Lee Odden

Review: Rock Your Marketing with Content Rules

Lee Odden     Book Reviews, Online Marketing

Book Review: Content RulesIf I were to write a tactical “how to” book on Content Marketing, I’d like to think it would be a lot like “Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars and More that Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business”.

After knowing Ann Handley online for several years, I finally met her in person at a B2B MarketingProfs event in Boston last year. I met C.C. during a GM sponsored blogger dinner during SXSW. Both are “walk the talk” people when it comes to content marketing, so it’s more than fitting that they should join forces to write a “put it all into action” book.

There are a lot of reviews of this book out already and for good reason. Companies see the growing value of content marketing but don’t have the expertise in execution.  This is one of those books destined to get dog eared, marked up and put to good use.

Here’s the short version of my recommendation for Content Rules:

“Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman is THE handbook on how to rock at content marketing. This book is rich with proven, practical advice on how to advance your business from two people who KNOW content.”

A lot of business books read like textbooks. I have 5 sitting on my desk now waiting to be reviewed besides this one. A few of those I’ve had longer and had to put down. Besides being chock full of “doable” advice, Content Rules is a business book that’s actually enjoyable to read.

The double entendre of the title is earned by the hat tip to content as a high impact method of marketing but also through the 11 rules shared in the book. Below I’ll share the titles of those rules and my own perspective on what they mean.

  1. Embrace being a publisher – I’ve mentioned in my PR presentations, “If you want to get in the media, become the media” and the same logic holds true with content marketing. If you want to engage and inform with content, then start thinking like a publisher. The planning, logistics, creative process and all the other things that go with the content and media business are essential.
  2. Insight inspires originality – One way communications without empathy with the customer’s needs is simply ineffective.  To me, content marketing strategy is aligning true business goals with those of your customers.  That means a keen understanding of your key messages as well as the information needs of your customers where ever they may be in the buying and lifecycle.
  3. Build momentum – The alignment I just mentioned above means creating content with a purpose, with a particular objective in mind and desired outcome. Don’t just inform readers, give them a natural progression of what to do next. Inspire them to take action.
  4. Speak human – When you really connect with customers, it’s through relevant, timely and digestible information. In the same way SEO professionals optimize content based on keywords most important to customers than company executives, so must the content marketer empathize with the language of their customer.
  5. Reimagine – Repurposing content just to get another copy out isn’t nearly as useful to objectives as planning the reuse of content from the start.
  6. Share or solve, don’t shill – Content that helps customers see how your products or services will solve real problems will reinforce credibility for the solutions you offer – without selling.
  7. Show, don’t just tell –  Some of the most effective content marketing is focused on education and helping customers visualize solutions involving your products or services in the context of their lives.
  8. Do something unexpected – The rise of content marketing means a lot of other companies will be reading this book and doing very similar things. Be different, be creative and think of unique ways to communicate your message and add value.
  9. Stoke the campfire – Content that inspires conversation between brand and customer is great. Brands inspiring conversation between their customers is even better.
  10. Create wings and roots – Ground your content with key points of view and at the same time encourage it’s reach into the social sphere. Extending reach into social discussions can reveal even more content creation opportunities that will best resonate with customers.
  11. Play to your strengths – As I mentioned in the post last week about how small companies can be big online, you don’t have to be all things to all people in the content marketing world for your industry.  Focus on the channels and messages that are true to your brand and the customers you’re trying to reach.

My characterizations above don’t do the book justice but hopefully you get the idea. For the real deal, go  buy the book: Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business

Part two goes into the specific How To’s ranging from video to webinars followed by a number of case studies (U.S. Army, Kodak, PinkStinks) that illustrate real-world examples of effective content marketing in action.

I have to say, it’s nice to see our client Marketo, who are leaders in B2B marketing on their own, mentioned prominently several times as well. At the end of the book is a handy content marketing checklist and you know, we love checklists here at Online Marketing Blog.

