Ann Handley is the founder and Chief Content Officer for MarketingProfs, a marketing training and education company with more than 600,000 subscribers. She is a well-known public speaker, and has been writing a newsletter called Total Annarchy for the last three years.
Ann is also a Wall Street Journal best-selling author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, and Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business.
Ann was named a top thought leader by Forbes and one of the seven people shaping modern marketing by IBM.
In this episode, Nathan and Ann discuss:
• Tiny-house offices
• How to connect with your audience and grow your email newsletter
• How to grow your social media following by mastering the algorithms
Links & Resources
Ann Handley’s Links
The notion of voice is essentially how you sound. It’s important to read things out loud. It’s a thousand little choices that you make all along the way that over time, grow your voice and add up to something that’s wholly unique. Find those small moments. Those small moments are the things that become a big differentiation for yourself.
In this episode, I talked to Ann Handley. Ann is the Chief Content Officer for MarketingProfs. She’s been around the content marketing online business space for a long time, since 1999. She’s been writing a newsletter for the last three years on a lot of really interesting things. She’s also a really well-known public speaker.
So in this episode, we talk about a whole range of things like what she thinks of the multiple rises of email newsletters over the years. The trend email is dead. The balance between email and social media platforms. We get into algorithms. We talk about really a whole range of things. Probably my favorite is when we get into talking about style and voice and how you write, how to make things fun. Her newsletter is called Total Annarchy.
Annarchy, it’s spelled like her name. And so you can see if that gives you an idea of the way she likes to write, the energy and passion that she brings to a business and marketing topics. So, anyway, with that, I’ll get out of the way and let’s dive into the show.
Ann thanks for joining me.
I am delighted to be here. Thank you for having me.
So I want to start with something that has nothing to do with email newsletters, and it is just a shared love that you and I both have that I discovered in research and that is for tiny house offices.
Yeah, so I’m in my tiny house office that I built a year ago. I got it finished just before COVID which was good timing. If I understand correctly, you had a tiny house office built, like six or seven years ago.
Yeah, this is it. Yes. I was, it was, turned out to be a prescient move because who knew? This is very, so I’m in my tiny house office right now. It’s in my backyard. and yes, I built it, oh, six or sevenish years ago, something like that. And I built it at the time as a sort of place where I thought I can come and do my best work.
It’s, you know, small enough that it’s just me in here, me and my, and my little dog who’s here with me now. Little tiny porch on the front and a hard wire internet connection. And that’s it. So I built it as a place to really, as I said, do my best work as a place to write, essentially that was just sequestered from everybody else that, that I couldn’t hear anybody breathe back here. It was just, you know, a hundred percent perfect. And then, you know, fast forward COVID happens. And suddenly my tiny house is now thrust onto the international stage. It’s, you know, now the backdrop for all of these online programs that I’m doing, which is fine.
Just that I kind of had to clean things up a little bit. So, so yeah, its kind of been forced into that, the white hot lights of the internet suddenly and the tiny house it’s doing its best back here, but this is not necessarily what it was before originally.
Yeah. So it started more as like sort of the writing shed, backyard office kind of thing. And now it’s the working full-time.
Yeah, exactly. I mean, you know, so MarketingProfs, my company, we’ve always been a hundred percent virtual, so I have a, an office in the big house where I lived. A lot of people think I live in a tiny house. I do not live in a tiny house. It’s a tiny house office only. So I live in a regular size house and I have an office there too.
And, and I use that mostly, you know, like in the, in the deep winter, it, this place is not insulated. As you can tell by the plywood background here again, this was supposed to be just for me. I didn’t understand that this was going to be, who knew it was going to be a subjected to the internet on a daily basis at this point.
But yeah, so it’s, it essentially built it, you know, for me, this is a place to, to come back when I really just needed some space and some quiet. It actually turns out to be probably, like the best investment I ever made. As a writer, it’s just been such a gift to have this place back here.
And you know, even in pre pandemics times, that was true. But especially now, because it does feel like it’s a world away from anything going on, not just in my house, but in my town and my state and my community, anything beyond it, you know? So it’s kind of nice just to have this one, place that as a writer, as a creator, you can feel like, all right, it’s all mine.
Oxygen is back here, you know?
I like that. Yeah, for me, I, my tiny house office is just across the backyard, from my house and, and I have three little kids, and so getting outside the house, my old office is now our one-year-olds room and like, he can have that space. I can have this space and it’s perfect. So I think we’ll see a lot more people that build out tiny house offices or, you know, backyard things.
It’s a good trend.
Yeah, exactly. And in really creative ways too, like my friend Jeremiah yang has it is a digital consultant. he speaks a lot about, you know, what, what’s next, the future of, of digital. Of the digital evolution essentially. and he put an Airstream in his backyard that he retrofitted with, you know, as, as an office.
