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[Review] Content Rules

Content Rules book

Content is king! Content rules!

Yeah, we know that already. Thanks to the burgeoning growth of content marketing – the new “silver bullet” in a marketer’s arsenal – everybody is hopping onto the content marketing bandwagon.

However, how do we tap this rising trend? More specifically, what should you do to “create killer blogs, podcasts, videos, e-books, webinars (and more) that engage customers and ignite your business”?

Enter “Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business” by content and social media marketing savants Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman. Part of the New Rules of Social Media edited by legendary David Meerman Scott, “Content Rules teaches you how to create compelling online content that attracts customers, build communities, generates leads, and grows businesses.

The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 focuses on the Content Rules themselves, part 2 covers a “How-To” section, while part 3 narrates successful case studies of organisations which have successfully embraced content marketing. They include the U.S. Army, HubSpot, Boeing and PinkStinks.

The 11 Content Rules.

So what exactly are these cardinal rules? Let me highlight each in turn:

  1. Embrace Being a Publisher  In the social and digital age, the barriers of entry to publishing has been obliterated. We can now reach our potential buyers directly by publishing via blogs, videos, podcasts, forums, and social networks with relatively little cost.
  2. Insight Inspires Originality  Dig deep to create your brand story, give voice to your unique point of view, and know your customers. What keeps them up at night? What do they truly care about?
  3. Build Momentum  Be clear on what your objectives are. Good content always has an intent and a trigger or call for action.
  4. Speak Human  Do not write like a cold, bloodless machine. Instead, communicate your brand story, values, and mission in the language of your customer. Write like how you speak, with personality, empathy and emotion.
  5. Reimagine: Don’t Recycle  Create core pillars of content at its inception that can be reimagined into various platforms and formats. For example, an e-Book can be remodeled into blog posts, podcast episodes, videos, infographics and more.
  6. Share or Solve; Don’t Shill  This is an absolute truth. Good content creates value by sharing a resource, solving a problem, or helping your customers to do their jobs better, improve their lives, or make them better in whatever ways possible.
  7. Show; Don’t Just Tell  Avoid preaching or hardselling. Rather, demonstrate through case studies or client stories how your products and services help your customers. “Good content is not about storytelling; it’s about telling a true story well.”
  8. Do Something Unexpected  Yes, there’s no business like show business. Surprise and entertainment helps drive viral sharing while building your company’s personality. this is especially true for B2B companies.
  9. Stoke the Campfire  Good content does not exist in a vacuum. Instead, it is used to spark interaction, conversation and engagement between you and your customers in the social sphere.
  10. Create Wings and Roots  Ground your content in your own point of view, but ensure that it is findable (tap Search Engine Optimisation or SEO to boost search rankings), accessible (mobile friendly), and shareable on social networks. You should also set up a listening dashboard and respond quickly and sincerely to your community.
  11. Play to Your Strengths  Finally, leverage on what you are strong at rather than aim to create everything and publish everywhere.

The Nuts and Bolts of Content Creation.

From blogs, webinars, white papers and e-Books to FAQs, case studies, photos and videos, the second part of the book highlights the dos and don’ts for each content class. Some of the practical and useful tips which you can use include the following:

  1. A blog post template that you can instantly adopt.
  2. Guidelines to organising “awesome webinars” that help generate customer leads.
  3. Understanding the differences and similarities between white papers and e-books.
  4. Creating customer success stories.
  5. Crafting impactful and sales-oriented FAQs.
  6. Developing a content editorial calendar, complete with suggested frequencies of different content formats and types.

As a bonus to readers (and you too, as my book review reader), you can download a convenient 12-point content rules checklist here.

Learning from Customer Stories.

My favourite section of the book is probably the third one focusing on customer success stories. Here, we uncover how different companies navigate their own content marketing journeys and learn from both their successes and failures.
Do you know that Indium – a supplier of industrial alloys and solders used in electronics – has 73 highly specialised blogs aimed at specific SEO keywords?
Or that the US Army allows servicemen and women to blog freely (subject to security conditions) from the front lines of war zones like Iraq or Afghanistan?
Insights from these companies and more help flesh out the frameworks presented in the book. The authors also encourage us to “steal ideas” from these case studies and apply them in our own organisations.

A Bible for Content Marketers.

Minimising the rhetoric commonly found in other social media or content marketing titles, Content Rules dives deeply into the hands-on action of creating great content. I like how the authors weave numerous examples, hints, and case studies into each chapter of the book. These help to “show and not just tell” how content can be created.

The best thing about the book, however, is its emphasis on how B2B companies can take advantage of content marketing. In fact, an entire chapter is dedicated to providing steps which B2B companies can use to develop their content strategy. There is a tremendous amount of potential for B2B companies to ride on the content wave, and books like Content Rules certainly help to guide them along.

For more information, check out the Content Rules website. Highly recommended!


Walter is a seasoned marketer and publicist with almost 19 years of experience in marketing, communications, social media engagement, events management, strategic planning and corporate development. A judge of the Singapore Blog Awards, he blogs at Cooler Insights.

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