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Ann Handley shares 3 pandemic-inspired content marketing principles designed to last

If you’re like most marketers, you’ve been furiously searching for the 2020 unsubscribe button. Up is down, down is up and even some of the brightest marketers are struggling to figure out how to adapt to our new world.

But out of this struggle have come some incredibly valuable lessons in perspective, connection and authenticity. And who better to share these content lessons than the Queen of Content, Co-Founder and Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs herself, Ann Handley.

Ann recently took the virtual stage at Content Marketing World to share her perspective on what the pandemic has taught us about content marketing and the ways we need to adapt now and in the long-term to better service our audiences.

So the only question is, are you ready to embrace change and adjust your thinking to create a better experience for your customers?

3 snackable pandemic-inspired content marketing principles designed to last

#1 – The toilet paper principle

[bctt tweet=”“Any short-term action must have a sustainably positive long-term result.” @marketingprofs #contentmarketing”]

At the start of the pandemic Google searches for “toilet paper” reached an all-time high.

This mad scramble led to a mad purchasing rush, and then an inevitable shortage. It wasn’t a supply chain issue; it was the panic-buying that led to the shortage.

Our takeaway: Don’t be shortsighted with your content marketing efforts. It’s true that the last year has shone a light on the importance of meeting customers where they are at, but not at the cost of losing sight of their long-term goals and needs that you can still support now.

#2 – The zoom mullet paradox

[bctt tweet=”“A Zoom Mullet is when your business looks one way from one perspective, and a totally different way from another perspective.” @marketingprofs “]

Now more than ever, it’s critical that brands get a cohesive experience across channels when engaging with your brand.

The work from home culture has impacted everyone. Personally, I sometimes struggle to put together a full outfit when leaving the house. Leggings as pants have become a VERY real thing. Or in Ann’s case, crazy shorts.

Our takeaway: Always present a consistent and authentic view of your brand, your practices and your approach from all angles. Those that fail to create consistency will lose trust with their audience. On the other hand, those that make the effort to create a great experience across channels will develop deeper trust with their audience.

#3 – The code of sourdough

[bctt tweet=”“Community matters now more than ever and deepening relationships with each other and with our customers is key to success.” @marketingprofs “]

2020 saw a rise in the art of breadmaking. Specifically, sourdough. And because everyone had found this new passion, yeast began flying off the shelves. So, to make sure that no one went without, many shops and individuals started selling or giving away free sourdough starters locally and even nationally.

So, in a time when many marketers are still focused solely on content distribution, others are taking this opportunity to really connect on a deeper level.

Our takeaway: Especially in uncertain times like the ones we’re living in right now, the more we as marketers can actually connect on a 1:1 basis with our audience, the more successful we’ll be. Speaking of which, if you haven’t already, sign up for Ann’s bi-weekly newsletter. She does a fantastic job of making you feel like the content was written just for you. And, she actually responds to people who reach out and share feedback about her content. 

Bonus: 3 exclusive marketing insights from Ann

As an added bonus for our readers, we were able to snag some exclusive insights from Ann on everything from what’s made or broken content marketers in 2020, the biggest challenge marketers will face in 2021 and her biggest piece of advice for her past self.

What have you seen make or break content marketers in 2020?

Covid broke us all, in a way. But I also believe it underscored the critical role content plays in every single organization. And it reminded us that all of the capabilities and attributes of good content were never more needed than they have been in 2020. And by that, I mean honest empathy, clear communication, an ability to step inside the shoes (and socks) of your customers and see and respond to new realities from their point of view.

What is ACTUALLY going to be the biggest challenge that marketers face in 2020?

1. Staying creative when every day is the same and kids and spouses are underfoot and what’s a weekend…? Marketing is about perspective. And that’s hard to get right now.

2. Nurturing important connections with others (internally, externally). Marketing is a relationship game.

3. Wearing pants is going to feel punitive. Like we’ve sentenced our legs to Leg Prison.

4. I personally will find it hard to resume the grind of travel. In 2021. Or ever. I mean, I know you said “the biggest challenge marketers will face” and not “Ann will face.” But now I’m on a roll.

5. And finally: When kids go back to school and activities resume and we have busy, robust social lives again… which might happen in 2021 (?), it’ll be a challenge to not spend as much time with our families. In a weird way, I think we’ll miss these days when we all were at home together.

What advice would you give your past self when you were just starting your career in content marketing?

Two things. Both critical.

1. Poke your nose out.

I waited too long to…

– Speak up

– Write a book

– Step on stage

– Slide into the spotlight and not shrink

– Not give an eff whether I was experienced enough, good enough, smart enough, etc etc etc. You don’t need permission. No one does.

– Understand that the more “you” you are… the more others relate.

2. Assemble your people. Treasure & love them like family. Give to them generously.

They don’t need to be the same age, sex, nationality… or anything like you at all — in fact, it’s better if they’re not. But you should trust them and share similar values.

It took me a long time to realize how important it is to be part of a professional* community of people from all walks of life.

* It’s weird writing the word “professional” there… like I’m typing this inside a soulless boardroom and my “professional” friends aren’t actual friends? That’s BS. They are. But I’m using “profesh” here to differentiate between physical community (where you live) and metaphorical community (where you thrive).

Craving more?

These three principles from Ann only scratch the surface of her perspective on creating content that lasts. If you’re interested in learning more about all five principles, plus how Ann became an accidental dog thief in the midst of a pandemic, you can find her at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum this week.

And, if you’re looking to get more great content on all things digital marketing and PR, be sure to subscribe to our blog for insights.


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