So, you know, there’s all kinds of different ways to do it. We did a clubhouse a couple of weeks ago. Jeremiah and I did in which we, we had people, you know, we invited people to talk about their own sort of backyard offices. People have crazy stuff, you know, not even. You know, structures like, like iron man or what looks like, like you’re in like wooden structures, but, you know, in addition to Airstreams, they have tents.
They have, you know, sheds that have been repurposed. I mean, all kinds of crazy things. so yeah, it’s definitely, definitely a trend.
Yeah. I have a friend Nat Eliason who has a space out in Austin, Texas, and he’s set like permanently set up. Is his office on his back deck, you know, I guess it’s, I hope it’s covered. I don’t know. I mean, you know, but like he’s like wiping the dust off his monitor and getting to work in it, you know, I like it.
And then, James Keller, who’s our VP of product at, at ConvertKit. And she was at, working on the Firefox team before joining us. But she does the same thing where she like camps out on her back deck, like as much time as possible.
Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah, I’m in Boston. So that’s a little tricky to do, except for, you know, certain months of the year. and for me it doesn’t solve that problem of like, in some ways that puts me more in the middle of everything. And I think that, especially in the, you know, in the midst of a pandemic, but even, you know, even going beyond this.
The nature of, you know, as we’re thinking about offices a little differently now, just having a place where you can do some focused work, I think is just so important right now. And as much as I appreciated it, pre pandemic and I never. I, I didn’t quite appreciate it at the depth that I do now, because just being in this space, just, you know, it just feels, it feels so good.
And I encourage anybody who is a, a writer, a creator, anybody who does focus, work of any kind, which is basically, you know, any knowledge worker just think about, you know, how do you create the sort of environment for yourself? For me, it’s really been a game changer.
Yeah, I love that. Well, I want to ask about something that’s maybe a little bit selfish for me, which as the podcast interview I’m, I’m allowed to do, in the handbook, you have this interesting world of your own newsletter and then you also have Marketing products. Can you talk about the intersection between those two things?
And part of the reason I ask is I’m in that same space of like ConvertKit is a much bigger company than, you know, me individually, but then I also have like my own newsletter and podcasts and often kind of try to figure out the interplay between those two things as they definitely serve each other, but then are sometimes unrelated.
Yeah. Yeah, that’s true. yeah, it’s something that I’ve actually thought a lot about. So, you know, I’ve been at Marketing profs, I’m partner in MarketingProfs. I’ve, I’ve been with the company almost since day one, since 2002. So. That’s like what, 19 years that I’ve 19 years, this spring, that I’ve, that I’ve been part of Marketing profs.
And then prior to that, I, I I’ve had a startup called click z.com, which some people still remember, it’s still around, still offering online marketing advice to, to, all kinds of businesses. So I’ve been in this space for a very long time, you know, associated with a brand that was kind of bigger than me, essentially.
So a bit of MarketingProfs, as I said last 19 years. And then, you know, the thing that happens as you go further, along in your career and not necessarily, you know, 19 years into it, but I think it happens, you know, pretty quickly as your, as your, as the company you’re with grows. Is that when you start touching things less, like when I first started at MarketingProfs in 2002, The newsletter was me.
Any content on the website was me. I was the chief content officer. I touched every single thing I literally was, you know, putting together newsletters and sending it to our production person so that she could then, you know, mail it out to our list. I was touching it. All of it. and then as your career goes on, like I touched it less and less and less.
And I found that it was, in some ways it was great because it freed me up to do more, you know, higher level things to more strategic things. But at the same time I touched it less. And so I got out of that day-to-day grind, so to speak. And I mean that in a good way, like, I didn’t know what it was like to really be in the trenches as a marketer, putting together.
Things that, you know, that are, how do you grow an audience? And, you know, in, in the modern age, I mean, I knew what I did in 2002 and three and four, but like, so to stay relevant, to stay sharp and to also just stay in it, because that’s the fun part for me, you know, like as much as I love the strategy piece and, you know, the, the thinking piece and the managing piece and all of that stuff.
At the same time. Like I love making things. I love touching things. And so I thought to myself, you know what I need, I need a little bit of a reboot, right. I need to do things on my own. and so nevermind the fact that I had, you know, books and I had a speaking career, like all of that was fine and great and going, well, I didn’t necessarily need in this case a newsletter.
Right. But I wanted something that I could make. Like, I just felt that real need to do something right. And to communicate with an audience. I miss that one to one community. and so three years ago I thought, all right, what can I do? And so, you know, I thought maybe I should do something where people can see my face.
Like maybe I should do a podcast like this, or maybe I should do a high-spec live regular series, or maybe I should do an Instagram live or any number of things, things that I could have done. and now of course the choices are even bigger. Right. I can just do like. I can do a clubhouse room. I can do, you know, all kinds of things are all kinds of channels, but I realized that essentially I’m a writer and my background is in newsletters.
