The notions of content, storytelling, communication have been widely overused recently in the marketing business. Quantity, however, does not always mean quality. What are the methods used by the leading opinion-formers? Learn how to create quality content marketing according to a person everyone in the social media sector is listening to – Ann Handley.

American Forbes has listed Ann Handley as one of the most influential women in the Social Media sector. She is Content Managing Director at MarketingProfs, creating relation-building digital content for organizations and individual people. Her passion is forming communities, especially with the use of modern multimedia tools. But before she began her adventure with content marketing, she worked for 12 years as a business contributor to local and national publications, e.g. Boston Globe.

She describes her professional goal as “combating average, forgettable content”. Drawing on that idea, she published a book “Everybody writes” – a bestselling handbook on creating deeply engaging content.

Ann believes the basis for valuable content is placing the reader in the spotlight. “When I was at the stage of my journalist education one of my professors told me: Nobody is obliged to read your article. Seeing content from that point of view has completely changed my line of thought. I stopped focusing on what was most important to me, and started to focus on the reader instead. It was a valuable hint for me as a marketer, blogger, and privately as a person,” says Ann. She also emphasizes conveying information in the simplest possible way, so that it is comprehensible to the widest group of readers. “That same professor also told me: Nobody will blame you for making things too easy to understand. I think life is complicated, business is unstructured. To be frank, I find many things confusing and bemusing. My mission is to simplify complicated things,” Ann adds. She also emphasizes how important it is to be true to your word: “If you said you will do it, do it. Your word means much more than you think.”

Those three principles: focusing on the reader, simplifying complex things and being true to one’s word are what Ann considers a key to being so successful in her career.

One of the greatest challenges for marketers nowadays is, according to Ann, the technological development, which plays an important role in marketing. She admits technological possibilities are huge, and she also has built her career upon state-of-the-art tools. “It’s incredible how much we can do using modern technologies. Nevertheless, I believe technologies are only good when your story is good. Creativity can not be encoded and the quality of your message is always more important than its quantity. It has always been and will always be true,” says Ann.

She believes each company has something they can tell, a value they can share, if only they look at it with their customers’ eyes. “What already exists is an inspiration” – she quotes Michael Wolff. She advises to practise looking at things in various ways, from different points of view, because what seems obvious to us may not be that obvious to others.

What was the best marketing advice Ann has ever heard?The most effective marketing is one that does not work like marketing”. And, as she herself stated, she follows these words everyday at work.

Examples of B2B and B2C brands that use great content marketing, according to Ann Handley:

Hubspot – best of all
Marketo – What Does the Fox Say? B2B Companies Need Visual Style
Crowd Mics – Scrappy Video Content Marketing: What if we Didn’t Try so Hard?
Buffer – Almost all of it is ridiculously useful.
Basecamp – Basecamp is Barking up the Long Tree With ‘The Distance”
TopRank Online Marketing – What’s Next in B2B Marketing?

Airbnb – The Airbnb Berlin Wall Anniversary Film: A Q&A With its Creator
Chipotle – The Biggest Marketing Lesson from Chipotle’s ‘Scarecrow’ Video

Humane Society Silicon Valley – Creative, Funny, Unusually Honest Marketing of an Awful Dog Named ‘Eddie the Terrible’

The Best Political Ad Ever – even though it was a political failure and the candidate didn’t win, Ann sees it as a breakthrough storytelling in political marketing.