Interview With Ann Handley, MarketingProfs CCO

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Ann Handley InterviewNot only is it an honor to interview one of my content marketing idols, it is particularly exciting that she is our first female featured interview. And what better way to kick off the girl power than with a kick @ss woman like Ann Handley. Not only is she an accomplished author, speaker, mom, wife and overall awesome person, she is the Chief Content Officer (CCO) at MarketingProfs, where she’s been leading the charge on all things B2B Marketing for more than a decade. But before we get into her Q&A , I have a small back story to share.

Ann Handley TweetI first heard about Ann in 2011 in Dallas for a MarketProfs conference. I Tweeted out something about attending the @MarketingProfs event with a colleague of mine. Having never met, she totally called me out during her talk for engaging on social media by tweeting about the event. To reward my content participation, I was given a copy of her book Content Rules which has had a huge positive impact on my career.

Fast forward to 2013 when We Rock Your Web attended the Content Marketing World (CMW). I went to Ann’s seminar which also happened to be in the same date as my first wedding anniversary. Unbeknownst to me, she gave another shout out to me with a slide at the end of her presentation featuring a photo from my wedding (Insert embarrassed emoji here). How did this happen? Since my husband knew my excitement to see Ms. Handley speak again, he contacted her and well, she’s awesome like that and honored his ridiculous request.

The reason I tell you this story is to show the power of creating memorable content experiences (which I wrote about on MarketingProfs) and to paint a picture of the overall type of person Ann Handley is (in the best way possible). Plus, she also mentioned the CMW presentation in one of her answers, so now you too are in the know. 😉

Our team at We Rock Your Web all have copies of her latest book Everybody Writes which has had a profound impact on the way we approach writing and our editorial process. A journalist by trade, Ann has helped writers across the world become better at the craft by sharpening their storytelling skills. In the end, better writers and editors means better content which benefits every one who reads, looks at pictures, enjoys videos, etc. So without further ado, it is my great pleasure to share our interview with Ann Handley.

What’s your typical day and what productivity tips can you share?

I am gently awakened in the morning by the sweet calls of the downy-throated songbirds, welcoming me into a new day. I arise and dine on a firm scramble of eggs laid at dawn by my cluck of heirloom chickens, while sipping coffee from the rarest Kopi Luwak bean, harvested deep in the Sumatran jungle.

So after that… you can imagine that I flit to my desk, dip the nib of my fountain pen in its corner inkwell, and the marketing insights spill out of me onto the page with the same intensity as the yolks of those heirloom eggs spread onto my breakfast plate.

Or: I wake up, sit down at my computer, and force myself awake by scrolling through Twitter. 

At some point during the morning I wander to my backyard Tiny House. It’s really a tiny office. But it’s a dedicated space that helps me focus and do the work I need to get done.

I actually have zero chickens and no songbirds. In case anyone is wondering.

What is the most rewarding/best part of your job and why?

The team of people who are part of MarketingProfs is fantastic. I’ve never worked with a more dedicated, talented, hilarious bunch. We might be a virtual company. But we are very much a team.

Who has been your mentor and what have you learned from them?

Dick Powers was my first editor at The Boston Globe, a lifetime ago. I was a terrible news reporter. But Dick eventually helped me realized that I was a much better feature writer. In that way, he was also the first one to point out to me that life is less about regretting and ruing what you don’t have. Instead, it’s about honing what you do have. I wrote about that here, by the way.

How have you seen the content marketing industry change over the years and where do you see the industry headed?

In some ways, content marketing has changed tremendously. Certainly the platforms, technology, and capabilities have evolved. But in other ways, it hasn’t changed one bit: Creativity, craft, and the bones of a good and generous story are still the foundation of any compelling and productive content program.

Which brands are killing it in content marketing lately?

  1. LinkedIn’s Business Marketing Group is killing it, under the direction of my friend Jason Miller.
  2. is probably the best branded content site out there.
  3. I love what Basecamp is doing with its podcast/site.

I could fill this page, honestly. But I’ll stop there.

What is your top tip for managing a remote team?

Get Sococo. Sococo which replicates an office environment, has transformed our virtual company. It’s like Club Penguin meets The Sims, allowing for more of a group atmosphere and collaborative environment.

Favorite speaking gig and what made it so memorable?

The audiences are what make the memories.

This past week I presented at the High Five Conference in Raleigh, NC. I loved the audience – because it was a mix of creatives and marketing. That’s pretty much an audience made in heaven for me, right there. 

I also really love the Content Marketing World audience, as well as our B2B Marketing Forum audience. Plus there was this one time that a husband asked me to surprise his wife on their anniversary by including a wedding photo in my deck, while she was in the audience…. 🙂 THAT was a great moment!

Video: Ann Handley speaking

See Ann in action during a speaking engagement.

What are your hidden talents and/or something surprising about yourself?

I am amazing at embarrassing my children. I can also bake a really good challah from scratch. Even though I’m not Jewish, which is obvious because I’m pretty sure I just misspelled “challah.”

What do you love most about working from your new-ish tiny house?

I should have read these questions through before answering, shouldn’t I? I think I answered it above. But it’s the sense of quiet and isolation that I cherish. Extreme silence is the way I do my best work.

Window or aisle seat?

I’m tempted to say Amtrak. Because I hate flying, even though I do it all the time. But since Amtrak is rarely practical, I like aisle. In the front of the plane. On JetBlue.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Is anyone still reading? THANK YOU for sticking it out to the bitter end!

Thank YOU, Ann! It was a pleasure and an honor to speak with you and share your words of wisdom with our readers!

Did you like the interview? Anything you wish we had asked?

About The Author:

Sadie has over 15 years of experience in digital marketing, graphic and web design, social media strategy, email marketing and more. She is a 4th generation small business owner and has worked with a wide range of brands from fortune 500 companies to startups and entrepreneurs.

Sadie is a self-proclaimed Apple/Mac guru and keeps up with all the latest tech trends at conferences including South by Southwest. Sadie has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Texas at Austin's Moody School of Communications and a concentration in Business from the Red McCombs School of Business.

Her expertise has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The New York Times, Forbes, People, Reader's Digest, Apartment Therapy, and other regional news organizations.

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Aleea S
April 29, 2016 9:42 am

Awe, what a great article, I love Ann that’s awesome you got to interview her! She’s hilarious and love her book too