Content Marketing World and More: An Interview with Content Marketing Guru Joe Pulizzi

Oct 18, 2011

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I first met Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute and organizer of Content Marketing World, at the Niche Magazine Conference in February 2011. He was a featured speaker at the event, and he spoke on a number of topics, mainly social media and content marketing. I enjoyed every session I attended, but his keynote on content marketing was what stuck with me. As the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, you'd expect him to be passionate about content marketing. It was more than that, though. Pulizzi, who's been around the publishing business for a long time, talked about content marketing in a way that "just made sense" for both marketers and publishers.

Since then, Pulizzi has launched the Content Marketing World conference to rave reviews. I thought it was a good time to touch base with Joe on his ventures, as well as the whole content marketing movement.

TH: I'd like to start by congratulating you and your team at the Content Marketing Institute for last month's inaugural Content Marketing World event. By all reports it was a fantastic conference. What made you feel that this was the right time to launch an event on content marketing?

JP: Thanks Tom. I think the biggest reason is that the majority of larger companies have stopped asking "Why?" Senior marketing executives don't need the convincing they used to for integrating content marketing into the organization...they just want to know "How?" to get it done. Once that happened in the industry, we felt this was the right time for an event.

TH: How many attendees were there at the event, and who were they? What was the mix between content creators and content marketers?

JP: We had 631 content marketers from 18 different countries. 50% were client side and included 11 of the Fortune 50 and 22 of the Fortune 100. The other 50% were comprised of content agencies, custom publishers, traditional publishers and technology vendors.

All in all, if felt like the right mix. Since the feedback was incredibly positive on the event, I would say it was.

TH: What were the hot topics at the event? What speaker really blew everyone away?

JP: There were so many. Pam Didner from Intel received great reviews on how she integrates the content marketing process globally in a company as big as Intel. Attendees loved Gary Spangler's take on how the content process works within DuPont (he uses something called Web Editorial Guides). Keynotes Sally Hogshead and David Meerman Scott were amazing.

But, the person who got the greatest response was Marcus Sheridan, former CEO of River Pools and Spas. Marcus shared how he used content marketing to become North America's most successful Fiberglass pools company in just a few years through online content marketing. Plus, Marcus is a truly dynamic speaker.

TH: You've been in the publishing business for a long time, this all really seems like old fashioned "custom publishing?" Why is content marketing really hitting the mark right now, and how is it different?

JP: It is, and it isn't. Yes, you could say that content marketing is just what we call custom publishing...but I don't think that would be fair. Yes, content marketing is the phrase that resonates with marketers, but the true idea of content marketing is that it needs to be integrated throughout the organization. Historically, custom publishing was project specific. Content marketing can be project specific, but it is more a company-wide mentality of how the story needs to be told in and around the organization in order to attract and retain customers. It's a change from a sales mindset to a publisher mindset.

As a side note, back in the early 2000s, I felt the progress of the industry was being diminished because everyone was using a different language. Some used custom publishing. Some used branded content. Some used custom media. There are about 20 more as well. We had to change the conversation if CMOs were going to take notice. Content marketing, as a phrase, resonated with CMOs the most, and that has had a trickle affect throughout the entire industry. It's been very exciting to watch this happen.

TH: How do you convince an executive that content marketing needs to be a critical component of a brand's overall marketing strategy?

JP: Wow, that simply takes more than a blog post to answer that. Here are a couple resources. First, we need to look at how a content program is measured. We did an article that will help: "Reporting Content Marketing ROI to the C-Level"

Second, marketers have to develop a business case for content marketing and show how content marketing can make everything in the organization better, depending on the goal. Robert Rose and I go through this step by step in our book Managing Content Marketing

TH: So, let's say you've convinced a small- to medium-sized business that they need to develop a content marketing strategy. How do they accomplish that and get going with content?

JP: [First you must consider a few things.]

1.     Who are you talking to?

2.     Why are you creating the content? What's the goal?

3.     What are you going to say that makes an impact on your customer in some way?

4.     Where will the content live? What's the channel(s)?

5.     How do you know what success looks like?

Check out this post for more on that: "The WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY and HOW of Editorial Content Strategy."

Also, Managing Content Marketing will help a company of any size get started on the right foot.

TH: What team should own the social media and content marketing function in a company? Do you need a dedicated social media manager?

JP: I'm not as concerned about titles...what has to happen is that the roles of content marketing - the chief content officer, the managing editor, the content producer, the content creators, the chief listening officer - they must find a home in the organization. At first, you don't need to hire specific people to get this done.

Here's a post that outlines the creation of a content marketing team: "Creating a Content Marketing Team and Workflow Plan."

TH: What is the best way for a publisher approach brands about working with them on their content marketing initiatives?

JP: Ask them questions like "What is your biggest pain point?"

"What keeps you up at night concerning your customers and prospects?"

Odds are that a content marketing solution might be just the thing they need to solve those pain points. Most publishers push product and don't ask the right questions...that's usually the biggest problem with getting started.

TH: If you had to pick one social media site for a content marketer to focus on, which one would it be? Facebook? Twitter? LinkedIn? Google +?

JP: I can't pick one. It all depends. Might not be any. Might be all of them. Depends on who you are targeting and what you want to have happen. Think of it this way...would you have a YouTube strategy if your target customer was a blind woman? Nope.

TH: So, I get it that brands need a lot of help with content marketing. They need help creating it and promoting it. But, in your experience, do publishers themselves need to learn more about content marketing strategy?

JP: Publishers need to learn about content marketing strategy if they want to offer these services to their customers. Frankly, their sponsors and advertisers are creating more of their own content than ever before. If they want to have a slice of that revenue, or partner with their customers on content marketing initiatives, then yes, they need to understand how content marketing works within a non-media company. Sadly, most publishers don't, but there was never a need for them to learn. Now is the time.

TH: Where do you see content marketing going in the future? Will brands create their own publishing units? Will every brand have staff writers/bloggers?

JP: Brands already have created their own publishing units. Those that haven't are in the process of doing it...but if this was a baseball game, we are still in the first inning, so there is still time depending on where you are coming from.

I just did a content marketing workshop with 15 small-to-medium sized technology companies. One just hired a director of content marketing, and three were looking for journalists to hire right now.

TH: Any news on the next Content Marketing World event? Dates, location?

JP: The event date will be September 4-6, 2012...location will be announced in November. Hope to see you there.

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