Book Review: Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman

Content Rules Book Review

This is not a sponsored review.

Each month, I read a book on content marketing in order to learn more about the industry and grow as a professional. Occasionally I will post book reviews to help you decide if you would like to read the book, or if you don’t have the time, you’ll be able to glean some key points.

Today’s book is Content Rules. This book comes as close to a ‘classic’ as you can in an industry as young as content marketing. The book is focused on B2C, but since marketing firms (you) are in the business of helping other companies reach their clients, this worked out well. Most of your clients are likely B2C companies, and for those that aren’t, there is a reasonably good chapter on B2B content also.

The book is divided into three parts – “The Content Rules”, which describes theory and tips on content marketing, “The How To Section” which describes how to handle specific content challenges, and “Success Stories” which discusses other companies’ success with content marketing and ideas you can use in your own business.

Section 1: The Content Rules

This section had a lot of pros and cons. Personally, I found it very disjointed, because I was trying to mind-map the content to create a cohesive understanding. In reality, each short chapter stands alone very well – largely because there isn’t a cohesive story connecting each chapter. This is great if you want to take a nibble here and there, and read chapters as you can. This isn’t so great if you are looking for an overall approach to content strategy.

The Content Rules section contained chapters that had a lot of bulleted lists. I enjoyed this because it made the content very accessible. For instance, Chapter 3 focuses on who you want to attract. It uses seven lists in 10 pages, covering topics like content objectives, customer desires, and possible metrics for different types of content.

Although most of this book is aimed at B2C companies, there is one chapter focused on B2B content marketing. This is a good section about how B2B content is different, although it doesn’t focus as much as I wish it did on how complex the B2B buying decision is. B2B has to focus on multiple decision makers and decision teams, rather than a single customer, which make a lot of difference in all marketing strategies.

Section 2: The How To Section

            This was my favorite section. Each chapter was an in-depth dive into one type of content and how to do it well. Once again the author’s made each topic quick and easy to understand using lists with descriptions under each point. My favorite was Chapter 15, on how to make an FAQ functional, sharp, and interesting. Other chapters covered blogging, webinars, ebooks/whitepapers, case studies, video, podcasting, and photographs. There was a lot of amazing information in each chapter, well worth a long look as you help your clients understand their content elements.

Section 3: Success Stories

            These short chapters each profile a single company that had success using content marketing. Each chapter starts with an overview of the company, then moves to the content they used and the results they achieved. The end of each chapter is a list of ‘Ideas You can Steal’, which lists tips gleaned from each company’s experience. The ideas are often very general, such as ‘spark conversation’, ‘feed your blog’, and ‘create momentum’. To me, the ideas weren’t that novel or particularly unique to the company stories. However, the stories themselves and the success achieved may help you convince nervous clients to make a go of a content marketing strategy.

Overall, I felt that this book was very helpful, despite being presented in disjointed chapters. I was able to get concrete strategies for particular content types that will better help me assist you with your client content needs. I was able to get a bit of a framework for content strategy. And I got a lot of actionable lists. However, with all the hype surrounding this book in the industry, I was expecting something that held together better as a unit.

Overall Grade: B+

Have you read Content Rules? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Let me know in the comments! 

,

3 Responses to Book Review: Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman

  1. C.C. Chapman June 13, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts about the book.

    I’m curious how you think we could improve it in future versions so that things flow together better. This is the first time someone has called it “disjointed” and I’d honestly love to hear how we could improve that.

    Thanks again and have a good day.

  2. anna June 14, 2013 at 2:25 am #

    Thanks for stopping by! It’s a pleasure.

    I was trying to mind-map the book to get an overall understanding of your presentation of the topic. Chapter 2 lays out ‘The Rules’. Chapter 3 and 4 start to expound on the rules – number 1 and 2, respectively. However, rule 4 is also covered in chapter 4. Then, the book skips rule 3, and Chapter 5 is titled based on rule 5. Chapter 6 continues with the title of rule 6 (Share or Solve, Don’t Shill), but covers *a lot* of ground, including how to source external content. Chapter 7 skips down to rule 9. Chapter 8 covers rule 10, and chapter 9 isn’t related to any rule at all. Rules 3, 4, 7, 8, and 11 don’t have their own chapters.

    It was just difficult when some chapters were titled and laid out expounding certain rules, but then other rules were skipped or tucked into the other chapters. It didn’t have a cohesive feel to me. :-)

    • C.C. Chapman June 17, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

      Ahhhh….thanks for clarifying. Now I understand.

Leave a Reply