My week started with an 11-hour field trip (6 a.m. departure, 5 p.m. return) with my 10-year-old who got to DISSECT A BABY SHARK.

This is the same child who was traumatized by the surprise snake experience of February 2022.

She was not so put off by cutting a dead animal open as she was by holding a live one.

In fact, she took extreme pride in the fact that 2 of the girls in her group excused themselves and decided not to participate while she wasn’t phased.

This turned into a few rounds of dramatically displaying the shark innards as she removed them so that the children who chose not to participate could see the liver and stomach from far away.

Was it a little over the top?


But we all know what it feels like to realize you’re doing something others aren’t willing to try.

And she didn’t rub it in too hard (she’s too sensitive herself to deliberately hurt someone else’s feelings).

But the whole scene–

A research center room with big windows to nature on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Air thick with formaldehyde

5th graders wearing goggles and blue gloves

Some enjoying the process of cutting flesh open; some choosing to walk away–

It reminded me of the ways we marketers, content creators, and storytellers attempt to bring our audience into a story.

Some jump right in.

“Hand me the scissors. Let’s see if there’s any undigested food in the stomach” (Hers had shrimp eyes in the creases!)

And others walk away.

“Um. No. Not for me.”

No amount of waving a shark liver around made my daughter’s uneasy friends change their minds and decide to rejoin the group.

And that’s ok.

We shouldn’t expect the thing we’re hocking (or doing) to attract everyone.

You can’t just say, “But you SHOULD want to do this,” and make it so.

In fact, it’s not such a bad thing to repel people who wouldn’t enjoy your product or service.

You want to attract the people who get it and love it.

And you can attract more of that ICP if you stop worrying about the people who don’t want anything to do with it.

They’re not willing to ride 3 hours each way in a chartered bus to spend an hour dissecting a shark.

Find the people who are.

And bring a good book (My choice was Ann Handley’s new edition of Everybody Writes. Spoiler: it’s GOOD).

This week’s round up of content carries 2 themes: The idea that prework (briefs, planning, building for a mission, psychoanalyzing your audience before emailing them) matters and How to market in a recession.

Enjoy! And let me know what you think.

Ashley Guttuso | Audience Ops  

Newsletter Tips

Content Marketing


Recession Marketing

This week’s unplanned theme:

What to do in a recession?

These insights could help you prepare:

Mobile Marketing: Mada Seghete shares advice for mobile marketing in an economic downtime, including insights on customer behavior, discounts, and ROI in her 14-minute talk.

Marketing Focus: Instead of jumping straight to budget cuts, Tyler Hartsook lists 5 ways to change your marketing focus when times get tough.

KPIs: Bryan Karas shares which KPIs to care about and why they can help to fortify your business.




Audience Ops InsightsAudience Ops Insights

Having A Writer Help Build Article Briefs Can Be Better Than Going It Alone

In a former life, I was a passionate assignment editor. I spent my days building detailed outlines for magazine articles. I discovered something: the more time I put into clearly communicating exactly what I wanted, the closer to “print ready” a piece would be when it was submitted.

But these days, it seems anyone running a content strategy for a brand—much less a portfolio of brands— has less and and less time to spend building assignments (aka creating really good briefs). Or is it just me?

I’ve found a process that lets me share pieces of the task, though. And I’m now 100% sure that involving the writer who will also be drafting the copy in the brief creation process yields stronger content than if I’d spent my own time building everything, the way I once did.

The premise

To understand the customer’s perspective using Audience Ops, I’ve contracted them to write blog articles for ARPU. When Sara, Director of Operations, suggested I add on article briefs, I agreed. Instead of going from a few bits of info (title, headers, resources) to a first draft, they add in an article brief review phase.

What this meant for me: I could give goals, context, research materials (in this case links to moments in recorded conversations that I know would be great to include), suggest an article framework, and indicate if and how the product should be included, but I don’t have to create the outline.

Instead, the writer creates an outline and I have the opportunity to review it and add comments in the Google doc to my heart’s content BEFORE ANYTHING IS ACTUALLY WRITTEN.

Our workflow (if you’re curious)

Every 16 weeks I take a day and draft summaries of 8 articles I think we should publish (based on conversations that occurred during our live series, Subscription Ecommerce Live, on questions our customers have been asking, and on feature releases that are coming down the pike).

Then, 2 weeks before work on an article begins, I receive a thorough outline to review. I assess the order of ideas, the examples and proof that will be used to back each idea up, answer questions the writer has left for me about the product or the audience’s familiarity with specific topics, and add requests (like, “Please add something about XYZ here. This resource would be good to link to.”).

Two weeks later, I review an article that is 70% “ready” (which I consider really great for outsourced work) and add revision requests. And a few days later, I have a draft that needs only minor tweaks before I hand it back off to Audience Ops to set up in our CMS and send me a preview of the scheduled article, which I also approve (or hop in to make final revisions to) before it publishes.

What I’ve found

The mental load this has lifted off of me is huge. I keep my focus on overall strategy but stay “in the content” without doing all the heavy lifting.

And because I work with the same talented writer week after week, he is both learning my preferences and building his knowledge of how our product works and how to highlight it in noninvasive ways when appropriate.

The collaborative approach has established a stronger relationship than the usual assignor/assignee relationship. I like to think that the process of planning, giving feedback, and going back and forth in the early phase of creating content is keeping us more accountable to each other, which benefits ARPU’s target audience in the long haul.

Interested in testing out this brief collaboration process for your content? Contact Audience Ops.


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Like this newsletter?

Let me know. Reply, email me at Ashley[at], or find me on LinkedIn to hit me with some feedback. I’d love to know what you think.

Happy content marketing (and newslettering),

Ashley Guttuso | Audience Ops