Real-World Education for Modern Marketers

Join Over 600,000 Marketing Professionals

Start here!
Text:  A A

10 Ground Rules for Content Marketers

by Ann Handley  |  
September 21, 2012

Marketing is a fun place to be these days, isn't it? New tools and new technologies and new platforms are giving businesses interesting opportunities to connect with customers in inherently more meaningful ways.

Of course, that's put new pressure on marketers and layered new requirements onto Marketing. Our newly social Web is requiring brands to bulk up their content creation muscles and inject themselves with a kind of social steroid.

It's not enough to simply be creating content—to be publishing blogs and newsletters, and producing webinars and podcasts. Instead, brands have to be consistently creating and sharing really great stuff—not just stuff that's merely good enough.

In content marketing these days, either you rock or you suck. This new era isn't about storytelling; it's about telling a true story well.

Brand Journalism on the Rise

Some companies are looking toward traditional journalism to fill the gaping content maw, hiring those trained in J-school tactics like reporting and storytelling as in-house "brand journalists."

A brand journalist or corporate reporter works inside the company, writing and producing videos, blog posts, photos, webinars, charts, graphs, e-books, podcasts, and other information that delivers value to your marketplace.

Such content creators will convey your company's true story in a compelling way by uncovering the stories about your brand and how your customers are using your products and services; narrating them in a human, accessible way; and sparking conversation about your company, customers, or employees.

Sign up for free to read the full article.Read the Full Article

Membership is required to access the full version of this how-to marketing article ... don't worry though, it's FREE!


We will never sell or rent your email address to anyone. We value your privacy. (We hate spam as much as you do.) See our privacy policy.

Sign in with one of your preferred accounts below:


Ann Handley is chief content officer of MarketingProfs, author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Ridiculously Good Content, and co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules. Ann co-founded, one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary.

Twitter: @MarketingProfs and @AnnHandley.

Rate this  

Overall rating

  • This has a 5 star rating
  • This has a 5 star rating
  • This has a 5 star rating
  • This has a 5 star rating
  • This has a 5 star rating
2 rating(s)

Add a Comment


  • by Celine Fri Sep 21, 2012 via web

    This is soooo true, Ann! :) Content marketing, to be effective, needs to be trustworthy. It would still boil down to ethical principles. A lot of online publishers (and even offline) tend to disregard proper citations these days. Plagiarism issues have plagued various parts of the world at that. Thus, it's just so appropriate to go back to the basics as we enter into this era where mostly everything can be shared, learned, and even "re-molded"...

  • by Ken ReCorr Fri Sep 21, 2012 via web


    This is a great post and couldn't come at a more timely moment. As journalism moves toward a different paradigm, companies providing goods and services are changing their approach as well and finally taking full advantage of the Internet as a marketing tool. It's not a one-way medium such as TV or radio, it's a medium for ongoing dialogue or a town hall -- just on a worldwide scale.

    Honesty, integrity, data, and source recognition are all keys to telling good, believable stories. When I was a working journalist these were the elements we used every day to create factual, compelling content. As marketers for brands, our adoption of these content creation guidelines should be obvious. Alas, not marketers are there yet, hence the need for this post.

    I applaud your efforts to spread the gospel of responsible and quality content creation and encourage other marketers and readers of this post to share ALL of these guidelines with anyone who is influential in the creation of brand marketing content. Thanks for your invaluable post.

    -Ken ReCorr
    Associate Director of Content Strategy
    Atmosphere Proximity, BBDO

  • by Michael Webster Fri Sep 21, 2012 via web

    Ann writes: "Marketers newly charged as creators of different kinds of content can learn a lot from the world of journalism. It's not enough for brands to think like a publisher. You also need to act like one. "

    Publishers have a distribution strategy, which is independent of the quality of the content they are distributing. Be interested to hear about your thoughts on distribution as opposed to content.

    "If content is king, the size of the kingdom is determined by distribution"

  • by Ann Handley Fri Sep 21, 2012 via web

    Thanks, Ken and Celine. Appreciate your comments. In an era where everyone is a publisher, I think we all need to be aware of the fundamentals of good content -- not just from an ethics perspective either, but also because those fundamentals are also the foundation for good content, period.

  • by Ann Handley Fri Sep 21, 2012 via web

    Hi Michael -- It's true: Just as publishers know how to create good content, they also know how to distribute that content. That topic is a little outside of this article's focus -- I could write another whole piece on using social media tools to amplify your content efforts!

    (As an aside, though: Some newspapers and magazines have done a great job embracing social tools for distribution -- but I can't say that, across the board, brands have a ton to learn from traditional journalism. Seems to me that many traditional publishers haven't embraced newer tools to connect with audiences. At least, from where I sit.)

  • by Steven Wardell Fri Sep 21, 2012 via web

    I agree but we live in a world of re-mixes, homages, mash-ups, riffs, parodies, and memes. How do you distinguish between whether someone just copied you while changing some things versus someone who has turned your original content into a meme?

  • by Michael Webster Fri Sep 21, 2012 via web

    @Ann, Looking forward to another article about online distribution and amplification! I do agree with you that this one area in which online creators of content need not look to traditional publishers for expertise.

  • by Ann Handley Fri Sep 21, 2012 via web

    Steven: I guess my answer would be a little like the famed Justice Stewart definition of pornography: I know it when I see it.

    That said, I think a meme is one thing -- like our riff on McKayla Is Not Impressed:

    ... while a plagiarism is another thing entirely. My feeling is this: If your content is inspired by someone else's, on any level? Say so. It never hurts to say thank you.

  • by Andrea Sun Sep 23, 2012 via web

    I really appreciate what was shared in this post. Thanks for sharing, I agree with the 10 rules for sure and it has offered me a lot of good advice as a newcomer to blogging and online marketing.

  • by Nick Stamoulis Mon Sep 24, 2012 via web

    "Give credit where credit is due"

    I don't understand why you wouldn't want to mention the inspiration/source for your own content. When I come across a particularly compelling blog post that I feel is great for my own audience, I happily quote and then expand upon it with my own blog. But I always link back to the original source. Even if you don't mean to come across as such, you never want to give anyone a reason to accuse you of stealing content.

  • by Ann Handley Mon Sep 24, 2012 via web

    Thanks, Andrea.

    Nick: Couldn't agree more.

  • by Hunter Boyle Mon Sep 24, 2012 via web

    Great list. I hope brand journalists and traditional journalists alike make every effort to play by these rules.

    Advances in publishing, and the accompanying pressures on timing, have made it much easier for the standards to slip on both sides. Like a recent episode of "The Newsroom" showed, it really is much more important to get the story right then get it out first. Taking that little bit of extra time and steps like those above can save a lot of errors and embarrassment -- plus it benefits your audience immensely.

    Thanks for an excellent post. I'll be sharing this one far and wide. Cheers!

MarketingProfs uses single
sign-on with Facebook, Twitter, Google and others to make subscribing and signing in easier for you. That's it, and nothing more! Rest assured that MarketingProfs: Your data is secure with MarketingProfs SocialSafe!