It’s in writing. And before I was in marketing, before I was in newsletter, I was a journalist. And so. Building an audience and thinking about what does an audience need for me is kind of in my DNA. And so I wanted to do that. I thought, you know what, I’m going to do that. And I’m going to find out what is it like to build an audience now?
What does it take to. Put together a program, like how do you actually work with an email service? Like I was so far out of it, you know, that I just didn’t do that anymore. and so it was really fun. I actually have learned a whole lot about w w what does, how do, how do you connect with an audience these days?
And just to go back to your original question about, like, how do you balance the two, they very much feed into one another, you know, if you are on my Ann Handley, Total Annarchy list, You see that I reference my work at Marketing process. It’s not a, a publication of Marketing process. Like it’s, it’s not a mouthpiece for it, or just another channel for marketing process, by any stretch, it’s all mine.
But there are some things that are, I think would be interesting to my audience. The other differentiator is that MarketingProfs is a, you know, we have an email newsletter that we publish three times a week that it’s squarely focused on. B2B digital marketing of all kinds. So you can be an event marketer at, at, I don’t know, Cisco, or you can at the Adobe summit and you can subscribe to the MarketingProfs newsletter and find something there for you.
But you wouldn’t necessarily find as much of that in my own newsletter, because my newsletter focuses on almost exclusively on writing on Content and on just, you know, the things that bring me joy. I got, I got a, a note this morning from a subscriber who recently lost her job. And she said that she, he was recessed to resubscribing with her personal email address because she lost her job.
And you know, that email address obviously was going away and she said, I subscribed to, you know, learn from you obviously. But she said, the real reason that I subscribed is because you bring me joy. You make me in a good mood whenever I read your newsletter. And I just thought, God, like, how do you put a metric on that?
You know, you don’t necessarily get that on the marketing process side of things, because. That’s not the intent, but that kind of is the intent on my side of things. so that’s kind of a long-winded answer, but I think the two feed one another, not necessarily in, in a direct way, but some actually that’s what true sometimes in a direct way, because when you sign up for my email newsletter, it says like, here’s what you’re going to get here.
If you’re looking for more general marketing advice, you might consider signing up for MarketingProfs. And I have a. you know, a subscribe link there as well. So it does, you know, feed MarketingProfs to some degree. but you know, my focus is much narrower. I only publish every other week it’s fortnightly.
And so just the, the, what I do is different. And from a psychic standpoint, for myself, it’s so important to me just to be able to stay in the game, so to speak.
That makes sense. So you talked about coming back into the, like building your own audience world three years ago. I’m curious. What were some of those things that either surprised you or really stood out to you as having changed from previous this time that he’d done it?
You know, we grew the MarketingProfs list a lot through co-registration. So through partners essentially. You know, the Marketing prevalence is massive. It’s 600 and something a hundred thousand. I mean, it’s, you know, it’s a big list and it’s also been around for, you know, 20 years. Right. So it’s a, it’s a legacy product at this point in terms of the list.
So it’s pretty significant, but we were able to grow it way back then from co-registration deals with, you know, some, some partners at the time, some of whom were, are still around. I didn’t do any of that this time because. For a couple of different reasons. but one of the reasons is because I, I.
I wanted it to be, I wanted to grow the list more organically and I also just wanted it to be a relationship with me, ultimately, that would grow that list. And so, you know, in that, in that way, a co-registration deal with like, somebody like you, for example, like say that you said, you know, someone sign that sign is signing up for, you know, Nathan’s list.
And then you’re like, Hey, you might want to check out Ann Handley too. It’s like, I don’t want that because to me that’s not. What I’m all about, you know, growth at any cost is kind of not a metric that I, that I want to pursue, or it’s not a strategy that I want to pursue. It was different, you know, 20 years ago on the marketing process side of things, where we did want to grow quickly and get as much traction as we could right away.
So that was one of the things that changed. I would say that another thing that’s, that’s changed, at least for me personally, is that I, you know, I don’t use pop-ups or, or anything like that as a way to entice people, to sign up for my list. MarketingProfs does it, and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it.
There’s a lot of brands that do it and you do it quite effectively. But again, it goes back to the goal, right? Of like, what am I all about here? I don’t think that that works with my brand, you know, so those are just, it’s not necessarily something that’s changed, but I think it was a shift in me personally, where I realized, well, yeah, just because it works doesn’t mean that I want to do it because when I put it through that second filter of, okay, so what, number one, you know, it works number two though.
Do you want to do it, you know, does it work with you? and. So adding that second filter on like, was, it was an important takeaway for me. Like I, I wanted to be able to run things through that before I made a decision about anything.
That’s interesting. Cause I’m realizing I do the same where if I was giving advice, I would tell people you should have, like a lead magnet or an incentive for people. Join your list. Don’t just say like join my newsletter. I send it every week at this time or every other week at this time would be like, you know, give them something right then.
