Ann Handley’s Bigger, Braver, Bolder Thoughts

A few tips from the chief content officer of Marketing Profs.

Here’s a content marketing keynote speech to get your attention: mention beer, cockles and Cialis.

That’s how Ann Handley, chief content officer for Marketing Profs and author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide for Creating Ridiculously Good Content, kicked off the High Five Conference in Raleigh.

Her talk didn’t venture into the risqué category; rather, she was describing examples of content that fit her motto of “Bigger, Braver, Bolder” – telling a bigger story, being braver with your message and delivery, and creating a bolder perspective with a bolder tone of voice.

Don’t play it too safe

Handley was straightforward and to the point: “The biggest mistake in content marketing is playing it too safe.” She spoke of how to create marketing that doesn’t feel like marketing, which she said is the biggest missed opportunity out there. By sharing examples (check out her blog post to see her examples and reasons) that lived up to these standards, she showed how creators can do this for their own content, too.

Use a braver voice

Throughout the talk, she challenged content marketers to create content that was so distinctive in style and tone that people “would recognize it if the label fell off.” Handley also gave a valuable reminder that companies don’t want to attract all potential customers with their content, but want to attract the right customers – the ones who are likely to buy their products and services. She said by using a distinctive and brave brand voice, you can attract the “like-minded” and “repel the timid.” This helps you stand out from the noisy world of content as well as fills your sales funnel with quality leads.

Find your big story

One of her big themes is if you create the same type of content as everyone else, you aren’t going to see the results you want.

Handley said to think about your company’s big story and put the product in the context of what people care about. It’s taking the old platitude of knowing your audience to a deeper level and providing content that makes them feel smarter and feel a part of something. Once you do this, Handley said, you can use that story to convert people to your squad.

If you feel overwhelmed by this recipe for success, you aren’t the only one. But Handley said creating content that makes an impact takes “brains, hearts and guts.” She also dispelled the commonly held myth that only brands with big budgets can generate great content. “Engaging content is more about brains than budget,” she says.

Make a difference

You know endless blog posts about “7 Ways to Do Something That’s Already Been Written about a Million Times?” Handley’s address makes you want to take a look at what you’ve done, go back to the office, and create content that makes a difference to readers.

There is something about Handley that inspires each person to feel he or she has the power to change the world through content marketing. Thank you, Ann Handley.

Author Jennifer Goforth Gregory

Jennifer Gregory has over 20 years of professional writing experience. She specializes in content marketing in the big data, technology, mobile, finance and hospitality fields. Her work has been published in Entrepreneur,, FOX Business, MSN Money, American Express OPENForum and dozens of regional magazines. She is also on the Board of Directors of American Society of Journalists and Authors.

More posts by Jennifer Goforth Gregory

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