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143 of 154 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2010
I should preface this review by saying I have been podcasting and creating content for the web for over five years now, and that I regularly help clients do the same. This said, I was expecting Content Rules to be a good book on the subject, but perhaps one of those that did not speak to me, because of my experience. I was wrong- Content Rules speaks to everyone- even seasoned content creators, by providing the metrics we may know around content creation, but haven't yet articulated, and helps make the case for content for everyone from people getting their feet wet on the Web for the first time, to those who are looking to raise their game and up their level of engagement with others online.

Content Rules is compelling and honest from the introduction on. It is a book I can hand my clients, friends, teachers- almost anyone who wonders why people need to or bother creating content for the web- to help not only explain why compelling content is important, but how to create it. It helps people break down the barriers that often get in the way of creating compelling content, and instead gives them some parameters on how to make sure your authentic and compelling voice shine through. In addition, the examples and case studies in the book bring the rules to life, in a way that will help folks understand how to find their human voice, and why that is so important to success in contrast to another paragraph of over-polished, sanitized, personality-free "safe" messaging.

I'm really excited by Content Rules as a book I can enthusiastically pass on to friends, colleagues, clients and more. If it's between a more generic book on social media or online marketing and this one, you need Content Rules because it will help you understand the fundamental approach you need to take regardless of the tool, platform, network or marketing plan- you need to concentrate on your Content first.
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124 of 137 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2011
The forward of this book states that "Marketing is about creating great content" - but that the art and science of producing that superior material has been a mystery to many. David Meerman Scott, the author of the book's forward section, suggests that the answer to the question "what exactly, should I do?" is to tell stories. Granted, that's one important aspect of a forward-looking plan of action.

However, perhaps it's essential to fully understand why most businesses tend to create poor content. In fact, much of the business communication that's being produced today clearly doesn't meet the needs of its intended target customer. To the vast majority of marketers, the task of creating content is still centered upon explaining what their product or service does.

In contrast, great content -- from the customer's point of view -- should provide meaningful and substantive insight or guidance about what products and service will do for them. As I concluded reading this book, it occurred to me that the authors had not made this point in the most compelling way. I was somewhat disappointed.

That said, Ann Hadley and C.C. Chapman have written a very comprehensive guide about how to develop a content marketing strategy and construct interesting information for your intended recipient -- utilizing a variety of digital media in the process.

Chapter 6, "Share or Solve; Don't Shill" is -- by far -- the most useful section of this helpful guide. It shares the six characteristics of a good idea or a story. What's missing, in my opinion, are examples of how companies typically fail to incorporate these basic principles.

Why is this explanation needed? Because this is a crucial concept and it should not be open to interpretation -- meaning, many marketers must essentially unlearn the common practices of legacy corporate marketing communications organizations.

Content Rules includes ten case studies -- what the author's refer to as success stories. I found some of these examples to be very insightful. In summary, the authors have tackled a subject that is very problematic, since knowing what to change is only part of the equation. Executing on that required behavioral transformation, having the will to discard bad habits, has proven to be very challenging.

Moreover, for those marketers who find it difficult to adopt these new practices themselves, the likelihood of being able to outsource this task is not promising. Finding an appropriately skilled consultant, a practitioner with proven results, will be equally challenging.
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54 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2010
Not for the faint of heart...this book is a meaty look at why content has become such an important tool for businesses to engage their customers, as well as how to go about creating the right type of content for you.

Packed with real-world examples, this book teaches you (as noted on page 24) to go for consistent doubles and triples instead of always swinging for the fences- consistent doubles and triples wins games.

I personally was able to take away a lot of specific tips, including methods to re-imagine content (instead of just plain old repurposing it). I also liked that the authors kept the focus on the customer perspective (so critical) and demonstrated how to use content to create trust instead of just using it to shout (or "shill" as they call it).

My favorite part is the case studies/examples that line the back of the book. Not only did C.C. and Ann do a great job in featuring a wide variety of companies, they included ideas that you can borrow (they says steal, but I am a more of a fan of inspiration instead of imitation) and a section they call "Ka-ching", which demonstrates how each company actually derived value from the example.

With strong content itself, written in a colloquial and easy to read manner and with solid examples, this is definitely one to dog-ear/markup and reference on an ongoing basis. A strong value.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2011
I teach online public relations at Tulane University, so I constantly keep watch for new books in the field. Along with my own mammoth how-to book, Complete Guide to Internet Publicity (now out of print) or the stiff but good British book, Online Public Relations, by David Phillips and Philip Young, I like to assign one book that is fresh, hip, current, and relevant.