But if you go to my own site, I’m like, join my newsletter. I send it every Tuesday because I want people to opt in for the newsletter. And if you need more enticement than that, like where you’d sign up to get something for free and then like kind of lose interest. I actually don’t want you on my list because it’s like, look, I just want a small group of people that really want to be here.
Whereas five years ago I wanted as many people as possible.
Yeah. Your goals are different. Right. And so, yeah. Yeah. I a hundred percent agree with that. Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, it, and it comes down to what are the goals that you have in mind for your own, for your own growth. And, you know, for me, it’s, it’s, it’s a little bit different than it is on, on the MarketingProfs side of things.
And part of that is, is it’s like it tracks back to the business model, right? I don’t. I’m not doing anything with the Marketing, with, with the Ann Handley list, other than, you know, communicating with an audience, testing, some things, having a little fun, seeing what works, seeing what doesn’t, you know, using it as a so-called thought leadership opportunity for me.
Keeping in touch with my community, nurturing those relationships. Like that’s, that’s all I’m doing. you know, I don’t have advertisers that I need to satisfy, so I don’t necessarily need a certain size of a list or a click through. I don’t need certain segments. I don’t need, you know, people in North America who work at companies of over 500 people.
Like I don’t need that. It doesn’t matter. So, so really my goals there are different. And again, like when I go back to. But when we go back to like, why did I start this? I started it because I wanted to see what works. And I also just wanted to be creatively challenged and I wanted to be creatively engaged.
And so those are, you know, those are very different goals than actually building a business around it. which isn’t it isn’t to say that this is not a business, but you know what I’m saying? It’s just like, the focus is a little bit different.
Yeah, that makes sense. So you have over and you say it, you say 21,000 people on your newsletter. That seems like the sort of number that I would put on there and then forget to update after a long period of time.
Oh, wow. Is that on the newsletter?
Do you have more than that now? Is that a little LOL automate
Yeah. It’s about, yeah. It’s like more than half that, I mean yeah. More than twice that, I mean, wow. That’s crazy. Where is that? Is that on the newsletter page?
That is on at the end of every post, your suggestion form that says get the letter 21,000 people love to get. So it could be that you have 42,000 people, but only 21,000 people actually love it.
That’s what we’re going to. Yes. Yes. That’s what it is. That’s intentional. Yeah. Yeah. The other 20,000 or like take her to leave it. Yes.
So I’m curious what, like that’s a sizeable list? well, I mean, I’m curious what has been working to grow that? What are the channels that have been driving the most growth?
Channels that drive the most growth for me are essentially current subscribers. When I, at the end, at the end of every newsletter, I say, if you’ve enjoyed this, you know, pass it along to someone else who will also enjoy it. So essentially asking current subscribers, so referrals from current subscribers, second thing is, speaking opportunities.
So whether I’m speaking directly about email newsletters or whether I’m just, you know, giving a talk about Marketing, I always say like, you know, if you, it’s a soft, soft approach, it’s like, if you liked what you heard today and you want to hear more. you know, here’s, here’s a way to hear from me every other week.
And, you know, I always add a, you know, let me know if you like, how you, how you got here, let me know that you were at this event. that’s the other way that I do it. and then thirdly is through referrals, not directly of the newsletter, but people talking about it on social media. So sometimes it’s me, but more often than not, I kind of forget that I should be promoting this.
Which I know is like so lame, but, but again, it goes back to the goals. So it’s other people who, you know, we’ll, we’ll talk about how much value they get from it or how much they love it. And so that’s essentially how it’s grown. So through direct referrals, so the newsletter itself. Through speaking opportunities or podcasts like this one sometimes as well.
And then the third, the third way is, my dog is like, wants to get outside and I’ll let him out in a second. the third way is through, you know, social referrals from, from other folks.
Okay. So you’ve been around the newsletter space for a long time. And so you’ve probably heard like email is dead. Well, my favorite graph is like all of them. The rise of email, like shown over time. And then with all the email is dead. news articles, you know, like New York, times 2014, I was 20, 2018, whatever.
I’m curious about your take on like the recent popularity of newsletters in the last, 18 to 24 months with the rise of sub stack and so many journalists leaving to, start a newsletter, whether on sub SAC or on any other platform. what’s been, what has it been like watching that change? and then what do you think, is it one that’s going to stay or, or do you feel like it’s, you know, just another fad in the moment and in a long trend that will continue
Yeah. so first of all, I was, so I, I did a. Webinar last week with an email service provider. And as part of my research for that, I was talking about, you know, the, the future of newsletters, essentially. And as part of my research for that, I went back to the very, very, very first, email newsletter, or I should say email marketing, column that I launched on click Z in 1999.
