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'What I'm Thankful For': 45 Friends Weigh In

by Ann Handley  |  
November 23, 2011

What are you most grateful for in 2011? That's the question I asked a bunch of friends, colleagues and one wubby (work hubby) last week.

They are the people I've been grateful for this past year. They enriched my life in some way. They made me laugh. Or maybe we talked or we worked together or we had dinner or I wish I saw more of them or I got to know them on social channels and I decided I liked them (and I'm a notorious people-hater.) (I'm kidding about the hating part.) Anyway—suffice it to say, it runs the gamut.

This would probably be a good time to mention that this list is far from exhaustive: In addition to the folks here, I'm also thankful for the awesome collection of individuals who make up the MarketingProfs family, as well as for my own actual family. I'm also grateful for all of you who bother to swing by here and read MarketingProfs every day. To me, business—and life, for that matter—is all about relationships.

These are all people I'd put in the general category of People Who've Made a Difference in My Life of Late (working title), which includes a shout out to the people below. (And Tina Fey. But I can't find her email address. Working on that.)

So I am grateful for all of these people. And I asked the same question of them. Here are their answers, in no particular order.*

(*I'm lying. Actually, it's in the order they responded to me.)

[caption id="attachment_30472" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Ready for the sharks..."][/caption]

C.C. Chapman,

“I'm thankful for you becoming such a huge part of my life and asking me to write Content Rules with you. (And I really want to see you swim with the sharks.)"

Aaron Strout, head of location-based marketing at WCG

“My list would include WCG—the agency I work for (and love), the book that I co-authored with @schneidermike, Instagram (this feels like my new baby). And all the REAL friends I've deepened relationships with this year—including you, Ann!”

Steve Garfield, videoblogger and photographer

“I'm thankful for the ambient intimacy that Instagram enables. It was fun to go to Paris this year and have you in my pocket, liking my photos along the the way.”

David Meerman Scott, online marketing strategist

“I am given the gift of an audience to deliver a talk to somewhere in the world nearly every week. Being able to help others achieve their goals and dreams through my writing and speaking is an honor. I am so thankful that I have been able to build a career doing what I love.”

Steve Woodruff, President, Impactiviti

“I am thankful, above lots of other things, for this.”

Ardath Albee, CEO, Marketing Interactions

“I’m grateful that I have a new concept for a book. I’m thankful that I have wonderful clients unafraid of embracing the new and sometimes crazy-sounding approaches that take them out of their comfort zones. And, my husband cooks! Really well.”

Bob Knorpp, CEO, Cool Beans Group

“As always I'm thankful for people—C.C. and you for chapter 20, Joe Jaffe for his counsel, Bill Green for his advice, Angela Natividad for being someone I can trust with anything, Trace Rutland for her help through a tough year, Alison Gianotto for prodding me to be a better person, Erica Mayer for her inspiration, Kimmy MacDaniel for being a real friend and Judy McCord for teaching me to laugh again.”

Jason Falls, CEO,

“I'm thankful for great friends (like Ann Handley) who not only ask me to help them with their business, but are willing to help me with mine. And while that has a definitive professional angle, it's just nice to know that the relationships I've worked on building over the years can be both personally and professionally satisfying. It's what networking is all about. It's pretty special when it works.”

Brian Solis,

“I'm thankful for a vibrant and genuine community of smart and engaged people who inspire me to think and act outside of my comfort zone… each and every day. I'm also thankful for events like SXSW, Blogworld, Pivot, and all of the other conferences where everyone comes together, giving me the opportunity to deliver great big hugs as tangible ‘thank you's.’”

Geoff Livingston,

“I was honored to organize and manage Give to the Max Day in Greater Washington, an online giving day that raised $2 million for 1,200 nonprofits from almost 18,000 donors. A pinnacle moment for me professionally and spiritually. What a gift!”

[caption id="attachment_30469" align="alignleft" width="284" caption="Constant reminder"][/caption]

Scott Stratten, Unmarketing

“Two great new headshots. I got to go to India to see Gandhi’s final resting place, which inspired my tattoo (it was the quote hanging over his death bed).  I got to speak at the same conference as you. :) And I no longer do client work—it’s 100% speaking gigs. Booya!

Cam Balzer, Chief Marketing Officer, Threadless

“I continue to be super grateful every day to be helping artists, designers and doodlers the world over get their weird and wonderful art seen and worn by thousands of people. As a marketer, the most you can ask for is mind-blowing products that do most of the marketing themselves. Being handed those products on a daily basis by our community is pretty humbling and inspiring. We call that ‘Make Great Together!’”

Michael Stelzner, CEO, Social Media Examiner

"I am thankful for Ann Handley. She let me speak at a MarketingProfs conference back in October of 2009. That was the start of Social Media Examiner and 2011 has been our best year ever. Thanks Ann! :)"

Jay Baer, President, Convince & Convert

"I am thankful for everyone that chooses—from within a bouillabaisse of content—to read, watch, or listen to a single word I have to say. I am even more thankful that after a verifiably crazy year of travel, effort, and brand-building, I still (evidently) possess the affections of my family, who make it all possible and for whom I started down this path."

[caption id="attachment_30467" align="alignright" width="512" caption="Becky Dilworth (R)"][/caption]

Becky Dilworth, VP of
Digital Strategy,
Bridgeline Digital

"My husband. Why? Because while I was traveling the nation with you (and others) he was doing kindergarten math problems and reading Junie B. Jones books and playing peek-a-boo and changing diapers and trying his damnedest to do his art. And every time I came home he never looked at me with jealousy or contempt. Just joy. My new glasses. Originally I thought they were making me shorter. Turns out I can just see the ground better. A new friend. (You.)"

Mitch Joel, CEO, Twist Image

"I'm thankful for being here. Not to be all doom and gloom, but wars, strife, Occupy Wall Street, Arab Spring, the death of people like Steve Jobs… hey, I'm in Marketing and it's fun. It's always fun (even when it's not so fun ;). Being here: happy and healthy with great family and friends is what makes me thankful and keeps me grounded."

Kipp Bodnar, Inbound Marketer, Hubspot

"So much to be thankful for in 2011, it rocked. 1. Marketing Sucking Less - Marketers everywhere made huge progress in 2011. 2. The B2B Social Media Book (Wiley 2011) - HUGE thanks to Ann for writing the forward! 3. Intstagram. Seriously, before Instagram my photos sucked."

Jeanne Hopkins, Director of Marketing, Hubspot

"What I am thankful for: Breathing. Being Happy. Being Loved. Being Liked. Working @HubSpot. Having a great boss like Mike Volpe. Writing a book (Go Mobile) with Jamie Turner. But, most of all being part of a family with twin 13-year-old daughters that are fun to be with and still like to be with their parents."

Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl

"I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to write four books this year to launch my new 101 WORDS book series, and I'm also grateful that I'm finished writing them. I'll never agree to write four books in one year again!"

Tamsen McMahon, Personal Cartography

"Not to be too cryptic about it, but this year I'm thankful for courage—the courage to believe in the rationality of the outwardly irrational, in the value of happiness, in the promise of love, and in the reward for pursuing what's right for me and those I love."

Doug Haslam, Client Services Supervisor, Voce Communications

"I am thankful for the outpouring of friendship from people (you included) after my father's passing, as well as the 130+ people who donated to my Pan-Mas Challenge ride to help fight cancer. And I don't have Tina Fey's email."

Stephanie Tilton, TenTon Marketing

"Thank goodness for family, friends, and colleagues who inspire me to aim higher, remind me to keep things in perspective, and help me savor life's unforgettable moments. And I'm so grateful to have spent precious time with our little pug, Munchkin, who left this world far too soon (rest in peace, Munchkin)."

Joe Chernov, Vice President of Content Marketing, Eloqua

"I am grateful that I completed the migration of my frontal lobe to Evernote. I have permanently shifted my long-term memory to the cloud. Here's to remembering the password. I am also thankful for the 'Private Session' setting in Spotify. All of my Facebook friends don't need to know how much I like Miranda Lambert. Oops!"

Michael Stoner, President, mStoner

"Business: This year, we celebrated a decade in business and hired some terrific staff members. I'm thrilled about two of them in particular: our new marketing manager, Mallory Wood, and our new senior strategist, Susan Evans. They bring new insights and energy to mStoner. Personal: I'm ever more grateful for the community in which I live and the people who make it up. There were some new developments this year (a new coffee shop) that only enhance life and even the destruction from Hurricane Irene pointed out how remarkably people pull together to help each other. It's a wonderful, rich place to live."

Maria Pergolino, Director of Marketing, Marketo

"I am thankful to be a marketer in a time when we can accurately prove and predict our impact on revenue. I’m also thankful for all the cool ideas and support from my coworkers, for the ability to work with our Marketo customers, that my boyfriend puts up with my crazy schedule, and for my Monster Beats headphones."

[caption id="attachment_30466" align="alignleft" width="477" caption="Jason Falls, Ann Handley, Nick Westergaard"][/caption]

Nick Westergaard,

"Finding time, while running our small brand strategy firm, to blog and speak more. I started the year with a 52-post resolution (1 post/week) and—knock wood—I am on my way to making that happen. I've also been blessed with more time to speak as well. All of this takes time and that's a challenge with a small business and a big family. I'm grateful that we've grown our team so that I can do more of this. That's helped me make more time for blogging and speaking, which have been very rewarding. Goal for 2012? Submit something to MarketingProfs :)"

Scott Brinker, President & CTO, ion interactive, inc.

"I'm grateful for the amazing product development team that has come together here at ion interactive this year, and the exciting growth we've had with our landing page management platform, LiveBall. I'm also thankful for the doubling of traffic at my blog, Chief Marketing Technologist. And, of course, a humble thank you to MarketingProfs for the opportunity to contribute articles, seminars, podcast interviews and event sessions this past year."

Lou Imbriano, Chief Executive Officer, TrinityOne Sports

"I am so grateful for all the wonderful support and kindness I have witnessed and received during the launch of Winning the Customer. It has been humbling to experience the number of folks, that I have never met in person and only through social media, that have come to my side to spread the word about the book in various forms. I just think it is amazing that they insisted in making sure I didn’t stand alone. Thank you all."

[caption id="attachment_30471" align="alignleft" width="100" caption="Ron Ploof"][/caption]

Ron Ploof, RonAmok

"I'm thankful that we finally, after more than three-score years, got to work together. And I must say that... ahem... we were great! :-)"

Deb Ng, Conference Director, BlogWorld and New Media Expo

"I'm grateful to work at a job that not only enables me to be a part of the best gosh darned team out there but one that offers me the opportunity to interact with the most incredible community of creative people. That I was also able to write and have published my first book (and sign the contract for book #2) is the gravy on the proverbial potatoes. 2011 was, without a doubt, the most important year of my career. Finally, the above wouldn't mean a darn thing if it wasn't for the love and support of my family and friends, and that love and support trumps everything else."

Mack Collier,

"I am grateful for good friends like you, and making tighter connections with a small circle of friends in 2011 versus trying to reach everyone on a very platonic level. In 2012 I am going to spend even more time making deeper connections in a small pool rather than trying to follow everyone loosely in a big ocean."

Jeffrey Rohrs, VP of Marketing, ExactTarget

"I’m thankful for my wife and kids who are a constant source of love, inspiration, and entertainment. I’m also thankful for friends at work, home, and on the road who prove time and time again that the best form of social media is the face-to-face conversation (usually over drinks)."

Tom Martin, Founder, Converse Digital

[caption id="attachment_30509" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Same shirt, same day: Mack Collier & Tom Martin"][/caption]

"TalkingWithTom—what started as a lark just to see if I could, turned out to be the opportunity of a lifetime. I got to meet folks that I'd never have met otherwise, some of whom have turned into friends or at least colleagues. I also got to strengthen relationships with so many others, like the social media sex symbol Ann Handley, because of the interviews or just the seeing each other so more often at conferences. Truly one of the best things I've ever dreamt up. So grateful that I did it vs. telling myself all the reasons I should do it."

Tim Washer, Senior Marketing Manager, Cisco Systems

"I’m grateful for a few comedy gigs: a Super Bowl commercial, Onion Sports Network spot, and a corporate event in Napa Valley."

C.B. Whittemore, Simple Marketing Now

"I am grateful for the kinship you make possible for so many through MarketingProfs and, more importantly, through you. You are an enabler of ideas and the beauty of magnificent content. Thank you for enabling brilliant yet practical ideas."

Valeria Maltoni, Valeria Maltoni

"2011 kicked my butt (if I can say so in your post). I'm very grateful to have had the opportunity to confront my enemy, Resistance. The year I had to come out from behind myself and do the real work that is my calling and contribution to the world: a new model for thinking about business. I started Conversation Agent the blog 5+ years ago, and Conversation Agent, the LLC, 3 years ago. This is the year I committed to the task."

Nancy Duarte, Principal, Duarte Design

[caption id="attachment_30512" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Nancy Duarte at the B2B Forum"][/caption]

"Here's my ditty on 2011: To borrow from Dickens, 2011 was the best of times, it was the worst of times. My husband Mark has been great about getting his 'old man appointments' done each year and we were stunned when in June he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and #cancersucks. It’s a creepy feeling hearing the C word when diagnosed in someone you love. Hubby caught it early but it was growing very fast. We’re thankful for a skilled doctor, thankful for cool technology advancements, and for early diagnosis. Mark has been blessed with a full recovery but if we’d missed the diagnosis by even four months, the outcome would be very different. We feel like we’ve had a miracle! On August 1, we celebrated our 30 year wedding anniversary keenly aware of how fragile life is and how deep the vow was we made to love in sickness and in health."

Sally Hogshead,

"This year I got married, moved into a new home, and gave birth to a website at I'm grateful for my cocktail mix of caffeine and endorphins."

Shashi Bellamkonda,

"In 2011 what a year ! Started off in January with my keynote for the Washington Women in PR. The year where many of my friends wrote books (Content Rules included) that I delightedly reviewed. Network Solutions Social Media and I were featured in over nine books. My daughter Mitali started following her footsteps and started blogging on the KikScore blog. Not be left behind, my son's artwork at home worked its way into Becky McCray's blog. Of course the highlight was meeting Ann Handley and CC Chapman at Content Marketing World."

Joe Pulizzi, CEO, Content Marketing Institute

"I'm thankful that: After more than a decade, I'm now seeing marketing departments seriously transform themselves into storytelling factories. The future is now. Content Marketing World rocked the house in 2011, and coming back for more in 2012. Robert Rose helped me put together our new book, Managing Content Marketing, which is, perhaps, the first that tells marketing professionals how to start to set up a content marketing practice within the organization."

DJ Waldow, Waldow Social

"Starting my own company, Waldow Social. I've always wanted to own my own company. Thanks to a phone call on July 1st, I finally got the kick that I needed to make this happen.  I'm also grateful for my new headshot."

Marcus Nelson, Director of Social Media, Salesforce

"I am grateful for 13 years of marriage, two amazingly creative kids, a baby on the way, and a new home. Also blessed to be working with some of the smartest people in the industry doing a job I take great pride in."

Jeffrey Cohen, B2B Social Media

"Super-excited for my job as social strategist at Radian6 that I started in 2011. Also pretty psyched about the book that Kipp Bodnar and I wrote about B2B social media."

Tim Hayden, Chief Marketing Officer, 44Doors

"I've been blessed with the birth of Graeme Russell Hayden, my first, on July 10. And, of lesser incredible excitement, the birth of 44Doors, my fourth start-up and the technological realization of all my live-mobile-online visions."

Dylan Boyd, VP of Growth, Urban Airship

"Very grateful for moving into a new job from email/agency to mobile. Back into the start-up world and loving every minute of the hustle and growth. Amazing to live in dog years and watched our business grow from 6,000 apps to over 31,000 apps using us in less than 10 months. Wild. Excited for 2012 and a vacation soon."

Erika Napoletano, Chief Redhead, Redhead Writing

"I wake up every day thankful for the people in my life—digitally and physically. They're the ones who make it possible for me to do what I love every day and remind me that it's never about me. I'm so incredibly grateful for the constant reminder that it's rarely EVER about me. My first two books which come out in February and March."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In addition to those listed above, a special Thanksgiving thank-you to people who have inspired me this past year: Lee Odden, Christina CK Kerley, Chris Baggott, Kristina HalvorsonAmber Naslund, Tom Fishburne, Mike Hayes, Jeremiah Owyang, Matt Ridings, David Armano, Scott Monty, David B. Thomas, Brian Kardon, Shannon Vargo, John Jantsch, Todd Defren, Brian Clark, Michael Brito, Guy Kawasaki and (last but not least) Leigh Durst.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

So how about you...? What are you grateful for?

Homepage image courtesy of BigStock, Happy Child

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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.

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  • by Wubby Wed Nov 23, 2011 via blog

    Such a beautiful post and I could never ask for a better book wife (we really need a cute nickname that we can say in public) than you.

    Hope you and the whole family have a festive,filling and awesome Thanksgiving.

    Your Wubby

  • by Steve Woodruff Wed Nov 23, 2011 via blog

    And, of course, every year that I get to hang out (even for just a little bit) with the Quintessential Queen of Content, Ann Handley, is a further cause for thanksgiving!

  • by Shashi Bellamkonda (@shashib) Wed Nov 23, 2011 via blog

    Hi Ann,

    Thank you very much for asking me to contribute to your list. A very unscientific glance at what the contributors are saying brings up the words " Family, friends, co-workers, clients, customers" very powerfully to the top as it should this Thanksgiving season. Thank you for the great content and advice that Marketing profs puts out and thank you for being an awesome part of the community.

    Happy Holidays!


  • by Aaron Strout Wed Nov 23, 2011 via blog

    Ann - you complete me. ;)

    In all seriousness, thank you for asking me to take part in this seriously awesome post. I'm in some fantastic company (many of whom I too consider friends and am thankful for). Hope you have a spectacular Thanksgiving. You deserve it!


  • by Amber Naslund Wed Nov 23, 2011 via blog

    Figures that I'm the jackhole that didn't remember to respond to your email. But I love you dearly. You're one of those people that I just instantly feel fits in my crazy world (which is a compliment, truly). Thanks for being who you are, for always finding a laugh, for stringing together words in the most eloquent way that you do, and for being the kind of friend that most of us wish for but so very rarely find. You're a gem, Ann Handley. Happy Holidays. :)

  • by Leigh Durst Wed Nov 23, 2011 via blog

    Annie -- sorry I didn't get back to you! I was traveling and had a week of client offsites. Here's my ditty!

    First of all, I'm thankful for freedom. I'm thankful I live in a country that gives me the ability to pursue my dreams, work independently, serve my family, friends and clients as my own heart, religion and morals dictate. I'm thankful that the same freedom enabled us to relocate from the chilly mid west to our new home in California, where the sun shines, and the seals, sea lions, otters and dolphins and even whales greet us from the surf. I'm thankful for good health, beautiful children, a loving husband and good friends, including my Annie. :-)

  • by Ann Handley Wed Nov 23, 2011 via blog

    Wofe? (Work wife.) #lamebuthilarious

    %3C3 (as the teens say)

  • by Ann Handley Wed Nov 23, 2011 via blog

    Thanks Steve... it's so ridiculously mutual. xo!

  • by Ann Handley Wed Nov 23, 2011 via blog

    Happy same, Shashi! All the best, now and always.

  • by Ann Handley Wed Nov 23, 2011 via blog

    So wait... I don't complete you? But you said...

    Happy T-giving to you, too!!

  • by Ann Handley Wed Nov 23, 2011 via blog

    You are awesome. Thanks for making me feel normal. xo. Happy Thanksgiving (for now - more later) to you, too!

  • by Ann Handley Wed Nov 23, 2011 via blog

    +1. Except I sometimes I wish I lived in California right with you. Perhaps next door... where I would bother you all the time by showing up just as dinner is hitting the table.

    Best to you and your wonderful family!


  • by Mack Collier Thu Nov 24, 2011 via blog

    Crap I was hoping there was no photographic evidence of Tom and I wearing that same shirt. ;) Hope you and Vahe and all the kidlets (the 2 and 4-legged kind) have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

  • by Deb Ng Sat Nov 26, 2011 via blog

    Thanks for thinking of me, Ann, and inviting me to participate. I'm thankful my job enables, no, encourages me to meet great people like you.

  • by Elaine Fogel Sat Nov 26, 2011 via blog

    I'm grateful for the many marketing colleagues and friends I've come to know through MarketingProfs, social media, and the associations to which I belong. This December marks the 7th anniversary of my move from Canada to the U.S. As I look back, I feel gratitude for belonging to this exceptional marketing community in a relatively short time.

  • by Gini Dietrich Sun Nov 27, 2011 via blog

    This was lots of fun to read! Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving!

  • by Ann Handley Sun Nov 27, 2011 via blog

    LOL... as if you didn't actually call each other and plan the Twin Day thing. Riiiiiggghhhtttt........ (hope you had an awesome Thanksgiving, too!)

  • by Ann Handley Sun Nov 27, 2011 via blog

    Thanks, Deb. So glad we met in person this year! Hope to see more of you in 2012.

  • by Ann Handley Sun Nov 27, 2011 via blog

    You too Gini - thanks for popping by! And damn: I should have included *you* on this list, too -- but I'll grab you next go-round....

  • by Ann Handley Sun Nov 27, 2011 via blog

    Wow Elaine - just 7 years? I didn't realize you've been here such a short time. (But I'm glad you are.) : )

  • by Geoff Livingston Mon Nov 28, 2011 via blog

    A little late to the game, but thank you for you including me. I hope you and the family have a great holiday season planned. Thanks for extending your hand this year.

  • by Tom martin Mon Nov 28, 2011 via blog


    What a great idea. Loved reading about everyone and what they're thankful for. And thanks for including the Twins pic... I had forgotten about that ;)


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