Take 5 with Ann Handley: The state of content marketing, PR and more

October 26, 2018 Sarah Parker

Ann Handley Take 5 with TrendKite on content marketing and PR

We're kicking off a new series here on PR Forward called Take 5 with TrendKite— it's five quick questions on PR, the state of the industry, and how it interconnects with everything else (like content marketing), all with the brightest minds around. 

Of course that means we had to talk to the one and only Ann Handley first!

Our CEO Erik Huddleston introduced her excellent keynote at PRSA ICON last month, and if you missed it, you can catch our takeaways from the conference here

Huddleston Handley PRSA ICON  2018 introduction

Handley PRSA ICON 2018 Keynote

Without further ado, here are Ann's takes on PR, content marketing, and more. 

1. What can PR learn from content marketing—  and vice versa?

PR and content marketing are both steeped in strategic storytelling. The word “storytelling” in business context feels a little amorphous and squishy, doesn’t it? But it’s not, because “storytelling” is really just a way to communicate why you’re in business and what makes you special in 1) a compelling narrative, and 2) on a human scale.

So I don’t see the two disciplines as being radically different. Their audiences are often different—  so how we engage those audiences will vary, and the tactics will vary, and metrics used to measure effectiveness will vary, too. But we have more in common than not.

But that wasn’t exactly the question, was it? 

Content marketers can often learn the craft of writing from PR professionals– because in my experience many people went into PR because they could write and communicate well.

And PR people can learn to develop metrics that align to strategic business goals
beyond simple awareness metrics.

2. How have you seen the relationship between content marketers and PR professionals change over the years? 

I’ve noticed the two disciplines complimenting one another far more seamlessly.

When modern content marketing started to grow and gain momentum, the tension between content marketers and PR professionals seemed palpable. Now that feels like ancient history.

PR and content marketing both live and die on the quality of our content. We share a common goal to create and tell stories people want. To me the alignment has never been greater.

3. What skill do you think PR professionals need that is often overlooked? 

Here are two:

  1. Public speaking. Especially key now with video and audio increasingly relevant on social media (and everywhere).
  2. Tone of voice. Colorful and specific writing (like HD colorful!), especially in email newsletters.

4. What is your favorite- or least favorite- "surprise and delight" PR moment you've seen from a brand lately?  

I’ll give you my favorite, because I’d rather celebrate good work than mock terrible

And it’s less of a “moment” than it is a longer-term coordinated effort. Because I believe long term thinking leads to better and more effective work.

Anywhoosie. . .here’s the story:

The building industry in the US struggles with the lack of skilled building-trades people, particularly home framers. So the content created by Norbord Industries (manufacturer of wood building products used in over 80% of home built in the United States) talks a lot about the labor issue. It's a great example of Norbord owning a "bigger" narrative that isn’t narrowly brand-centric.

But to really make the story resonate, Norbord made the story smaller: At ThankAFramer.com, Norbord's Ross Commerford tells the story from the framer's perspective. The program is focused on spreading that message far and wide via social media— mostly with video.

It's going nuts- 4.1 million views on Facebook and counting- because it tells a smaller, specific story of actual people who actually build the houses that actual Americans live in.

This is delightful because big and bold stories are often best told in small and
specific ways.

Norbord found the specific details—and used them to engage the heart, not just
appeal to the head.

5. What one thing do you want our readers to take away about the brave new world of content and storytelling?

That telling bigger, braver, bolder stories is scary. I understand that. I get it. Many of us work in an environment where we have to get 27 approvals just to change the color of a button on a landing page.

BUT: Change starts with us!

We have to push our clients and bosses to do more. We have to articulate why it matters. And we have to show results. That’s the only way better work is going to happen. And it’s the only way we can underscore our value.

A huge thanks to Ann for kicking off this series with us!

You can always find more from her at MarketingProfs, or chat her up about all things content marketing on Twitter

Do you know someone you'd love to see featured here? Tell us about it— it can even be you. 

About the Author

Sarah Parker

Sarah A. Parker is the Content Marketing Manager for Cision, planning, producing and curating content across channels. She previously managed content and social media for several different brands, in addition to working as a freelance writer. Find her on Twitter @SparkerWorks where she is happy to talk all things social media strategy, the dynamic world of PR, and mastiffs.

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