Ann Handley is Chief Content Officer at training and education firm MarketingProfs. She blogs on content and marketing at Also, she is the author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, as well as co-author of Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business. Forbes named Handley as the most influential woman in social media and ForbesWoman ranked her as one of 20 top women bloggers.

You talk a lot about telling stories. But some people aren’t natural storytellers, so how do you suggest they start thinking this way?

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the word “story.” It implies bedtime books and fairytales, when really I’m not talking about “storytelling”—I’m talking about telling a true story well.

Companies should embrace the opportunity that new content marketing and social media tools afford. Now we can talk directly to people to give them a sense of who we are and how we can help them. I don’t use the word “opportunity” lightly, because content marketing and social media aren’t just more tools in our marketing tool shed. They present a whole new way of looking at how and what we communicate with our prospects and customers.

So where does a company start? First, embrace “the tell” over “the sell”: How can you help your customers? What can you give them? Start with empathy for their problems, and find the best way your company can help them resolve those problems. That’s your broader story.

Your title is “Chief Content Officer.” What is this, what kinds of companies need one, and how should this role relate to the CIO?

A Chief Content Officer is the C-level executive who is responsible for the strategy, creation and distribution of any content a company produces or publishes. In this chart, the “team lead” is the Chief Content Officer. 

Every company needs someone in charge of its content, whether that person holds the CCO title or not. In some organizations, that lead content person might be called something else—an Executive Editor, or Content Director. But the intent is the same: He or she should have the necessary budget and authority to support content production and promotion across the entire organization.

The CCO works closely with the CIO especially on implementing content programs—for example, finding the right web content management system.

Retailer John Wanamaker used to say that he knew half his advertising budget was wasted—he just didn’t know which half. How do we know which content is productive?

That’s because most of advertising actually was wasted (ha!). That isn’t true of content, because it’s inherently measurable.

Perhaps it sounds remedial (sorry!), but the first step is to figure out your goals, and align those with any buying process or so-called buyer’s journey, for business-to-business types.

What do you want your content to accomplish? How does it meet the organization’s goals? Are you looking for subscribers, leads, sales, or brand awareness? Then, map your metrics accordingly—or identify your Key Performance Indicators.

My friends at Uberflip do a nice job laying out how to do this in an easy-to-follow infographic. So rather than take another few paragraphs explaining the process, I’m going to refer to Content Marketing ROI for Dummies.

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