter experts, and much of it never sees the light of day.

Hiring a journalist or storyteller to help surface those stories is a great step. Having a journalistic point of view is exactly what General Electric has done with GE Reports, which is probably the best branded content out there.

Do you feel that what constitutes "ridiculously good content" has changed over the past few years? Do you see it changing in the future as original and interesting content is becoming more important?

I don’t think the barrier has gotten lower. If anything, it’s gotten higher. We’ve always had an imperative to create valuable content for our customers… but in my mind the most successful brands don’t think about creating great “branded” content products. Instead, they create great content, period. A great example is Slack: Its podcast keeps reinventing itself and getting better and better and better.


In your 2016 Content Marketing predictions you say that content needs to be taken seriously and that it "has the heart of a storyteller and the soul of an artist" - In your opinion has the approach to content marketing in 2016 legitimized itself in this way?

Yes. I don’t think you can run marketing on technology alone. We need stories and art to fuel the best marketing. And we need them more than ever.

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Written by

Perry Betts

Perry Betts

Perry is the Public Relations Specialist at Smarp. She makes connections, absorbs media and is always available to chat @perrybetts


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