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CMWorld Interview: Ann Handley Shares the Secrets to Her Success (with Sass)

We all have the same number of hours in each day. But every once in awhile you find someone that come across a content marketing maven that seems to have the amazing ability to slow down the clock. It’s amazing to witness the things they are able to accomplish before you’ve even finished your morning avocado toast.

While this year’s Content Marketing World conference is filled with amazing marketers that can do just that, there is one content captain that sticks out in particular.

This marketer is one of my favorite speakers (and humans) of all time and is none other than the amazingly talented Ann Handley.

In addition to being one of the smartest and most accomplished marketers on the planet, Ann is a delightful combination of wit, humor and charm. So if your goal is like mine, “to be a little more Handley”, then buckle up and get ready for the ride of your life.

What does your role as Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs entail?

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 I sip coffee from the rarest Kopi Luwak bean, harvested deep in the Sumatran jungle.

It’s hand-picked.

By monkeys.

So, after that… you can imagine that I flit to my desk, dip the nib of my fountain pen in the 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. (I have zero chickens and no songbirds. In case anyone is wondering.)

What does your day look like? What do you like best?

Most of my time at MarketingProfs is spent…

  1. In meetings with speakers, content creators, writers, MarketingProfs staffers (or, as I call that last group, “the Navy SEAL team of Modern Marketing.” See below.)
  2. Dealing with the relentless crush of email. (Least favorite thing.)
  3. Focusing on more substantive work in 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. (Most favorite thing.)

(I’m here right now, in this Tiny House, because you’ve already extended the deadline for this interview. So I need to get my butt in gear.)

You have a fulltime job at MarketingProfs, speak around the world and still seem to find time to write bestselling books. How do you balance all of these priorities?

I have a Franklin Planner and a label maker.

I’m kidding. I have a lot of help on the MarketingProfs front. I have an entire team of whatever the marketing version is of Navy SEALs: highly trained and talented human specimens who are also the finest people I know.

What do you mean when you encourage marketers to “slow down” with their marketing?

Close to 90 percent of B2B companies we surveyed are using content in their marketing. Yet just 34 percent of business-to-business marketers say that their content marketing is truly effective.

What’s up with that?

It’s important to slow down our marketing to get the basics right.

Like developing a documented content strategy.

Like doing the required research.

Like developing robust, non-one-dimensional Flat Stanley buyer personas.

Like articulating your bigger story.

Like investing in quality: excellent writing (and editing) and storytelling.

It’s also important for Marketing more generally to be that voice of reason within our organizations, to be the voice of sanity. We need to be the ones whose hands put up a TIME OUT signal to stop play on dumb plans, non-customer-centric programs, or technology “innovations” that ultimately erode the customer experience and disrespect the very people we need to serve.

And it’s important not just because we want to sell more stuff to people who love us but also because we need to sustain ourselves as people—to be proud of what we create, and embrace our own value at our companies. I believe that a disrespect for Marketing is in part why CMOs on average have the shortest tenure among all the C-suite roles.*

*I know this is a complex topic. But let’s start somewhere, shall we?

Why is it important for content marketers to “find their squad”?

Most every brand needs #squadgoals.

(Side note: I’m tempted to say “every brand” needs a squad, categorically. But there’s an exception to everything, isn’t there? Life isn’t black and white. It’s more nuanced than that, with shades of gray and taupe and rainbow, too.)

But anyway: It’s far more valuable to connect with a smaller squad that loves you—far more valuable to foster a shared mindset—than it is to try to appeal to a broader, less-engaged group of people who can take you or leave you.

Said algebraically:

smaller squad >> broad audience

(a smaller squad is much greater in value than a broad audience)

What are the 3 most important things marketers need to do to create a memorable content experience?

Be empathetic. Develop next-level, pathological empathy for your customer, your prospects, your audience.

Be brave. Take risks. Face your fears. Stare down your critics. Be a little weird.

Zig when others zag. Look what others are doing, and then do the opposite. Or look at what others are doing in other industries but not in yours, and do that. Or what’s the thing everyone says is over, out, done, dead, kaput…? Go for it.

What do you see as the biggest content marketing opportunity that many marketers aren’t taking full advantage of?

Tone of voice.

I’ve been saying this for so many years that I’m starting to hate my own droning, repetitive, broken-record tone of voice on this topic… but still: Tone of voice is still vastly undervalued by almost every brand or company or organization I meet in my daily jog around the Internet.

