Hazlett, K. (2011), "Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) that Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 20 No. 6, pp. 501-502. https://doi.org/10.1108/10610421111166667
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Content Rules by Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs, and C.C. Chapman, Founder, Digital Dads, is the ideal “go‐to” text for any marketing or brand management professional wanting to either validate current online marketing initiatives or learn other ways through which to effectively extend his or her marketing efforts.
Content Rules comprises 29 easily‐digestible chapters that lead the reader from why online content creation and management is so important to, at the end, descriptive case studies that demonstrate how online marketing tactics were successfully incorporated into a variety of organizations.
The book itself is divided into four sections: “The Content Rules,” a lively discussion of the crucial importance of “killer content”; “The How‐To Section,” with chapters devoted to blogs, webinars, ebooks, and other online marketing tools; “Content That Converts: Success Stories (With Ideas You Can Steal)”; and “This Isn't Goodbye,” a wrap‐up discussion with a “gift” for the reader.
According to the authors, Content Rules “demystifies the [online] publishing process and shares the secrets of creating remarkable blogs, podcasts, webinars, ebooks, and other web content that will attract would‐be customers to you” (p. xvi.)
Chapter 1, “The case for content,” firmly establishes the reason for improved online marketing content: “the point of creating killer content [is] […] to convert browsers into buyers and customers into regulars or (better yet) rabid fans, ambassadors, and advocates” (p. 7).
Attention must be paid not only to where your content is displayed, but how. Today's consumers are much more new‐media savvy and are very aware when they are being sold to rather than being informed, which is their reason for going online: to learn more about your products or services. “Show; don't just tell. Good content doesn't preach or hard‐sell. Instead, it shows how your product lives in the world” (p. 16).
In chapter 3, “Insight inspires originality,” the authors make the case for applying tried‐and‐proven journalistic techniques to your online publishing. “Just like good journalism, good content strategy focuses on the story you have to tell and the audience you are trying to attract” (p. 18).
Then, after you have identified your story and your audience(s), Handley and Chapman turn in chapter 4, “Who are you?”, to the seemingly‐simple but often mismanaged challenge of finding your “voice […] how you express your brand. It's about the tone you take in all of your communications and […] figuring out what's unique about you and your perspective” (p. 29).
Once you have accomplished this task, say the authors, and have gotten a handle on presentation of your content, your next challenge is to figure out what you are going to produce. Will it be in the form of a blog? A webinar? A podcast?
With the variety of formats available to the online marketer, the quandary becomes one of identifying what form your communication will take, and with what projected results? “Whether you start small or large, your idea or theme is always the foundation, and each piece of content you produce should have a place in that larger picture” (p. 64).
One major difficulty for online marketers that is a continuing theme in Content Rules is that of communicating versus selling. Chapter 6, “Share or solve; don't shill,” addresses this particular conundrum. “Good content shares or solves; it doesn't shill. In other words, it doesn't hawk your wares or push sales‐driven messages” (p. 70).
But once you attract potential customers to your website, how do you maximize the impact of your efforts […] how do you build a “community” of fans or followers […] visitors to your site who will then share your content with their own communities? Patience is crucial, caution the authors in chapter 7, “Stoke the campfire.” “One key consideration (which needs to be communicated to executives at your company) is that community takes time to develop. A community cannot be forced, manipulated, or magically conjured” (p. 99).
One final thought on communities is pointed out in chapter 9, “The care and feeding of fans”: listen to your followers' […] your communities' […] comments and opinions. “The last thing you want your community and customers to think is that you lack listening skills” (p. 114).
Social media is not just for consumer or service‐specific organizations, however. It is applicable to and for the business‐to‐business arena as well, and chapter 10 of Content Rules, “Attention B2B companies,” makes it clear that the B2B marketer is well‐advised to embrace and master the concept of dynamic content. “For B2B companies, the job of each piece of content […] should be tied to a short‐term goal, such as ‘encouraging the reader to sign up for the XYZ webinar.’ Plus, it should be associated with your company's strategic objectives, such as ‘increasing sales by 15 percent in North America’ (p. 123).
Section II, “The how‐to section” of Content Rules, focuses on specific online tactics to communicate with customers and potential customers, with eight chapters devoted to individual opportunities to reach your target markets.
“A blog as a hub of your online content” (chapter 11) establishes a baseline for these activities. “A blog is a logical and appropriate first step if you want to create and publish […] posts you write, curated content you pull together, press mentions, and content created about your organization elsewhere that you want to share” (p. 141).
A blog allows you to establish your voice … to take the first step in communicating with your customers and potential customers. And, from there, you can venture on into other areas that offer the opportunity for that all‐important conversation about your products or services.
Webinars come second in the line‐up of viable and valuable online venues through which marketers can reach out and educate. “A 2009 study by Business.com found that a whopping 67 percent of business leaders who rely on social media seek out relevant podcasts or webinars” (p. 153).
Webinars make it possible for you, as a marketer, to explain, clarify, or reinforce the value of your product or service. “Webinars allow you to marry voice, image, and sound and create something that teems with life. This is a boon to B2B companies or service firms, which are often selling an intangible thing that a buyer can't easily connect with” (p. 159).
Other tactics discussed include the revered white paper (repurposed online, possibly, as an e‐book), customer success stories (case studies), FAQs, videos, podcasts, and photographs. The authors are not suggesting that you need to incorporate all of these into your online marketing; rather, they offer these examples for consideration. The question that the reader has to answer is “Which of these will work best in my situation?”
The final section of Content Rules, “Content that converts,” provides excellent examples of companies that have incorporated one or more of the online tactics discussed into their marketing programs. With everything imaginable, from “Reynolds Golf Academy” (chapter 19) to “Kodak” (chapter 25) to “PinkStinks” (chapter 28), the reader is assured of learning valuable tips from an organization in his or her space.
As promised, the authors wrap up in chapter 29, “This isn't goodbye, and a gift for you,” with “an invitation to connect further […] [via the firm's] web site (www.contentrulesbook.com), on Twitter (@thecontentrules), and on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ContentRules)” (p. 269).
In closing, the promised gift, a “12‐point checklist,” enables the reader to assess his or her readiness to embrace the concept of an online marketing program and to determine whether or not his or her current content “rules.”
Content Rules is an educational and entertaining “must‐read” for any marketing manager or CEO who recognizes the importance of developing an effective online presence but is not certain how to proceed. It also serves as a comprehensive checklist for those who are online but are not certain they are covering all the requisite bases.