And. What I, I saw, I found it on the clicks, the website, and it was all about how, like we’re launching this brand new column. It’s going to be talking about email marketing and. How marketers should really be paying attention to this channel, and the, the language. And it was really funny. I can send it to you.
If you’re interested in sending it, just to add to the show notes or something, but the language in it is like, think about your own behavior. It was like, remember, this is 1999. So. Pretty social media, you know, pre, pre blogging, mostly like there was some blogs around, but not really, not quite as much.
And pre just everything like that. We think about now, the world seemed like it was so much quieter, but even back then, I was kind of making the case for email marketing. And I was saying like, thinking about your own behavior, like, will you check before you go to bed at night? What do you check first thing in the morning or within an hour of waking up?
And I was making the case for the importance of email. And when I read it, read it, read it last week, I was thinking. God, I could have written this, you know, two weeks ago and felt the very same way about it. and so, yeah, it’s funny to me just to see email and email marketing and email more generally just being, you know, they, they sound we as a society or as a culture.
I mean, we sounded a death notice for it just like on a regular basis. You know, it’s definitely cyclical where it’s like, Oh, email’s dead. Now that clubhouse is here, you know, email’s dead now that, you know, Facebook is like, it doesn’t matter. It’s a, there’s always something that’s going to take the place of it.
And I don’t think that’s true at all. Just, you know, and I’m guessing you don’t, you don’t agree with that either. but yeah, we are in sort of this Renaissance of email and I think there’s a couple of things that are driving it. I think partly is because. Email is the place where, you know, you and I have the opportunity and everybody listening here has the opportunity to communicate directly for you as opposed to, you know, trying to game an algorithm, to try to get in touch with our audience more directly, you know, the promise of social when it first came out was, you know, Facebook was saying, Oh, this is an opportunity for you to speak to your.
Speak to your customers and your prospects directly. Wouldn’t that be fabulous. And then it turns out, right. They’re going to control that ability for us to communicate directly. And so it wasn’t quite so direct. The promise was never quite fulfilled or at least it was there. And then they. They sort of yanked it away with a cane.
And I think that only gave rise to the fact that, you know, email being the only place where people and not algorithms are in control. I’ve talked a lot about that in the past couple of years. and that’s very much true. And so I think that’s one of the reasons why we’re seeing, you know, email being just increasingly part of, of the vernacular or part of the mix these days.
The second thing though is like the whole notion or, or the whole. I don’t the whole, the whole conversation around that when something comes up and other thing dies, it’s ridiculous to me, you know, it’s like, it’s like saying that, you know, because TV exists, radio should die. I mean, that’s just ridiculous.
It just, the world doesn’t function that way. Right. It’s like, we’ve figure out a way to make it. In addition to not instead of second thing, but the third thing is I think that the rise of newsletters, just as you mentioned, like the rise of sub stack, for example, it’s, it’s directly tied to creators increasingly just owning their own platforms.
And I think we’re seeing this not only in the newsletter space, but across everything. And so. You know, newsletters or maybe a place where writers, you know, journalists are, are more comfortable just like people like you and me maybe are more comfortable. They are building our own relationships with our audience, but I don’t think it’s isolated to newsletters.
I think we’re seeing it across, you know, across so many, so many things, so many creators are just, you know, taking their. Taking it into their own hands. That’s why we’re seeing the rise of Patrion and some other platforms that are helping creators monetize their own audiences directly, as opposed to going through the social platforms.
And I think it changes, it changes the game for creators as well. And I think that’s why, why we’re sending it. I mean, the other interesting thing, just to go back to the, the, the social thing for a second is I think that’s why we’re seeing, you know, some, I think some of the social networks are freaking out a little bit, right?
I think that’s why Twitter acquired review. you know, Facebook is reporting, building their own newsletter, the newsletter platform, and then LinkedIn is offering you now the ability to, to, to build a newsletter. But it’s not really that it’s just using, it’s still using their, their platforms. And so. If anybody here and, and I know your audience is pretty sophisticated, so they probably are, are very well aware of the fact that they should stay away from those platforms.
If you want to build your, your own lists, take it upon yourself. Don’t do it through one of the social platforms.
Yeah, I think you’re right, because the algorithms will play into it. What you were saying about the ownership, you know, it’s something we’ve preached a lot of own, the relationship with your audience, and that being so important. But the thing that you’re seeing across the creator space is more and more creators owning that content directly.
Like we. For ConvertKit, we’ve been expanding a lot to music over the last, year, 18 months or so. And we acquired a company called fan bridge and announced that last week, which is email marketing for musicians. And you’re seeing that so much in music of before, you know, people, like individual artists not owning their masters and now they’re being.
Right. Like Taylor Swift, my team jokes that I’ll work, I’ll work Taylor Swift into any conversation.
I was literally just about to bring her up. I was thinking, this is exactly the Taylor Swift issue. Right?
