An Interview With Joe Pulizzi On Content Marketing

Content marketing as a strategy has gained lots of steam over the past few years, though it isn’t exactly a new concept. But long before content marketing became an everyday term among marketers, Joe Pulizzi knew its importance. Seven years ago, he founded what is now Content Marketing Institute, a website dedicated to all things […]

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Content marketing as a strategy has gained lots of steam over the past few years, though it isn’t exactly a new concept.

But long before content marketing became an everyday term among marketers, Joe Pulizzi knew its importance. Seven years ago, he founded what is now Content Marketing Institute, a website dedicated to all things content marketing, including practical how-tos and insight from industry leaders.

Recently, I had the pleasure of discussing all things content marketing with Joe, including the challenges marketers face, the future of content marketing and the fate of his beloved Cleveland Browns.

joe pulizzi

Q: Would you mind telling the readers your path to becoming the “Godfather of Content Marketing”? How did you end up here?

Joe Pulizzi: I believe the whole “Godfather” thing was started on Twitter.  The team ran with this and introduced me as the “Godfather of Content Marketing” as we kicked off the first Content Marketing World event in 2011.

I think it’s funny and get a kick out of it.  I started testing that term on sales calls about a dozen years ago, so I do have quite a bit of an affinity for the term. I hope the term sticks around for a while or the whole “Godfather” thing will become a bit pathetic (maybe it already is ;).

Q: What’s surprised you the most about content marketing so far in 2014, and how has that surprise affected your planning going forward?

Joe Pulizzi: On the upside, I’m surprised at how content marketing, as a term, has become the practice-area term for enterprise marketers. It’s amazing how fast that actually happened. On the downside, I’m surprised by how many marketers are creating much more content without having any kind of documented content marketing strategy.

I was recently at a conference of digital marketers. Almost all of those present were using content marketing, and most planned on creating and distributing more content in the next 12 months. At the same time, just about 10% had a content strategy tied to business objectives. It’s unbelievable to me how old this industry is, and yet how immature we are at the same time.

So what we’ve done at the Content Marketing Institute to compensate for this is to focus much more of our education and training on content planning, strategy and measurement. We don’t need any more marketers out there that don’t have any idea how their content is going to move the needle for the organization.

Q: Along those same lines, what are the biggest challenges facing content marketing teams in the next twelve months?

Joe Pulizzi: They have problems producing consistent content. They have problems targeting a niche audience and not multiple personas at the same time. They have issues sounding like human beings in their content. They have a tough time integrating their content marketing with the rest of their marketing.

Some enterprises don’t even have an idea of how much content they are creating and where it’s coming from. They have a difficult time not inserting sales messaging in the content. I would say about 90% of enterprise content is about the products or services.

Finally, the content most companies create is not irreplaceable. It doesn’t feel a true customer need. Enterprises need to focus on becoming the best of breed with their content instead of just telling stories like all their competitors do.

Q: Where do you think content marketing will fit into the future of wearable tech (if at all)?

Joe Pulizzi: If you look at this presentation on wearable tech, we aren’t even at early adoption phase.  But like mobile, content marketers need to be thinking how their content will be engaged with, on all platforms. So responsive design is key.

If I’m a marketer today, I’m aware of this happening and I’m starting to do test projects in wearable… with the knowledge that it will be a few years before we see real application of content.

Q: I have heard you say you don’t measure ROI, but instead recommend measuring the return on objective (ROO). I am a big believer in ROI, so what is the difference between that and ROO?

Measuring ROI in Content Marketing- Joe Pulizzi on Content Marketing - Joe Pulizzi on Content MarketingJoe Pulizzi: It’s semantics really, but the reason why I use return on objective is because many marketers measure the wrong thing when it comes to online content.

Just last month, I was talking to a large enterprise that had a pretty robust blog. I asked the marketer how it was working. He told me that traffic was up over 100% year-over-year. Then I asked what the goal was for the program. The person said his bonus was tied to traffic, and that was all he cared about. Yikes.

So what I want to know is, why are we doing the program? What is the objective? Then, from that objective, what metrics will help tell us whether or not we are hitting that goal? Web traffic, social shares, time on site — all good things, but they might not tell me squat about whether we are hitting our objective.

Long story short, I want to be clear that the content marketer understands what the business goal is first, regardless of any metrics.  Metrics come second and are only there to help support the objective.

Q: What is your favorite type of content, and why?

Joe Pulizzi: Right now… podcasts.  As Apple CarPlay is launched, and with the increase in wearable tech, it will be easier for consumers to download and listen to content.

According to CMI/MarketingProfs research, only about 25% of marketers produce podcasts. I think there is a big opportunity here. Of course, you need to know your audience. Our audience of marketers has a lot of commute time to listen to content, so there is an opportunity to fill that gap.

Q: If some readers are looking to get started in this field, what traits, skills, or experiences are employers looking for in candidates?

Joe Pulizzi: As Ann Handley would say, I want someone that has a nose for the story. I want someone that, beyond product features and benefits, can learn to understand the audience so well that content opportunities become easily apparent. I believe that all companies have loads of content, but few have content in the form and context that customers actually want. The more people in the organization that are 100% focused on audience needs, the better.

Beyond that, I’m looking for those people that worked at media organizations. Those people don’t have to be taught the publishing business model. They don’t have to be taught about editorial mission statements and calendars. They already have a keen focus on the story and the needs of the audience.

Q: What is the one question you wished you were asked in this interview but were not?

Joe Pulizzi: Why do most content marketing programs fail?

The answer is, they stop.  Consistent publishing is where most enterprises fall down.  Too much campaign-centric thinking.

Q: Here is your chance to plug Content Marketing World. Why should the readers go to Cleveland this September? And please be sure to tell the readers why you host it in Cleveland every year.

Content Marketing World Conference- Joe Pulizzi on Content MarketingJoe Pulizzi: Well, thanks. Content Marketing World is the largest industry event. This year we will see well over 2,000 marketers from over 50 countries descend on Cleveland September 8-11. Over 100 amazing speakers from the best brands in the world…plus Mr. Kevin Spacey as our closing keynote. (That should be enough, frankly, to get you to go… as well as that Arnie Kuenn character.)

Why Cleveland? CMI is headquartered in Cleveland and is my hometown. I bleed Cleveland orange. If you’ve been to Cleveland, you know how great it is. Most people that don’t like Cleveland or ask us why we have it there have never been there before. The food, the arts, the people, the bars… there’s nothing like it. A flavor all its own. Plus, because Content Marketing World is the largest recurring corporate event in downtown Cleveland, we get a lot of, let’s say, perks that’s hard to say no to.

Q: And lastly, who will have the better record this season – the Cleveland Browns or the Arizona Cardinals?

Cleveland Browns Johnny ManzielOh, that’s easy. Johnny Football leads the Browns to the playoffs this year. Either that, or prime time coverage on TMZ every night. (Photo courtesy of

For more content marketing insight from Joe, follow him on Twitter and Google+.

Images provided by Vertical Measures.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Arnie Kuenn
Arnie Kuenn is the CEO of Vertical Measures, a content marketing agency with an SEO foundation, focused on helping their clients get more traffic, more leads, and more business. Arnie has held executive positions in the world of new technologies and marketing for more than 25 years. He is a frequent speaker and author of Content Marketing Works. In 2014, Arnie was honored as the Interactive Person of the Year in Arizona.

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