#ContentRising Day 2 Keynote: Ann Handley Reveals the Content Creation Secret Sauce
Storytelling Content Creation

#ContentRising Day 2 Keynote: Ann Handley Reveals the Content Creation Secret Sauce


What is the secret sauce in your content creation barbecue? Honey Dijon? Spicy buffalo? Bourbon whiskey?

Turns out it’s tone of voice.

The recipe for successful marketing is changing, and on Thursday morning of Content Rising Summit, keynote speaker Ann Handley, chief content officer at MarketingProfs, emphasized that voice matters in the mix.

Handley told the story of how Freaker USA, a North Carolina-based company that produces one-size-fits-all knit koozies, quickly became “the global leader of preventing moist handshakes and sweaty beverages.” How did the company do it? By developing its brand voice.

As Co-Founder of Freaker USA, Lauren Krakauskas said, “When you sell a product that most people get free at trade shows, your voice is the start of the thing that sets you apart.”

We live in a digitally noisy world, as Handley mentioned in her talk. Every day, 500 million Tweets are sent out, and we post 1.8 billion photos. And as Handley said, “Every day, 400 kajillion of us are crushing it with Candy Crush.” Fact.

Ann Handley, at Content Rising SummitContent creation is growing with enormous speed, and companies are catching on. According to a 2015 Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs study, which Handley referenced, 76 percent of B2C organizations are using content marketing, and 69 percent of B2C organizations are creating more content than a year ago. This is great. Yet only 37 percent of B2C organizations know their content is effective. Not so great.

Producing content that engages remains a challenge for many organizations. We must deliver a compelling brand voice for our audience on a consistent basis, and writing is at the heart of content creation. “Your brand voice is not what you say. It’s how you say it,” Handley said.

Ann Handley’s 5 steps for owning your brand voice


1. You do you: It’s not what you sell, it’s who you are

“This is really the fundamental of brand voice,” Handley said. “Think about who you are, and why you do what you do.” Handley encouraged everyone to play Mad Libs for their marketing and find three words that represent their brands.

2. Find your words

What tone are you going for? Accessible, helpful, supportive? Positive, irreverent, and geeky? “When you’re thinking through your three words, avoid words like cutting-edge, revolutionary, and proactive,” Handley said. “Because…just don’t.”

3. Reframe: Put your customer into it

She cited Tufts University Admissions as a department that nails brand voice in their communications with applicants: humorous, but helpful. “It takes a risk, but you get a sense of who these folks are.”

4. Do not dilute: Because no one likes diluted things

“If you covered up your logo, would you recognize you?” Handley asked. “Or would you sound like your competitors?”

5. Sweat the small stuff: FIWTSBS (Find interesting ways to say boring stuff)

About Us pages, landing pages, microcopy, Instagram, and FAQ sections are often drier than instant coffee. Start in these places to FIWTSBS. “We tend to think too narrowly about content—we think about our blogs and homepages, but it’s so much broader than that,” Handley said. “Everything the light touches is content,” she said, as she clicked to the next slide in her presentation, an image of Simba and Mufasa perching on a plateau and peering into the distance. “That’s a real quote from Lion King.”

The message that Handley served us today is that more content doesn’t translate to a more successful content strategy. Instead, we must focus on creating better content. “Content isn’t just a magnet, it’s a filter,” Handley said, quoting Doug Kessler, Creative Director & Co-founder of Velocity, a B2B marketing agency. “Let’s do this.”

For more information on Content Rising Summit, head over to our event website.

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