Yeah. And so you’re seeing these creators. Yeah. There used to be at the mercy of whether it be a record label, an algorithm, the social platforms or whatever else. And you’re saying like, look, I’m not going to play that game anymore. I’m willing to own. The relationship, the things that I create, and it’d just be fascinating to see it play out in more and more circles.
Yeah, for sure. Yeah, for sure. yeah, a hundred percent agree. And I, and I think that this is just such an exciting time. I think, to be a creator. To be a newsletter writer to be a musician, to be an artist of any kind, to be a filmmaker. Because I do think that we’re going to see an explosion of opportunities that we have to yes, own our own, our own work, but also own our own audiences, which is a massive, massive shift.
Yeah, it’s something brand new that I’ll, I confess to not knowing super well, but that you’ve been playing in that, in that world is sort of the cryptocurrency, the creator coins, you know, there’s NFTs and. now I sound like I’m old and out of the game. Yeah. it, like, I tried to buy, you know, a, an NFT, if someone’s writing, I tried to bid on it and I couldn’t even get, I couldn’t move the cryptocurrencies around properly to even achieve it.
But I’m curious for your take on the space. Cause you did write about, you know, creating the, the word, crypto or the word creator coin. And so I’m curious what you think.
Yeah, it kind of plays into what we’re just talking about a second ago, because I think that, you know, creator coins are cryptocurrency is, is another opportunity for creatives to get paid essentially by their, by their communities. You know, if you value somebody’s work, you can. The creator coin will allow you to support them in that way.
So, yes, I launched my own creator coin a couple of weeks ago, and I’m still figuring it out, still figuring out what exactly I’m going to do with it or how I’m going to integrate it into what I do. so I launched the word going through a platform called rally.io. And what rally does is allows creators to launch their own coins.
The mantra is kind of like if you have a community, you can have an economy, right? And there’s different ways that you can reward people in your economy, just, you know, through giving them. Your own coin. So for example, I could give people who, you know, like are long-term subscribers of Marketing, profs, but sorry of my own newsletter, I could reward them for being, you know, subscribers, somebody shared on Twitter that goes over the weekends, that she’s been a subscriber for like two and a half years.
And it’s the longest email newsletter that she’s ever subscribed to. Or it’s the longest time she’s ever subscribed to an email newsletter and I tweeted back at her. So I’m going to give you some word going for that because you know, it’s, so it’s rewarding longevity in that case. she could then take that word going and pass it along to somebody else.
There are ways that, you know, I can maybe, people can buy Cory a word coins to get access. Like VIP privileges to maybe a concept with me, a shout out in the newsletter. it could be, you know, maybe, maybe just a, like a small, a small ad in the newsletter. Like that could be any number of, of ways that I think you can use that you can use a creator coin, but, but yeah, it’s a really, it’s a fascinating.
Area. And I think one that we’re going to hear a whole lot more about, especially as you know, creators are sort of owning the, all that, the Content, the audiences, and figure out ways to monetize. I think we’re going to see, you know, things like creator, coins become increasingly relevant, you know, is as this world grows and expands and matures.
So I did it mostly as an experiment, but I also think that, you know, again, just to go back to, why did I start the email loser? It’s I needed to get into it to sort of understand how to use it. And so that’s essentially what I’m doing there too.
It seems to me like you’re launching your own. Little economy around a coin, you know, in your community would be a fairly big investment, not maybe on the monetary side, but in the, like the time side or the longevity side of like, Hey, this is just a little experiment now, but for it to be something within our community, like we’re going to have to do it for years.
Is that something that you thought about it or are you just waiting to see how it shapes up?
Yeah. I don’t know if they need to do it for years. but, but yeah, it does take some managing and some strategy and some thought behind it, which is why I’m hedging a little bit. When I say that I’m at the very beginning stages of it. because I just, I launched it a few weeks ago. I haven’t like, I will a hundred percent honest with you.
I haven’t necessarily implemented it in any specific way, but, you know, for example, one thing that I could do is like, I could have a page on my website that said, that says like, Hey, you know, you want me to be on your podcast like this, you know, you can buy, you know, 100 word coins or something like that.
And so there could be some very simple ways that I could implement a program like that. I could, I could, Offer rewards for referring the newsletter, for example, for growing the list and that way. and so I don’t necessarily think it’s, it’s very complicated or they will take a long time, but, you know, it will require me to just like, honestly, just sit down, like put my button, the chair, and like think it through a little bit more strategically than I have at this very moment in time.
So that’s all coming, but it’s, you know, it’s gonna,
That’s on me to just kind of make it happen at this point.
I have this whole list of things that are kind of like that, you know, a referral newsletter is one, and there’s just a bunch of things where it’s like, these are all ideas I add to them and. It’s not really worth spending time on it until I can spend like two hours to sit down and really dive in and be like, okay, this is actually what I want to do.
