Archive for category: Content

Message Before Content, Content Before Platform

20 Jan
January 20, 2015

I had a conversation with someone earlier this week and they asked my view on a social platform (not one of the majors) they wanted to implement in their business.

They spent a few minutes explaining some of the features, the big one seemingly the ability to add video. I asked what kind of video content they’ll be producing.

“We don’t know yet”.

I asked if they planned on using video at all.


With so much written about the importance of video to a strategy, this kind of cart before the horse approach is understandable. We know we need to be using this, so we must find a platform that uses it.

But two things come before the platform – the message and the content. What is it that you want to tell people? Without understanding your message, your content doesn’t serve a purpose. Which makes the platform irrelevant.

The content itself is shaped by this message. How can you best communicate it to your audience? Is it in a video? It might be. It might not be.

cycleOnce these two things are clearly articulated that you should think about the platform to distribute it. If that’s video, great. Most platforms support it. If it’s not video, that’s OK too. Do what works for you and your business.

But don’t pick a platform for a killer feature that you may not use.

To be clear, I’m not saying the process of creating content should be completed before determining the platform – just understanding the types of content you plan to use.

There is an important fourth step – learn and adapt. How did the content perform? Was your message clear? Did it have the desired outcome?

Take those learnings, and revisit the message if need be. And start the process again.

PHOTO: Ian Harris

Why Everybody Writes is a Book That Everybody Needs

14 Jan
January 14, 2015

I feel all sorts of pressure writing this post. How can I possibly review a book about how to be a better writer without second guessing every word I type?

Like many people, I have set myself some goals for 2015, one of which is to write more. At the moment, I write when I find the time, rather than finding the time to write. Typically it’s around something topical, something I’ve experienced or something I have witnessed others experience.

This, however, is a narrow view of the extent of my writing. As the title suggests, everybody does write, in many forms, for many different reasons. If I consider everything I write, it covers emails, social updates, blog posts, business cases, web copy and the list goes on. But underpinning all of this are principles that don’t change.

Ann Handley is the Chief Content Officer for MarketingProfs, and her second book (the first being the fantastic Content Rules, written with CC Chapman), is a masterclass in the written word – part framework, part high school English refresher, and all motivation to make you want to write better.

This truly is a book that every marketer, social media manager, media type and student needs to have. While I was reading it, I could feel myself deconstructing everything I remembered or had learned over the years, and rebuilding around the frameworks laid out.

No matter what it is you want to improve, it’s covered. Ann breaks the book up into a number of parts, although a smart reader will go cover to cover. Part one broadly sets out the writing rules, a set of guidelines to reframe your thinking on how to write well. The most important part of this is giving you permission to not get it perfect right away, and to understand that there is a process that every writer goes through.

Part Two is where everything you (hopefully) learned in English class at school comes flooding back, understanding sentence structure and proper grammar. And some rules you can break (see what I did there?).

Perhaps the section I found most interesting covers the ins and outs of publishing. Given the tools of creation are so freely available now, everyone is a publisher. With that comes risk – in ethics, sources, fact checking etc. Being able to navigate this part of the process is valuable, in a time where trust and reputation are everything.

From here, it gets into specifics around the different forms a marketer may need to write for, and an invaluable list of content tools, which I think is worth the cover price alone.

I was lucky enough to have Ann answer a few questions about the book and content creation and marketing:

130503AH_9844With the growth of content marketing over the last few years, do you think the pressure to “always be creating” plays a part in the quality of the output?

Publishing is a privilege. Many brands jumped into content marketing without fully grokking as much — so much of the content they created lacked a critical respect for the audience. With freedom comes responsibility — to paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt. And it seems to me that many companies and organizations are embracing that responsibility to their audience along with the freedom to publish. Or maybe I’m just optimistic. 🙂

I see a generational gap in creating quality written content, in that younger marketers talk about it but struggle with the written word at times because of their media use and consumption. Do you think some of the rules of writing, as you outline them in the book, have been lost in a world of fast, short communication?

I’m not sure I agree with that characterization of younger marketers. I think the ability to write well has less to do with age than it does an understanding of the opportunity that technology has afforded content marketers and businesses more generally. Very often, younger people get that more directly than others — but not exclusively.

The “writing rules” in the book are really more of a call to arms for us all to communicate more simply, directly, and with empathy for the people we are trying to reach. I don’t think that’s specific to any age group, or any number of years of experience.