This year, I picked Content Rules even before reading it, because I love the title concept and I know one of the authors, Ann Handley, from when I used to write articles for ClickZ (back in the day, as they say).

Content Rules is a relentlessly upbeat guide to developing content for the Internet. The authors not only stress that "content is king" online; it's also queen, jack, ace, and most of the rest of the deck. Content Rules will show you how to find content in every corner of your organization, package it in every conceivable format, and syndicate it throughout the universe. Pretty impressive.

The Theory

The authors begin by laying out 11 "content rules," then expanding those in the following nine chapters. This is the "theory" portion of the book; as theory goes, it's very easily digested. The authors stick to the conversational tone they advocate in Rule #4: Speak Human:

"It's not just about getting more traffic; it's about getting more traffic that gives a s**t." The authors quote social media consultant Jay Baer. That's human enough for me.

Highlights in the theory section of the book include:

1) Creating a content publishing schedule, especially the checklist for things to do each month on page 60. It's a good template by itself for an online marketing game plan.

2) Six characteristics of a good case history, signature article, or customer success story (pages 72-73).

3) What to look for when hiring a writer (pages 85-88). Here's one paragraph that pertains to our approach at SixEstate:

"Hiring someone trained as a print or broadcast journalist is a good option, because journalists are trained in how to tell a story using words, images, or audio, and they understand how to create content that draws an audience in. Their innate understanding of the audience also gives journalists a critical outsider's perspective -- a nuance that marketers can sometimes miss. They might be on your payroll, but they are better at expressing neutrality, which is a distinct advantage in creating marketing copy."

4) A terrific business-to-business (B2B) chapter with an emphasis on listening to and analyzing your target audiences and building customer personas. Contains a concise list of questions to ask about your customers on pages 125-126, along with a table used to analyze the results on page 128.

The How-To

The second section of the book is labelled "How-To," but in one of the few weak spots, it starts off very badly with the Blogging chapter. How can you get through a blogging how-to without mentioning WordPress once? Or Blogger/Blogspot, for that matter?

The advice on headlines, tagging, use of artwork, and other topics is threadbare. The advice on scheduling is wrong (posting "twice a week is optimal"), as is the advice to "Never edit any comment that is posted to your blog." What about profanity filters, or formatting issues?

But the authors immediately rescue the how-to section with a great chapter on Webinars. It's full of details, software recommendations, examples, and sage advice. I love the tip, for example, that putting a video on the registration page for a seminar increases conversion five-fold.

Most of the rest of the how-to section is good, especially areas where the authors shine: ebooks and case studies. Even the video chapter -- the most complex and potentially expensive way to generate content -- is well done. I really like HubSpot's Rebecca Corliss` top 10 tips for producing a Web TV show (pages 203-205).

The Case Histories

At first, I was disappointed that the case studies were segregated from the text. However, the authors do not skimp on examples, case histories, and outside experts throughout the book. There are plenty of examples to go around.

One benefit of segregating case histories is that it really drives home how companies use a variety of tools -- blogs, newsletters, video, ebooks, white papers, apps, images, etc. -- to get their messages out. This blended approach, with a unique blend for each company, would be lost if we saw only how they made their blogs, or only their video operation. The section gives a good gestalt.

The best case history, in my opinion, comes from Ask Patty, a site that aims to make automobile marketing more female-friendly. The company puts a lot of effort into syndicating content (not just making it) through partnerships with top sites and media outlets, such as AutoTrader and the Chicago Tribune. "It's not all about driving traffic back to your site," says CEO Jody DeVere, "It's about meeting your consumers where they are."

One Big Caveat

I started by saying that this book is almost perfect. The biggest oversight is the mainstream media. Almost all the content is aimed at consumers, yet many of the best results the campaigns pull are when they get picked up by the major media.

Page 20 lists four objectives for an online marketing campaign. It needs a fifth: to engage in dialogue with the mainstream media in your field. How to attract and dazzle the media should be considered in all the content programs covered in the book.

This omission is brought home in the very first case history, for the Reynolds Golf Academy. The owner uses video (and other tools) to reach his target audiences. But his first video was created by Golf magazine, which is where he got the idea (and 1.8 million views). And his biggest media hit was a write-up in The Wall Street Journal -- again, over a million viewers.

The major media still has major impact. For our clients, the most important result from a blog is not the loyal following it builds, but how that following gives the blog the voice of authority with the major media, leading to major media coverage, which supercharges results. So it's important to take the mainstream media into account when designing your content.


