Asking for a Friend

Annotated marketing career advice (with the occasional pun)

December 6, 2018

Annotated marketing career advice

Ann Handley is the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Everybody Writes, the Chief Content Officer at Marketing Profs and one of the pioneers of content marketing as a discipline today. She is also the exclusive advice columnist for Sophisticated Marketer Quarterly magazine, training her wit and wisdom on the marketing dilemmas that our readers face. Scroll down for Ann’s debut column from the magazine – and keep an eye on the LinkedIn Marketing Showcase Page for our next opportunity to ask your most pressing marketing questions – on behalf of a friend, of course.

Social Shambles
Wrangler of Socially Reluctant Executives asks (for a friend): How do you motivate your C-level executives to become social influencers for your brand?

Dear Wrangler

Deep sigh, girlfriend. I feel your pain, in part because why are we still having this conversation on the brink of 2019…?

Let’s review: Social media is no mewling infant. Social media has grown up, graduated, moved out of the house, and lives on its own, on its own cell phone plan. (Kidding about that last one: I’ll be paying my own kids’ cell phone bills until they’re 80.) It’s been crystal-clear for a while now that when execs embrace social media, good things happen: Brand awareness. Nice PR. Purchase intent. Greater trust. A study by BrandFog found that 81% of consumers develop more confidence in a company’s leaders when they are active on social media. We do business with people we trust. And social media is a great way to develop trust with an audience. So <rolls up sleeves>, let’s help you wrangle those execs…

The first rule of social media is… do NOT talk about social media! The social media stigma is real: Some execs disrespect it. But social media isn’t about the platforms or tools: It’s about the access to customers, and also about the connections it builds.

Focus less on social. Focus more on brand benefits. Remind those hesitant honchos that social media is simply one excellent way to help turn customers into advocates—especially in times of crisis or complaints.

Talk influencers & leadership. Share how internal influencers are far more valuable than external influencers. Kim Kardashian might love your tight-buffered multimode plenum bulk fiber cable spool… but as an influencer she would be nowhere near as enthusiastic as floor manager Doug, who daily makes sure its aramid-yarn fibers are wrapped in a tight outer jacket. And Selena Gomez is not going to be as wedded to your company culture and mindset as much as you are. The CEO needs to lead that charge for employee ambassadors—just as the same CEO sets the tone in countless other important ways.

Articulate vision. It’s flat-out delightful to see T-Mobile CEO John Legere’s Facebook Live cooking show every Sunday. Or to see what Bill Gates is writing on LinkedIn. Or what agency CMOs Margaret Malloy and Keith Weed share on Twitter. It’s a window into their worlds. It makes them accessible. It humanizes their brands.

So what does that mean? Execs need to be on social media to rep their company because they can. So stupid-simple. So true.

Wrangler, Tell Your Friend: The promise and opportunity of social media is that it connects you—in real time—with the people who matter the most to your business. Or could matter the most. So who wouldn’t want to take advantage of that?

Ghost Guard
Ghost-It Note asks (for a friend): Is it inauthentic to manage a social media account for my CEO behind the scenes, on her behalf?

Dear Ghost

It depends what you mean by “manage.” Help a boss or CEO or client tee up social posts? Edit them? Provide guidance or ideas or keynotes or topics? Offer feedback? All good.

But write them completely, pretending that it’s actually the CEO or client or boss doing the writing? NO NO NO. Actually, let me be less harsh: PLEASE DEAR GOD NO.

I’m not a fan of ghost-tweeting. Or ghost-In. Or ghost-'gramming. Or ghost writing of any kind. I know it happens a lot. That doesn’t make it okay. Executives who cede all control to a ghost are often just uncomfortable with and afraid of social. So, let’s fix that. Help them step out of the shadows and into the light. Set up a kind of social buddy system. Be a mentor, a coach, a social bestie to your execs.

I’ve seen marketers create cheat-sheet templates to help gently guide phobic leaders. That might be just the training wheels your own execs need to get them riding down the road to social.

Dry and Mighty
Bone Dry in B2B asks (for a friend): I’ve plumbed the depths of my inspiration well, and come up bone dry. I need my soul stirred. What's the best piece of content you have come across in the past year? Why was it so amazing?

Dear Boney

I believe “amazing” is over-indexed. And sometimes it stops B2B marketers before they

start: It’s too high a bar.

So let’s redefine “amazing” as “what works for your audience and what feeds you.” What feeds you literally—what drives business (and so puts food on your table). And what feeds you metaphorically— what stirs your soul, makes you proud of the work you’re doing.

The best-amazing content I’ve seen in the past year has been the email newsletter published by Anand Sanwal at CB Insights.

Wait, you’re thinking: In this age of AI and Facebook Live and video… isn’t it unsexy and unhip to talk about something as old-school as an email newsletter? Nope. It’s a perfect place to focus:

An email newsletter is the only digital place where individuals—not algorithms—are in control. And that is where I want to be, as a marketer!

So what if Marketing leaned into that inherently personal space with more care and love for our subscribers? Anand Sanwal does that beautifully with his daily newsletter. It’s personal, funny, witty—a joy to read. But it’s also useful and insightful. And it works, growing the CB Insights database 10-fold from 2010 to today.

And that, my Boney friend, is truly soul-stirring amazing.

You’ll find lots more soul-stirring inspiration in the latest issue of Sophisticated Marketer Quarterly, from which this column comes. Give yourself a different perspective on B2B marketing. Subscribe to get your free copy or read online now.