This book is timeless in its advice and I appreciate a great deal that it comes from people who are practitioners. As you can tell, I do recommend the book and suggest you check out the official website, Twitter and Facebook page for more info on the book and tour currently underway.

Thanks Ann and C.C. for the opportunity to contribute my small slice of SEO advice in the book and overall for a very useful guide that all marketers & communicators can benefit from.

PoorSo SoOKGoodAwesome (1 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)

Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Thank you for being part of it and for the awesome review.

    I didn’t realize that we hadn’t met before that dinner last year. Feels like I’ve known you forever. Guess it was only online 🙂

  2. What C.C. said: Thanks so much for your awesome review… and I love how you put your own interpretation on the Rules. I know Content is a subject near and dear to your own heart, so I’m gratified by how much you loved our field guide. THANKS!!

  3. Looks like a pretty awesome book on overall marketing. Good content is essential nowadays. $15 is a no brainer!

  4. Some of these are common sense, but the one that really hits home is #1 – embrace being a publisher. I’m hearing from many of my associates that now that social media is accepted as the preferred medium for engagement, social publishing is the next wave of development there. Nice post, Lee.

  5. Lee,

    I purchased this about 2 months ago and I have read this from front to back over and over again. It is packed with extremely valuable information and anyone even remotely involved in content marketing (which should literally be everyone!) needs to read this.

    Sometimes, when I’m chewing my lip over a 140 character tip to dish out on the fly to my Twitter crowd, I will grab this book and crack it open to a random page. No matter where you land you can find relevant and valuable tips to improve content marketing.

    That puts this book far and above a lot of other fluff that has invaded the market. Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman have put together something that truly compliments the work of David Meerman Scott and his “New Rules” series.

    I think what I appreciated the most was the emphasis in the book on “Share or Solve, don’t Shill”. Especially that it was highlighted on more than one occasion. This trips up so many businesses and it’s a common occurrence that I’ve seen among my own clients when they come to me with the “this is what I’ve done so far and it’s not working” problem. I was so happy to see that Ann and C.C. were blowing the same trumpet.

    Rockstars – plain and simple.

    Great review, Lee.

    • Glad you liked the book as much (or more) than I do Derek. The share or solve, don’t shill tip is essential and potentially very misunderstood. Some take it as never ask the reader to engage in a commercial way and that’s not the intent. It’s to paint the picture of end benefit in a meaningful way, such that it’s a logical conclusion for the reader to take desired next steps. ie don’t rely on explicit selling with such content, but romance and persuade the reader with useful insight. At least that’s how I take it 🙂

    • Derek: WOW…..I am going to save your comment here and read it when I’m having a bad day…. THANK YOU! Your comments really mean the world to C.C. and me.

  6. Avatar Spletno Oglaševanje says

    great, i was looking for something togo beyond web copy that sells and call to action

  7. If you don’t know what your content marketing strategy is online, you will struggle to gain the attention of new readers

  8. I am new to blogging and I have a strong desire to really create great content for my readers. I do audio book reviews but recently I have decided to focus on a niche audiobook category. I just cant get into books I have not interest in.

    I heard someone say to “follow your bliss” and you will have success. I believe if I am into my content and it is quality then my readers will be into my content.

    Hope that makes sense.

  9. Lee,

    Fantastic and informative review. I expected it to be a good book given the authors but after reading your review, I’m moving content rules up on the must read list as a result.

  10. Lee, I am in the middle of reading this book and like you, I am a fan of this book.. I love Ann and CC’s writing style! No nonsense and to the point. It has inspired me to write more content for my blog readers.

    Thanks for such a great review!

    RM – InBoundMarketingPR

  11. The tactics described here from the book are awesome, especially for someone who loves to write or manage content like I do. Content and marketing go hand in hand. If your product is your content, then you should know how to market it. If you are selling another product or service, then you should know how to leverage content to your marketing advantage. It’s even more interesting that in the Internet age, content producers are creating the rules instead of abiding from people who have been there and done that.