In 2009, I discovered MarketingProfs.com. You and the MarketingProfs team dedicated significant time and energy to help me and other social media rookies learn, understand, and enjoy the current and future implications of online conversations in 21st century marketing.
Even more importantly, I discovered and connected with YOU.
My love for marketing strategy skyrocketed due to your influence. When I'm not in my day job, marketing strategy is what I love writing about and studying. The valuable and generous work you and MarketingProfs publish and share continues fueling that passion.
For two or three straight years, I think I signed up for every webinar, virtual conference, and LinkedIn Discussion Group with the words: "MarketingProfs." Whenever I marked one of those events on my calendar, I anticipated them like Christmas morning!
"As part of the Fall 2009, MarketingProfs Digital Marketing World Conference, Ann's going to talk to Tina Brown." Yeah, that Tina Brown!! You were stellar during that Q&A. Tina Brown took Ann Handley's phone calls, emails, and questions.
And, Ann Handley shared that access to Ms. Brown to benefit the MarketingProfs fanbase -- Wow!
The writing you publish on Annarchy.com is funny, smart, and thoughtful. Every blog post is an writing and marketing master class.
That's why I read EVERY WORD of your work. When it comes to Ann Handley content, skimming is forbidden. Plus, my reader reaction inevitably involves one or more of the following:
- "How Does Ann Write Like That?"
- "Who Else Writes Like That?"
- "So That's How To Tell a Compelling Story!"
- "No One Else Writes Like That!"
- "How Can I Learn to Write Like That?"
For my first blog post, I included your @MarketingProfs and David Meerman Scott's, @dmscott Twitter handles in my promotional tweet. You and David were my first, social media heroes I ever shared my work with via Twitter.
But, I agonized about that tweet.
Three (3) horrible thoughts engulfed me. First, Ann and David probably won't see the tweet or respond because I'm a nobody with less than 10 Twitter followers. Second, if they do read the tweet and click the attached link, they're going to HATE my post and horrible writing. Third, they'll never want to see anything from me again. They'll block my tweets because I'm an just another unworthy amateur, rookie, or "wannabe social media hack" who's trying way too hard to gain their attention.
But, something incredible happened -- YOU tweeted back! YOU even wrote THE FIRST comment on my blog -- EVER!
THAT'S RIGHT, ANN HANDLEY WAS MY FIRST!
(If you know what I mean ...)
Okay, all kidding and Joey Tribiani-like innuendo aside, I've never forgotten your kindness and generosity. That was four years ago ...
At that moment, YOU made me believe I was on the right path. YOU made me feel important. YOU made me believe if I kept at it, my content could bring value to others.
I know I shouldn't look for validation. But, when one of your heroes says something nice about you, shares your work, and gives you praise, it feels soooooo good!
Your kindness motivated me to believe: "Yes! I CAN DO THIS!"
As I gained more Twitter experience, I started tweeting you directly. I love tweeting and talking with you! I don't know how to describe it. It genuinely feel like I'm sitting across from you while enjoying a a hot cup of coffee or a cold beer.
It feels that real.
And, it's because IT IS REAL. It's because YOU make it real. It's because YOU are genuinely kind and authentic.
I'm sure you get embarrassingly sick of how I share on a weekly basis why I know and believe YOU are the best writer in the business. I'm still learning how to write and connect. I'm still learning how to do them both well. And, there are times when I feel like I'll never get there.
That's why your work is so personally important and influential. That's why I cherish directly connecting with YOU. Your art is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from one of the all-time great teachers and practitioners. That why I view you as an important professional mentor.
Ann, I hold you in the highest regard. Every time YOU share and publish your art, YOU inspire me to become a better writer, marketer, and person.
One day, I hope to have the privilege of telling you these things face-to-face and shaking your hand. Till that time, please travel safely wherever you may be (today and in 2014).
May You and Your Family Enjoy a Safe and Merry Christmas,
P.S. I can't believe I almost forgot the beautiful images you share on Instagram. You're also an amazing photojournalist (I see you shaking your head "no," but you are). Lastly, thanks again for teaching me my favorite adjective (or is it an adverb?).
Tony Faustino is a marketing and corporate strategist. He writes about how The Internet reinvents marketing strategy for organizations and individuals in his marketing strategy blog, Social Media ReInvention. Follow his tweets @tonyfaustino or circle him on Google+.
Note: Austin Kleon's book, Steal Like an Artist and Mitch Joel's public fan letters inspired this post. Pages 108 to 109, "Write Fan Letters," and Chapter 2: "Don't Wait Until You Know Who You Are To Get Started" from Austin's book are amazing. After reading Austin's book and Mitch's public fan letters, I made a list of my heroes.
Please indulge me as I periodically publish these fan letters on this blog.
From page 109 of Steal Like an Artist: "Maybe your hero will see your work, maybe he or she won't. Maybe they'll respond to you, maybe not. The important thing is that you show your appreciation without expecting anything in return."