With that one exception, Content Rules is excellent. Hopefully, this book will convince many senior executives that online PR is about content, not traffic tricks or SEO gimmicks. Hopefully, readers will invest in a long-term strategy of accumulating a wide variety of compelling content rather than using stunts to briefly spike their numbers. I'm delighted to see how well the book is selling and how many positive reviews it has garnered. Congratulations to Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman on a significant contribution to the canon of online marketing.

# # #

Steve O'Keefe is co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of SixEstate Communications. He has taught Internet PR at Tulane University since 2001, as well as courses for Stanford University, UCLA Extension and PRSA, among others. Steve wrote the bestselling book "Publicity on the Internet" in 1996.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2010
The intermediary is dead.

We don't need to rely primarily upon the media or some other conduit to communicate with our prospects and customers - we can do it ourselves.
Eventually, every company is going to have to think of itself as a TV station and a magazine. Telling your story and answering customer questions with thoughtful, relevant, engaging content can improve your awareness, lead generation, conversion rate, sales, and loyalty.

This is the premise of Content Rules, the new book from Ann Handley (Chief Content Officer for MarketingProfs), and C.C. Chapman (founder of DigitalDads). Without question it is one of the most clear, concise, useful and actionable business books I've read in years. And because creating or curating content is important for all companies, it's a book that I hope will find a broad and enthusiastic audience.

Content Rules combines big picture thinking about the role of content, with step-by-step advice and helpful tips about precisely how to create content that matters. Interwoven throughout are instructive examples of companies doing it right, and links to specific pieces of content that epitomize the lessons within. The book concludes with an entire section of case studies, wisely covering businesses of many sizes and types.

Content Rules helps you make content that engages, by recommending that content be created through the eyes of your customers - the people that you're actually trying to influence. As stated beautifully in the book:

The inherent tension in marketing is that companies always want to talk about themselves and their products or services. Everyone else, meanwhile, only wants to know what those products or services can do for them. Creating content as a cornerstone of your marketing allows you to truly place yourself in your customer's shoes, to adopt their vantage points, and to consider their thoughts, feelings, and needs. In short, it allows you to get to know the people who buy from you better than any customer survey or poll ever could.

Even if you have never created a piece of online content in your life, you could do so successfully with help from this book. Once you've been disavowed of the notion that the content should be about your company per se, the authors advocate for understanding or discovering the stories you can tell; thinking through what behavior you want content consumer to engage in; selecting valid success metrics; and atomizing your content by breaking it into smaller pieces.

Content Rules wisely emphasizes that content marketing is a process, not a project. Just as a magazine doesn't have a single issue, nor should your content program, and the book provides several useful guidelines for establishing an ongoing editorial calendar, with content created not just by the marketing department, but from all over your company.

It's an easy and compelling read, lends itself to skimming and highlighting, and has real case studies and examples that you can mimic in your own business.
Content Rules takes a complicated and critical element of modern business and demystifies it with humor, instruction, and panache. Nicely done.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2011
Content Rules is a 282-page book that talks about the value of online content for businesses. It measures the importance of content in terms of achieving and maintaining an engaged customer base, of creating a consistent brand, and of using these accomplishments to promote a company's growth.

The book is divided into four sections. The first one lays the foundations for the others by listing the "content rules" and explaining their logic and importance. The second section consists of advice for putting together different kinds of online content, such as blogs, podcasts, and e-books. The third section is a series of case studies of well developed and implemented content strategies. The fourth and last section is a message from the authors to the reader.

Besides listing their own "content rules" the book applies the rules themselves. The authors do this by providing useful advice in the form of tips, testimonials, book references, success stories, and statistical data in each chapter. The reader can then take the guidelines/suggestions given throughout the text and apply them to their own particular circumstances.

The concept at the heart of the book is that of content marketing. The general message is that through content marketing companies and individuals can create awareness about their products and ideas. Regularly creating and publishing content relevant to their target audiences is the key to success in this arena.

The layout of the text varies throughout the book; parts of it are lists, others are question/answer sections, and some is boxed up. There are a lot of sub-headings, some straight forward, some whimsical, that also move you along the book.

The tone of the book is very conversational, just as the author's suggest online content should be, in order to maintain your reader interested. There's a touch of humor in the tone, also, that prevents it from becoming overly preachy or intense.

If you're new to the concept of content marketing, this is a good book to start with since it makes the case for it and explains how to implement it. If you're familiar with the concept, it's possible that you'll gain insight from the way other companies apply the principles of content marketing and find ways to improve your own strategies.

Perhaps you're not interested in learning about content marketing. Nonetheless, you are interested in having a presence on the web. If that's the case, this book will be useful to you too, because your website must have so kind of content in it and it has to appeal to your intended readers.

You'll probably want to read the book with your laptop close by, because it refers to websites, blog posts, twitter feeds, etc., that are good examples or sources of information and you'll want to visit as you read.
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37 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2011
This book hasn't delivered on it's promise (for me anyway). I was hoping for a book with insight on how to create good content. This book is more about inspiration than delivery. If you're looking for ideas, this is the book for you. If you want to know how to implement those ideas ... not so much.

Honestly, I started skimming after a prolonged section where the authors encourage you to write in the first person ... entirely written in the third person. In fact, a lot of this book is written in the third person. It feels odd when the author wants you to write in your own voice but won't show us his/her authentic voice.

Another point I should mention, one that I should have paid attention to myself. There are a lot of positive reviews for this book but few of them mention actual content they created as a result of this book. One of the other reviewers suggested revisiting this book after a few months. I think I'll do that. Maybe I'll see something then that I missed this time.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2011
I bought this book based on how much value I received from reading "The New Rules of Marketing & PR," by David Meerman Scott. This book is promoted as part of a Social Media series. Turns out, Scott only wrote the Foreword for this book.

While there is some good stuff here -- it's really lacking in details. It says "Design is Important"... But not one word more about design. It says, "make sure that you provide RSS subscription feeds, a search box, social sharing icons, etc." -- but never tells you HOW??? Much of the later chapters are repetitive -- and there aren't any resources listed in the back of the book. Also, they plug other authors books on almost every page, listing author, publisher and pub date. Is this some form of reciprocal promotion?? You mention them, they plug you?
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2012
I've been writing and producing content for the web for a long time. It's my day job. When I first heard about Content Rules, I figured it was just another book about writing quick and dirty content--which, by the way, is not the kind of content that makes sales or gets clicked.

I was completely wrong about this book. It's a solid guide to writing real content, and the book explains what content is, why you need it, and how to do it right.

The best section in the whole book, as far as I'm concerned, is called "Reimagine; Don't Recycle: Anatomy of a Content Circle of Life."

While I'd like step-by-step examples of various kinds of content and how to write them really well (so I can show those examples to people who write for me), this is the best book on the subject by far, and I've read pretty much all of them.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2013
I picked this book out because I was looking for ways to increase my personal brand online. I am a graduating college student and promoting my brand is very important to me. I learned some really great advice and information I never thought I would need to know. This is a great book for beginners and intermediate users. I do not consider myself a beginner but I am by no means an expert.

Content Rules does have some language that caters to a more mature audience, so keep that in mind. That being said this added a nice hint of humor to it. The constant reminder not to be a "Tool" was great. I cannot complain though, it is great advice. I feel the humor was an attempt to keep the mood light because they throw a lot of information at you. I was often overwhelmed with the amount of information and suggestions posted in this book. To be fair, they do warn you that creating great content takes hard work. In the intro they also state that this book is meant to be skipped around and picked up and put down. Right after they bombard you with information they remind you not to freak out and break it down nicely.

While the lists were overwhelming at times and there are a ton of them, they were extremely helpful. This book, to my knowledge covers absolutely everything you would need to know and more. I especially enjoyed the part where they inform you not to feed the trolls. I will say this is the first time I have ever read a book that tells you how to deal with online trolls. Content Rules was not full of information I have not heard before but rather recharged my desire to make my online presence. It is always good to learn again how to make killer content.

The book really made me realize how much people want to feel like they are interacting with a real person. Content that makes connections sells and it is ok to sound and be human. I used to be very selective in my blog posts and how I present myself. I learned that I need to understand that my blog posts are not going to be perfect and that might actually be a good thing. I will look to add more of a human aspect to my content.

The one thing that gives Content Rules its credibility is the examples and studies is uses to back up the information. They do a great job of asking the questions everyone wants answers to. They not only ask them but also tell you how to solve them and give examples. It really makes you think about how wrong most online content is. The book also covers all the little details in creating content for your audience. Will your video work on mobile phones and is your information easily accessible? The book helps you see all those little details that people too often overlook.

I would not recommend that everyone reads the entire book. Maybe take the chapters you find relevant and break them down. Work on the suggestions and move on. I found the book harder to follow the deeper I went in. One can read only so many lists and cases studies before they all start to blur together. Some of the advice does feel redundant and almost like common sense to me. That being said it is apparent that Content Rules is also trying to reach those just starting. I honestly feel that no matter your experience you will find something to take from it. I can recommend this book to anyone. I know there is great information here and some of it I plan on reading over again.
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