Joe Pulizzi on the Power of Content Marketing: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

Joe Pulizzi is an entrepreneur, speaker, author, podcaster, father and lover of all things orange. He’s the founder of multiple startups, including the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), the leading content marketing educational resource for enterprise brands, recognized as the fastest growing business media company by Inc. magazine in 2014. CMI is responsible for producing Content Marketing World, the largest content marketing event in the world (held every September in Cleveland, Ohio), as well as the leading content marketing magazine, Chief Content Officer. He began using the term “content marketing” back in 2001.

Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s third book, Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of the Year” by Fortune Magazine. His fourth book, Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses, was published by McGraw-Hill Education (September 2015). His fourth book, Marketing Profit, will be released in September, 2017. Joe has also co-authored two other books, Get Content Get Customers and Managing Content Marketing. Joe has spoken at more than 500 locations in 16 countries advancing the practice of content marketing. You can also hear Joe on his podcasts, “This Old Marketing” and “Content Inc.” If you ever meet him in person, he’ll be wearing orange.

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Now please shift your attention to Content Inc. For those who have not as yet read it, hopefully your responses to these questions will stimulate their interest and, better yet, encourage them to purchase a copy and read the book ASAP.

First, when and why did you decided to write it?

After my third book, Epic Content Marketing (written for marketers at large enterprises), I kept running into people at events saying “Joe, I love Epic, but I’m an entrepreneur, I’m a small business owner, what about me?” To answer that question, I started to write Content Inc. in 2014. Initially, the book was going to be about how we (at CMI) took a business with no resources or money and dominated an industry. Then, once I started to interview other entrepreneurs who did the same thing we did, we found a pattern of success. Every company did the exact same things to create a major success (whether it was planned or not). That model became the Content Inc. model, which is the core of the book.

Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.

I simply could not believe that we found this model of content marketing success – where you create an audience through content creation and distribution in a very simple manner, and that model just happened to be the same way successful media companies have been built for generations. I still can’t believe it. It’s so simple and it works…it just takes patience and time.

To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?

Originally, there was no particularly model…sure, it talked about how to build an audience, but the exact six steps…the overlap among every example we looked at…was a complete surprise.

How does content marketing differ significantly from traditional marketing?

With traditional marketing (for the most part) you are using someone else’s channel (radio, newspaper, magazine, media site, Facebook) and buying an advertisement. The goal is to distract them long enough in the hopes they take their attention away from what they were engaging in (the article, the show, etc.) and do something with your ad. Content marketing is the opposite. Your goal is to become the content. To create content so valuable they actually want to engage in it. You do this over time, and they begin to know, like and trust you as a brand, leading to more sales, lower costs or happier customers for you.

Years ago in one of their books, Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell explain how to create what they characterize as “customer evangelists.” How and why specifically can content marketing help to achieve that strategic objective?

Once you build an audience that engages in your content, they (in most cases) begin to share that content with their friends, colleagues and network. Your customers (audience) becomes your distribution to reach more and more people. Having someone share your content is extremely powerful.

You identify and discuss six principles of content marketing that work. Which (if any) is more important than the other five? Please explain.

Step 2 is the most important – the Content Tilt. That is, finding an informational area of little to no competition where you actually have a chance to break through all the clutter. If you aren’t telling a different story, you probably won’t succeed and if you are distributing the same information as anyone else, as your competitors, doing the other steps correctly won’t matter.

You suggest six specific steps when implementing the Content Inc. Model. What are the most important dos and don’ts to keep in mind when completing each? First, the Sweet Spot

In step one, you must only focus on one audience at a time. Most organizations have multiple audiences and want to generalize their content to reach more people. It simply won’t work. Focus on a significant pain point in one audience where you have the authority to communicate on a particular knowledge or skill area.

Content Tilt

If you are not telling a different story in some way, there is no way you will cut through the clutter to build an audience.

Building the Base

Instead of creating and distributing your content everywhere, the best model includes four things – choose one main content type (audio, video, textual), one main platform (blog/website, YouTube, iTunes), consistently deliver (same time daily or weekly) over time (takes more than 12 months on average to build an audience).

Harvesting Audience

Building an opt-in audience is key to monetizing the platform. That means focus on email subscribers as the number one priority. If you are building subscribers on social platforms you cannot control, work, over time, to convert those audiences to email subscribers.


Once you build a minimum viable audience, then begin to diversify into things like a magazine, a podcast, an event. What we find is that the more your audience is subscribed to more of your subscription options, the better buyers they become.

Finally, Monetization

Once you follow the first five steps, now you can monetize…by selling products or services, launching events, taking donations, or using data to create new and better products. Here are nine different ways to monetize your content platform, and most companies use more than one.

Which of the six steps seems to be most difficult to complete successfully? Why?

There are two areas where most companies fall down, the content tilt (they don’t tell a different story) and building the base (they done produce and distribute the content consistently. Everyone is looking for the big viral hit, but viral happens about 10,000 pieces of amazing content.

Years ago at Camp David (1978), President Anwar El Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister of Menachem Begin of Israel reached several accords. Later, at the press conference, they were asked why the two nations were able to do that after several thousands years of bloodshed during various wars. Begin replied, “We did what all wise men do. We began at the end.” What do you think are the most valuable lessons to be learned from that response?

Stephen Covey’s second rule: begin with the end in mind. Visualize your goal first, and then set the execution steps in motion.

Why is establishing the right platform so essential to the success of content marketing?

You can’t be a jack of all trades and master of none in content marketing. Focus on one and become great at it, just like the NYTimes did with print or NBC did with television. Once you truly become great at one platform, then you can diversify.

How best to decide the nature and extent of the content provided?

On this, you have to work it out. The beginning is a great experiment. Once you publish, you’ll start to see what works and what doesn’t. When starting out, focus on something you are already proficient at (do you have good writers or good podcasters, for example?)

Should one of these processes be completed first or should they be completed simultaneously? Please explain.

Yes…the Sweet Spot and Content Tilt need to be first…that’s the strategy. Then you build the base and acquire the audience. Then you diversify and monetize.

Which analytics seem to be of greatest value to a successful content marketing campaign? How so?

Focus on generating email subscribers. Once you do that, you can find out what your audience of subscribers are doing differently. Do they buy more, stay longer as customers, promote your brand more, etc. That’s the core of content marketing.

Which traps should be avoided once a content marketing campaign has been launched?

Don’t do a campaign…a campaign means it stops at some point. Your program may change consistently, but it never should stop. Content is a promise to your customers.

What role should social media play when designing and then implementing a content marketing campaign?

Social media are rented channels. Focus on ones that can make the most impact and deliver a consistent, differentiated message. Then work, over time, to convert that audience to email subscribers.

What are the early-warning signs that indicate that a content marketing campaign is — or will soon be — in very serious trouble, if not doomed?

If people are consistently opt-ing out of your email newsletter, over and above new subscriber growth. We want to see net new subscriber growth on a weekly basis.

In your opinion, which of the material you provide in Content Inc. will be most valuable to those now preparing for a business career or who have only recently embarked on one? Please explain.

I believe for those starting a business, that the Content Inc. is a much less risky model than creating a product and using traditional marketing tactics to promote it. Start by building a loyal audience. Then they’ll tell you what they want to buy from you.

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Here is a direct link to Part 1.

Joe Cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

Content Inc. link

Content Marketing Institute link

Joe’s website link

Joe’s blog link

Link to learn more about Joe and his speaking engagements

Twitter link

His Amazon US lin

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