I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely Ann Handley. You may know of Ann from her seminal book Content Rules (written with C.C. Chapman), or as the Chief Content Officer and face of MarketingProfs.
Content Rules was the very first book I recall finishing and then starting again in the same sitting. I literally finished the last page, turned back to the first, and started reading again. It’s that good. Ann’s also just released a new book, Everybody Writes, which is a must-read for marketers of all persuasions (yes, even the nice ones).
I’ve known Ann through different events over the years, but really enjoyed the opportunity to sit down with her to record a podcast (part of my series The Pivot on the CMI network) and find out more about what makes such an outstanding content marketer tick.
Q. We can see your LinkedIn profile and know the external milestones in your life, but tell us something people don’t know about you.
Let’s see. What do people not know about me? One, I’m obsessed with dogs. Two, the only time I truly relax, aside from sleeping, is when I go for a walk every day. If I don’t get a walk in, I’m just so tense that I can’t get anything done. I definitely need a walk to unwind. It’s the only way I can unplug truly, aside from being asleep. The third thing would be that I built a tiny house in my backyard as a place to work, technically not ahouse, technically a shed, so it’s more of a work shed/shed working space.
Q. The tiny house is a work space?
Yes, it’s my work space. It’s in a corner of my yard, in my backyard. I can walk there in about 30 seconds from my house. I work there pretty much every day. Even though it’s 30 seconds away, it’s also a world away. I’ve worked out of my house for a really long time since I sold my last company in 2000, so 14 years of working out of the house. Suddenly, I realised it would be really great to have an office someplace, but I couldn’t quite stomach the idea of renting space anywhere partly because I love the freedom and flexibility of working out of my own house. I travel a lot and it’s nice to be there when the kids come home from school, for example, that kind of thing. At the same time, just having a place that’s physically removed from the house, it does feel a little bit like … This is going to sound goofy, but a sacred space. It feels like this is a place where it’s almost rarefied air that I can get things done. I’m incredibly focused there. I think everybody needs a tiny house.
Q. Tell me, with the first book, what impact did that have on your professional life?
It was huge actually, it was really huge. I’d always been aligned with content. I was the world’s first Chief Content Officer (CCO), so let’s start there. I was the first person to hold the title, as far as I know. No one’s stepped out and said they had it before I did. It was tremendous. It legitimised me in a lot of ways. It put me on the map. All the things that people say books do, books absolutely do. It was a lot of work but it was ultimately really worth it.
Q. Tell me about growing up…
I grew up in a family of four. I was the youngest by far. My siblings are significantly older than I am, so while I grew up the youngest of four children, it was really as an only child. By the time I was five or six years old, my two sisters were married. By the time I was in grade school, my brother was off to college. In a lot of ways I was an only child, and it did two things. First of all, it made me incredibly sensitive because my siblings were merciless…
Download the full interview to read more:
Ann shares her thoughts on growing up, journalism, writing books, starting a business, finding her voice and so much more – download the full interview here: