When I ran into Lee Odden, CEO of Top Rank, at a conference in May, he had just finished reading the final manuscript of Ann Handley’s second book, Everyone Writes. “I love this book!” he exclaimed with excitement. “You can go to any page in this book and you will find something useful. And it’s a FUN read.” After chatting with Lee, I immediately went to Amazon and pre-ordered the book. Don’t you just love your smartphone and Amazon app?!
Fast forward to October: I received two copies of Ann’s book at the same time. One from Amazon and the other was a signed copy from Ann herself. Thank you, Ann. (Note: I gave my extra copy to Marcia Riefer-Johnston, the author of Word Up, who also enjoys the book immensely.)
The book is divided into six parts: Writing Rules (I and II), Story Rules, Publishing Rules, Writing for Different Marketing Channels and Content Tools. Within the six parts, Ann touches on 67 topics ranges from empathy, grammar, clichés, writing for LinkedIn and Facebook to various content management and writing tools. She pretty much covers all modern writing topics from a marketing communication perspective. Her tone is casual, yet informative as if she were sitting in your living room and having a cup of tea (or a glass of wine) with you. I prefer to think that Ann is having a glass of wine with me.
Depending on your role and skillset, you will find different pearls of wisdom. Here are the key things I took away:
Swap places with your reader
Understand your audiences’ motivation, aspirations, challenges and frustrations.
Aim to solve and address their problems.
Ann hones in this philosophy and articulates how it relates to various topics from writing with empathy, brand journalism to writing for blog posts, infographic and other content pieces. Yet it doesn’t feel repetitive.
Write an annual wrap-up
I love her recommendation to create an annual wrap-up for brands.
“Because annual reports provide you with an opportunity to tell your brand’s story, giving your audience a way to connect with you and travel along with you as you mark your milestone.”
Of course, the annual report can come in the form of a video or a print magazine. I created different formats of content for Intel before, but not an annual report. The best example I can think of is Google’s ‘Year in Search’.
Thou shalt know your tools
Ann dedicated Part VI to sharing a fairly comprehensive tool list that we can explore to help become better writers. She categorizes them into Research tools, writing tools, editing tools, productivity tools, even a few great style guide tools. I especially like the suggestions on editing tools.
Really, who cares about writing anymore? With LOL, OMG, 140 characters, emojis, Instagram feeds and Snapchat, writing seems to be taken a back seat.
Ann points out nicely: “Actually, writing matters more now, not less. Our online words are our emissaries; they tell our customers who we are.”
With the rise of social media and fragmented communication channels, marketing can break through the clutter through a clear strategy and good writing.
Regardless of whether you are an experienced writer or a newbie, you will find friendly reminders of old rules and insightful comments on new guideposts. Many of Ann’s ideas will strike a chord with you but, to indulge in a cliché even though Ann is not a big fan of them: there is something for everyone.