I see this book very much as a companion to Content Rules, which to me provided the why and what of content creation, whereas this is very much the how. Was that the intent?

I like that. It wasn’t exactly the intent — but you’re right in that they both build on each other. The world didn’t need another content marketing book — many excellent ones already exist. With Everybody Writes, I set you to give business a useful writing guide framed for a content marketing age — whether that content is a blog post or a white paper or the story around an Instagram photo. So yes, I wanted to offer how-to instruction in a fun, accessible way — because I think our writing can be fun… and it should be a differentiator for any company.

As I said at the beginning of this post, this really is one of the best books any content creator can have. I highly recommend getting a copy – and carrying it with you wherever you find the time to write.

Big thanks to Ann for taking the time to answer my questions for the review.

19 Social Business and Content Thought Leaders You Should Be Following

31 Oct
October 31, 2014

I follow over 2,000 people on Twitter, but have a number of curated lists of thought leaders in various areas who I always read before anything else. If you’re interested in social media, content or business in general, these are the people you should be following (in no particular order):

Social Business and Content Thought Leaders | Brian Fanzo (@iSocialFanz)

I Talk Fast & Tweet Faster | Leading Change in #SocBiz, #Tech, #SocialMedia & #Mobile #Cloud ~ Chief Digital Strategist & Partner at @Broadsuite

Social Business and Content Thought Leaders | Donna Moritz (@SociallySorted)

Winner Best Australian Business Blog 2014 | Visual Social Media & Content Strategy | Free Training

Social Business and Content Thought Leaders | Rebekah Radice (@RebekahRadice)

#SocialMedia, Digital Marketing, Author, Keynote Speaker, Co-Founder @Imagine_WOW @eSocialSuccess | Coffee addict, sunshine lover & nuts about my 2 pups! ♥

Social Business and Content Thought Leaders | Deborah Shane (@DeborahShane)

Top 100 #SmallBiz Champ, Top 100 #SmallbizPodcast, #Careers #Branding, #SocialMedia, Content, kindness, travel, humor, cycling, family, friendship.

Social Business and Content Thought Leaders | Jeff Bullas (@jeffbullas)

Social Media Marketing Blogger,Strategist & Speaker,Forbes Top 50 Social Media Power Influencer 2013,Huffington Post Top 100 Business Twitter Accounts

Social Business and Content Thought Leaders | Scott Stratten (@unmarketing)

4th book UnSelling out now! Also a big deal on fairly irrelevant social media sites which inflates my self-importance. Lesser-half of @UnAlison.

Social Business and Content Thought Leaders | Marsha Collier (@MarshaCollier)

Author 48 books: Social Media Commerce, eBay, Online Customer Service. Forbes Top 10 Influencer, GigaOM Pro Analyst, Founder #CustServ chat #techradio host

Social Business and Content Thought Leaders | Matt Rhodes (@mattrhodes)

Digital strategy, marketing and social media. Director @FreshMindsTeam for work; marathon runner for play.

Social Business and Content Thought Leaders | Jay Baer (@jaybaer)

NY Times best selling author, marketing consultant, keynote speaker. President of Convince & Convert (

Social Business and Content Thought Leaders | Joe Pulizzi (@JoePulizzi)

Content Marketing Institute (@CMIContent) and Content Marketing World #cmworld. Author, Epic Content Marketing. #orange‎

Social Business and Content Thought Leaders | Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota)

Storyteller, writer, content marketer, consultant and trainer. Let me help your brand tell the stories your audience wants to read.

Social Business and Content Thought Leaders | Ann Handley (@MarketingProfs)

Head of Content here at ‘Profs. I'm waging a war on mediocrity in content.

Social Business and Content Thought Leaders | Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee)

Family 1st! but after that, Businessman. CEO of @vaynermedia. Host of #AskGaryVee show and a dude who Loves the Hustle, People & the @NYJets.

Social Business and Content Thought Leaders | Charlene Li (@charleneli)

Founder, Altimeter Group. Author, Open Leadership. Co-author, Groundswell. Spouse, mom, daughter, sister.

Social Business and Content Thought Leaders | David Armano (@armano)

Global Strategy Director @Edelmandigital. Intrapreneur, dad, hubby to @msarmano, contributor @harvardbiz, co-founder #Allhat, road king & imperfect soul

Social Business and Content Thought Leaders | C.C. Chapman (@cc_chapman)

I capture and share experiences for a living. I do this from my keyboard, behind my camera and on stages around the world. There are never enough days...

