If You Influence Even One Person, It’s Worth It – Q&A With Nancie McDonnell Ruder

Three years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic gave author and marketer Nancie McDonnell Ruder a front-row seat to witnessing people experience, endure and navigate a tremendous amount of change. The marketing community had a steep hill to climb and found creative ways to survive and thrive. This set the stage for How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights: What is Still True, More True, & Newly True.

We recently sat down with Nancie to discuss the common traits of success, the importance of setting boundaries and her advice for aspiring authors.

You connected with various senior marketers both in the first and follow-up book. How did you decide who to reach out to?

First and foremost, I wanted to talk to senior marketers whom I knew well and have known for many years. From there, anytime I had a conversation with a senior marketer, I would ask who else I should talk to.

“It was a great exercise in connecting and reconnecting with people.”

I was very upfront about how we would manage the content they shared, and most people were extremely receptive and loved the idea of being included in a book.

In both books, you reference “Jack” and “Jill,” prototypical rock star marketers thriving in today’s complicated landscape. Describe your typical “Jack” and “Jill.”

I wouldn’t say there is a typical description.

“The characteristics that they hold in common have far more to do with their dedication to learning, their courage, their curiosity, their commitment to innovation and their resilience, than what they are doing.”

That being said, they are definitely senior in their careers. They span various industries, they have worked on the client side, the agency side and have started their own businesses. Many come from large organizations where they ran significant budgets and expansive teams.

Was it harder to write the first or second book?

By far, the first time was harder. If you’ve ever built a house, you probably know it’s better the second time. It was a Seth Godin podcast that unlocked it for me. The podcaster complimented him on being prolific and asked how he writes so many books. He used a hockey analogy, where the players use the boundaries of an ice rink to bounce ideas off in order to prevent overwhelm. For example, this book will only be 100 pages, or I will only dedicate 10 months to writing.

“I set clear boundaries for my second book, and it really helped me stay focused.”

The absolute hardest part for me is that final “put the pen down” moment. My team was incredibly helpful recruiting extra readers so I felt that I could.

Are there any specific authors or books that influenced your writing style?

I am avid reader and appreciate many different authors and genres. I especially enjoy Malcolm Gladwell and Adam Grant. These are top of mind as they are very research based.

“Books that use research as a way of thematically getting to the learning as well as using curiosity to practically apply it really resonate with me.”

I also reference many authors in both of my books that have influenced my writing style.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing this book for you?

Facilitating an Art and Science workshop live and seeing 30-40 books around the table, highlighted, dogeared and margins marked.

“I love to see people get excited about where they fall on the marketing art/science continuum.”

It’s extremely rewarding to spend time with young marketers from Georgetown University and American University, for instance, and watch them feel inspired or comforted to learn that most people lean towards one or the other, and how you can balance creativity and analysis.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors who are looking to write and publish their own books?

To secure an editor earlier than you think. You may have trouble with flow, experience stumbling blocks or get stuck between order and expansion. Having a partner early is helpful. Don’t feel like you need to get the whole book written before enlisting help. Also, don’t let imposter syndrome hinder you. Anyone with any level of humility will have moments of “who cares what I think?”

“If your book influences or inspires even one person, it’s worth it.”

Do you have plans for an additional book?

Yes! I mostly think about a book on the approach of help and kindness in connecting and networking. This is how I have worked for so many years and have come to realize that many people struggle in that space.

“It’s so important in one’s growth and career to network horizontally and I would love to get that out into the world.”


To learn more about how senior marketers scale the heights, read Nancie’s most recent book.