Yeah. It’s exactly that. Yeah. It’s exactly that. It’s the, it’s a line item that keeps moving forward every week and I keep thinking I’m going to get to it. And then I just. You know, life happens and whatever, so, but it’ll happen. I’ll get there. This is going to take me a little bit longer to actually, for anybody in the audience to sort of see anything I should say.
I’m thinking a lot about it. And you know, for me, that’s always the first start anyway.
Yeah, that makes sense. I want to switch gears a little bit and go to writing specifically since that’s something that you are so well known for. And like, I love the quote of, you know, from that recent reader saying, like I’m in a good mood whenever I read this, you know, and that’s, that is the best testimonial that you can get.
So how do you think about. Tone and voice when you’re writing and making it something that people aren’t like, Oh yeah, there’s another, there’s another email from man. You know what I’m saying? Like, Oh, you know, I’m really excited every other week when this comes out.
Yeah, I know. And it actually, it didn’t like its, its kind of goofy, but it literally filled my heart. Like when she said that I was like, Aw, like I had to take a moment, you know, where I was like, that’s like, I never thought about that, but. You know, I think about the writers who I enjoy reading that’s actually is true, like what they do for me.
And I don’t think it’s just because of the choice of reading material that I have, like doesn’t mean that that’s always has to be an uplift, uplifting story, but to read something and feel like God, that was like, I feel so good after reading that I was like, wow, that’s actually a nice way to think about what, one of my goals for the newsletter, which I hadn’t thought about before. so when I think about writing the email newsletter, when I sit down to write it every other week, I think about two things. First of all, I think about one person, which is a little bit of a cliche and writing, and there’s a little bit of cliche and Marketing too. But for, for me, it’s the only thing that I can do it, it helps keep my voice conversational.
It helps keep my voice, loose and just, you know, it just reminds me that I’m speaking to one person at one time and it’s true, right. Because it’s one inbox. One time you’re not speaking to an entire auditorium full of readers or opening up your newsletter at the very same time when you mail it on New, my case Sunday mornings, you’re speaking to one person at one time.
So, you know, I think about just that one person, and I’m usually writing to a person based on a challenge or a problem or an issue that came up over the past two weeks. It’s something very specific. So, you know, I’ll, I’ll start out in my head with, you know, like, like a dear Judith or something like that.
I don’t actually say that, but I’m writing to that person and it just helps me. Get into the mindset of the person that I’m trying to help. And that person of course, is a proxy for the audience, right? It’s not the, you know, the more specific I write, the more universal it tends to appeal. And so that’s, that’s how I approach it.
I sit down and I write it straight through and then I usually do three or four edits on it. And each time I edit I’m editing for something very specific the first time it’s, essentially for, you know, am I, is the content clear? Like, am I making the point that I want to make. Is, you know, when I look at it from a broader standpoint, I call it editing by chainsaw.
Right? It’s all of these points make sense. Or does this point maybe belong someplace else in a different newsletter or a different piece of content somewhere? Does it belong with the rest? So that’s the first pass. Second pass is what I call it, editing by surgical tools. And I’ll go through. And think very specifically about each sentence.
Does it make sense? Does it earn its keep so to speak? does it really need to be in this newsletter? I’m hyper aware of the fact that, you know, my newsletter is, is long, but you know, a lot of good newsletters are long, but when someone feels like it’s long, that’s when I, I know I failed. Right. And so that’s why I’m very particular in.
In the email newsletter more so than I would be saying a book, you know, I wouldn’t necessarily go through and think about each sentence, does it? Or does it earn its keep with quite the same kind of, you know, strictness, but, but I do it in an email newsletter because I’m very aware of that and I want it to feel tight and concise and not a word is wasted.
And then the fourth, so that’s the third pass and then the fourth pass is for voice. And I go through and I read it out loud at that point. And I think it sound like me. Could I add a little more humor in, could I make it sound a little bit more fun? Funny, in some cases I’ll add in some of the sides.
That’s the moment where. You know if, as I say, like, if you covered up the, the, from line a Honda, you know, in your email client, you know, would it sound like me, or could it come from Nathan? Right. It doesn’t sound like it came from Nathan, Arizona that came from man. So I want to make sure that it really does sound like me.
And so reading it out loud really helps with that. But then also just thinking about, you know, thinking about voice, you know, more. More specifically as, as relates to me. So that’s kind of my process that I go through. And some of that voice comes down to, as I said, humor, it comes down to word choice. A lot of times even comes down to the greeting at the very beginning.
Like I start every email newsletter, usually with some kind of crazy like, Hey sassafras or, you know, hello, sweet petunia. Like some of that kind of stuff, you know, just a way to differentiate again, to sound like me and not like anybody else.
I think that’s a good line. And I’ve heard, you mentioned it in a few of your talks of, if I were to take your, you know, your website, your writing, whatever it is, and cover up your logo and any identifiable brand elements that like, could we, we know that it’s you.