Has there been a defining moment in your career that you credit for your success, and if so, what was it?
You mean the time Oprah mentioned Everybody Writes in her book club?

Or when my speaker reel went viral?

Or when I sat next to Malcolm Gladwell on an airplane and he was so intrigued by our erudite conversation then he gushed about me on Jimmy Fallon that night?

None of those things happened.

So, no: there was no one defining moment.

Success is less a one-time ignition and more a deliberate, slow burn fueled by love for the work, a need to understand (and to be understood), and the ability to shut off the incessant prattle of the Internet because enough already I need to get stuff done.

By the way, I almost quibbled with your characterization of me as successful. Another key is this: I never think of myself in those terms.

First, because describing oneself as “successful” is like calling yourself a good friend, or a good parent, or a marketing influencer. Claiming such terms for yourself is arrogant: It’s more meaningful when others call you any of those things.

And, second, because calling myself a “success” somehow would mean that I’ve somehow stopped working toward something. I’ve already reached a pinnacle. Or checked a box. Or unlocked an achievement or level in some weird professional gaming system somewhere.

Life isn’t like that. You never really stop trying to accomplish, no matter how accomplished you or others believe you might be.

Which speaker presentations are you looking forward to most at Content Marketing World 2017?

Is anyone still reading this?

I have been at every single Content Marketing World since its inception—which was, what… #CMW1973?

So I’ve seen a lot of the great speakers who have been there year after year like I have… and who are back again this year. People like Andrew Davis, Lee Odden, Michael Brenner, Doug Kessler, Ardath Albee, Jay Baer, Heidi Cohen, Marcus Sheridan, and that’s just off the top of my head.

Rock stars, all of them. Any of them individually is worth the entire price of admission.

But my strategy this year is to go support the newbies and the first-timers. There are a lot of them this year, too.

So I’m going to hit as many as I can, and I’m going to clap the loudest.

Want More?

Thank you for taking the time to share your content marketing smarts with us Ann!

To get more content marketing insights from Ann Handley and 11 of her fellow Content Marketing World speakers, be sure to check out the second eBook in our series, The In-Flight Content Guide: Creating a Memorable Content Experience.

Still need more from your CMWorld flight crew? Check out our recent interviews featuring Adele Revella and Amanda Todorovich.

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The post CMWorld Interview: Ann Handley Shares the Secrets to Her Success (with Sass) appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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10 Crucial Steps for Launching Your B2B Podcast Into the Wild

Hey, friend, have you heard the good news about podcasts? 

Given the most recent stats, it’s highly likely you have. Over half of all Americans over 12 years of age have listened to at least one. Podcasts have well and truly hit the mainstream. In other words, the gold rush is on for brands looking to connect with a highly-engaged, long-attention-span audience.

However, getting a podcast up and running isn’t as simple as publishing a blog. We recently published an entire B2B podcasting webinar to walk you through the entire process, from conception to publication. This post will zero in on the choices you need to make and the steps you need to take to release your podcast into the wild.

B2B Podcasting Launch Checklist: 10 Steps

Sure, you could just upload your audio to your web server, add an RSS feed, and call it good. But if you want people to actually find and listen to your podcast, there are a few extra steps you should take. This checklist will help your podcast find an audience and start building a subscriber base.


#1: Choose Your Hosting Platform

A podcast syndication platform makes it easy to publish your podcast and get listed in directories. Think of it like WordPress is for your blog — it hosts the files, makes them look pretty, and makes it so people can find them.

Most platforms will also give you embed codes for embedding episodes in blog posts or on a landing page. You’ll also get stats on how many people are downloading episodes, and on what program they’re listening.

We prefer Libsyn as our hosting platform. Podbean, buzzsprout, and Blubrry are also solid options. They all have a free tier of hosting, but you’ll want to pay a few bucks a month for bandwidth and analytics.

#2: Upload Your First Three Episodes

Podcasting is all about establishing a regular cadence (more on that later). But for launch, you’ll want to have at least three episodes ready to go. There are a few reasons for publishing multiple episodes for your debut:

  1. One episode may not be enough to convince people to subscribe. 
  2. Multiple episodes show you’re committed to keeping the content coming.
  3. Most importantly, Apple podcasts requires at least three episodes to qualify for their “New and Noteworthy” section. 

So before you publish, have at least three episodes completed, and be ready to follow up with more at your promised publishing cadence.