Social Business and Content Thought Leaders | Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan)

NYT Bestselling author & leading authority on owning the game you most want to win. Courses: . contact:

Created using

Want to follow them all in one click? I’ve collected them all in a list on Twitter.

What about you? Who do you think should be on the list?

3 Incredibly Useful Product Blogs

24 May
May 24, 2014

While their obvious primary purpose is to support the products they offer, I’ve found these three blogs are incredibly useful resources for content marketing and social media guides, templates and best practices.

Buffer Blog

In a post last week, I covered some helpful tips for using Buffer to manage social throughput. If you’re after a useful guide to other resources on the web though to help build effective social and digital presences, check out their blog. There is a new post pretty much every day, and a real focus on big lists of resources, templates to help you do better at content marketing and social media.

As an example, here are some of their recent posts:


If you’re just getting started in content marketing (or even if you’ve been doing it for a while), CoSchedule’s blog is a goldmine of resources , strategy templates, content calendars, with a large focus on how these things flow into blogging. The tool itself is great as well, allowing to you to schedule your social posts per platform from right within the post editor of WordPress.

As an example:


HubSpot’s blog delves into wider areas of marketing, sales, social and thought leadership, designed to get you thinking about the functional aspects of your business that can be facilitated through their suite of products.

Some recent content from their blog:

PHOTO – Sarah Reid via Flickr

Why Content Rules, Well, Rules

01 Feb
February 1, 2011

I’ve just finished Content Rules by CC Chapman and Ann Handley. If I could sum up this review right now in 5 words, it would be this – go and buy this book. Whatever business you are in, you need this book. And here is why.

It’s no secret that we are in a new world of communications and how we reach consumers has changed. It’s easy to use phrases here like “joining the conversation” and “fundamental shift” in talking about it, but where this book is different is that it goes beyond the talk.

The important thing to note is that this is not a book about social media (entirely). It’s about content – the thing that drives social media. And for authors, it would be hard to find a couple of people more qualified to talk about it. Ann is the Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, which I have always found a goldmine of information for not only social media, but marketing as a whole, and CC Chapman founded, which as a dad, I think is just an awesome site (they recently published an article called “Liking Stupid Music” that I thought was brilliant).


We read a lot about the importance of content. In fact, “Content is King” has become somewhat cliche nowadays, but what escapes a great number of businesses is exactly WHY content is king, and more importantly, HOW it transforms business and WHAT needs to be done.

I’ve collected an awful lot of white papers and presentations on content over the last few years that talk about it from a theoretical standpoint, but never I think has there been a guide as succinct as Content Rules. As the cover promises, it really is a How To on creating Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, eBooks, Webinars and more.

For starters, Ann and CC have made it easy to take the info in. The book is divided up into three parts – the Content Rules, The How To Section and the Success Stories. As a reader and a strategist, for me it’s a pattern that makes sense – the theory, the practical and then the proof points. For a business owner, this should be the path to conversion on the value of content.

Don’t skip any of it. One thing that I hear a lot of is that businesses don’t feel they need to produce it, or can’t see how it can possibly work. The book is a gold mine of ideas that can be applied to virtually any business, and it’s not just left to the success stories to demonstrate how it can work.


It seems for many, the notion of producing content scares them for a few reasons – the time it takes to do it, the thought of writing, and the thought of just giving away knowledge. What I loved about Content Rules is that it blows the thought that content is just writing out of the water from the get go, and subsequently the time issue by talking about its ability to be re-imagined in a number of ways and formats to appeal to different audiences.

And it sums up the reason for content in probably the simplest way possible – moving a prospect over a hurdle and closer to becoming a customer. Which when you think about it, is exactly what the content of this book does. It moves you past the hurdle of the why and how it can work for you by showing what to do, and what I loved, how to do it.

You can pick it up in bookshops (I got my copy at Dymocks main city store in Sydney), or buy it online from the usual suspects (a great list here). Ann and CC have also set up a great companion site for the book at

I say it again – if you’re serious about putting your business ahead of your competition and making it stand out – go and buy this book. In reading it, I have a list of action points and ideas longer than I’ve ever had, and am excited about implementing them. As I think you will be.


PHOTO – CC Chapman