And I think that’s something that a lot of writers struggle with of like, okay, This is useful information that I’m giving you.
This is, you know, maybe it served its purpose. It’s made it through the chainsaw, edit. what are some tips that you’d have for someone who is looking to add in a lot more voice and personality? How do you coach people through that?
I don’t know, like sometimes I struggle with this whole conversation around voice because I feel like people think that. It’s something that they try on, you know, but it’s, it’s not something that you step into. It’s something that sort of grows on you, which is kind of a gross analogy now that I think about it and I make it sound like a hole or like, I don’t know, some kind of WARP, but you know, the, the, yeah, the notion of voice is essentially just how you sound and you know, it’s not any more complicated than that.
And so when I coach people on voice, that’s why I think it’s important to read things out loud. Because very often, that’s the step that even now, I mean, I’ve been writing for, you know, since I was eight years old and I wanted to be a writer, you know? So I’ve been writing for a long time. And even now when I read things out loud, I sound like not me.
And that’s the point where I’ll say God, you know, that I could do better than that. You know? So it’s just, it, I think developing a voice is less a big. Big thing that you like, it’s not, it’s like, it’s not a platform that you step onto. It’s a thousand little choices that you make all along the way that over time, grow your voice and add up to something that’s wholly unique.
So find those small moments like those small moments are the things that become a big differentiation for yourself.
what are, so you mentioned the greetings, what are a few of the other small, small moments in your own writing?
One of the things that I do a lot is a call back. So I’ll start out talking about something, you know, so again, I write it as a letter.
That’s, that’s another piece of when we’re talking about how do I write the newsletter? I focus less on the news and more on the letter. So it’s a one-to-one conversation with, with a, with a reader. And so. I focus on. So I’ll tell, I’ll usually start out with like a story, just like you would, if you were writing a letter to a friend or something like that, not an email, but a letter to a friend.
Right. you know, it’s like, Hey, how’s it going? What, you know, this what’s going on in my world right now. And I’ll usually tell a story about it. So it could be a story about my dog August or could be about anything. sometimes, and then I usually will do a call back later in the day. Later in the, in the sort of letter portion of it or the essay portion, I guess is another way to think about it.
So callback is another one for me, a callback just referencing something that happened earlier, sometimes that it kind of tongue in cheek or funny way is another way. let me see. Thinking about vocabulary is, is important to me too. I, I sort of liked just using quirky words, I’m kind of a quirky writer.
Right. And so I use quirky words to express that. So that’s why I have a department of shenanigans, for example, you know, I could, I could call it the department of the absurd, but shenanigans is a word that I love, you know, it just is like, it just like screams fun. Right. It just screams something that’s a little bit crazy.
So thinking through word choice, I think is another, another, a way that I, that I layer in voice as well.
Yeah, I’m realizing we have another team commented. Oh, in that, you have, we both have loved ones named August. My son is named August
Yeah, that’s right. right. I think you did you mention that to me?
Cause I feel like I knew that.
I don’t know. I don’t remember what we talked about that, you had one last thing that you were in his head where Joyce
I don’t know. I think, I think, I guess one of the bigger point that I was making is that I just, I want it to be inherently readable. Like I want it to feel like a fun ride from the beginning to the end and so even doing some things that are sort of design choices, I think feed into voice.
So playing with white space, like tons of white space, tons of subheads just making it very readable, I think is just, you know, just a smart way to go. I don’t want 1400 words to feel like 1,400 words. I want it to feel like you get to the end and, and you know, and that was a good time.
Yeah. You carry that all the way through which is really good. And that’s where we can segue into is where people should go to subscribe. But just in the name of your newsletter being called Total Annarchy, Annarchy with two “n’s” in this case, and that’s, that’s up there with shenanigans just as far as great words, that should be, it should be used all the time. And so people know what to expect and you’re just carrying that voice through. Where should people go to subscribe to Total Annarchy and follow you?
Annhanley.com/newsletter. You can subscribe right there. And, everybody who subscribes gets a free puppy.
I love it. You can join the 21,000 people who love the newsletter and the 21,000 people who, who knows what they think about it.
That’s crazy. I have to thank you for pointing that out to me.
You’re welcome. Something I can do. Well, I only bring it up because someone went through my site and we have like some numbers about ConvertKit on like my own site. And it’s one of those exact sort of things where it’s like in the about page somewhere. And it was just like wildly out of date. Like the company is twice the size that I was saying then, and someone’s like, you might want to update this.
I was like, “Oh, I forgot that that’s there.”
You know, another word that I like is nincompoop. And I would use that for myself at this point. Cause I really should have changed that.
So, Oh, well.
Well, now you can. Well, Ann thanks for coming on. This has been really fun.
Yeah. It was a lot of fun. Thank you so much for having me. And yeah, it’s been a pleasure.