#3:  Register with Podcast Directories

Podcasts are peculiar in terms of content delivery. Your hosting platform makes the files available, but most people will listen to your podcast on their chosen podcast app. Each app maintains its own directory — think of it as a search engine for podcasts. 

Your podcast needs to be listed in their directory, or people won’t be able to find you. I recommend registering with at least these six:

  1. Apple Podcasts
  2. Google Podcasts
  3. Stitcher
  4. Podbean
  5. Spotify
  6. TuneIn

Each of these sites will ask for the RSS feed of your podcast, which your hosting platform will generate for you.

I created a podcast tracker to keep track of all these directories — sign up for the webinar and you can download it for free.

B2B Podcast Tracker

#4: Promote Internally

Gaining visibility on a podcast directory is tricky business. Apple and Google are where the majority of your listeners will be, and each employs an algorithm to promote podcasts in search results and feature pages.

How do you get an algorithm’s attention? Engagement! Start by promoting your podcast to all of your employees. Encourage them to subscribe on Apple or Google, give a rating, and write a brief (and honest) review. What’s more, draft some social messages and encourage everyone to promote the podcast to their networks, too.

That base level of initial engagement will help your podcast start finding its audience.

#5: Activate Your Influencers

Most podcasts are Q&A-style interviews with influential guests. If your podcast includes influencers in your industry, make sure they know as soon as their episode goes live. Give them the tools to promote the podcast easily:

  • Sample social messages
  • Social media images in the correct sizes
  • Embed codes

If your podcast doesn’t feature influencers, it’s worth re-evaluating your strategy for your next season. Influencer content not only is more valuable to your audience, it’s an indispensable channel for promotion.

#6: Publish Blog Posts

The one downside of audio content: It’s not super crawlable for SEO purposes. Granted, Google has started to auto-transcribe episodes and add them to search results, but the technology is still in the early stages.

To truly get some SEO juice from your podcast, we recommend embedding each podcast in a blog post. This example from the Tech Unknown Podcast by SAP* shows how simple it can be. All you need is an introduction, a few pull quotes, some key takeaways, and a transcript.

#7: Add Paid Promotion

As with any content, you want to use every tactic available to make sure it gets seen by your target audience. That’s especially true with podcasts, since podcast search engines are incredibly competitive.

Targeted, paid social promotion can help establish your subscriber base and get your new podcast some much-needed visibility.

It’s also worth considering cross-promotion on other podcasts. Consider both paid advertising and trading guest spots with a podcast that shares your target audience. 

#8: Solicit Listener Feedback

Ratings and reviews are essential to your podcast’s success. They’ll help provide social proof for new listeners and boost your search visibility in podcast directories. 

The best way to get ratings and reviews? Ask for them. Make it part of each episode’s sign-off. You can even encourage thoughtful reviews by reading the best ones on future episodes. You will engage your listeners and solicit more reviews at the same time.

#9: Keep Up Your Cadence

As with blog content, there’s no single “right” frequency to publish a podcast. Some of my favorite podcasts publish weekly, biweekly, or even monthly. The best cadence for your podcast is “However frequently you can reliably, regularly publish quality content.”

Choose your cadence with an eye to long-term sustainability, and tell your listeners explicitly how frequently you’ll publish. Whether it’s “See you next week,” or “PodcastTitle is a monthly podcast that…” listeners will find it easier to make your podcast a habit if you stick to a schedule.

#10: Repurpose, Repurpose, Repurpose

In my last post on the content marketing benefits of B2B podcasting, I mentioned that podcasts are a content machine, and I’ll say it again. It’s easy to finish an episode, publish it, then forget it and move on to the next thing. But don’t do that! 

Pull snippets of audio content for social media. Turn them into short videos, too: Add a still image or a simple looping GIF for visual interest.

Use your transcriptions as fodder for future blog posts, quotes for influencer marketing, or even a stand-alone asset. 

Any way you can reuse that content can help bring more listeners to your podcast. What’s more, putting the content in a different medium can reach an audience who might not be into podcasts (yet). 

Check, Check, One Two

Launching a podcast is a little trickier than launching a new blog, especially if you’re new to the format. But if you follow this checklist, you can make sure your podcast is available on all the right channels and is ready to start attracting an audience.

Need more podcasting help? Check out our B2B Podcasting Webinar. In addition to learning the Four P’s of podcasting success, you’ll see me make this face:

B2B Podcasting Face

*Disclosure: SAP is a TopRank Marketing client.

The post 10 Crucial Steps for Launching Your B2B Podcast Into the Wild appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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