Joe Pulizzi Interview on Content Marketing Trends

I’ve had a chance to speak to Joe Pulizzi about the trends and perspectives in content marketing. Joe is the author, coach, entrepreneur, Godfather of the content marketing movement. Joe is the leader behind Content Marketing Institute  and Content Marketing World, the largest content marketing event in the world.

I’ve been at CMWorld 2012 and I’d say – this was one of the most exciting, fun, useful and professionally organized events I ever had a chance to visit.

Lights on – Joe Pulizzi.

Helen: I am joined today by Joe Pulizzi, author, speaker, and evangelist. People call him the Godfather of content marketing. Joe, how are you doing today?

Joe: Very good, thanks for having me. I appreciate being here.

Helen: Content marketing is on the rise. What are your industry expectations for the next few years?

Joe: So, content marketing has been moving very fast, as you know, from 2007 when I really started talking about content marketing and everyone would listen. It has changed so much from then. It has been so hard for the last couple of years, and what we’ve seen is that more and more companies are creating a lot of what I would call bad content. You wouldn’t put mediocre content as bad content – you’ve got everybody doing it. They’re trying to fill so many social media channels, and it’s really quite clattered out there. So, how are you going to break through that clatter? I think what you’re saying is that a lot of companies are making a serious effort to put processes behind content marketing, really trying to figure out how they are going to structure it internally, externally; how they are going to integrate it; do they have to integrate it with PR department; do they have to integrate it with their corporate communication and marketing.

So, in the past the content marketing group, or let’s say the corporate publishing group, was back in the corner – nobody cared about them. What they did was separate – they had a custom magazine or a newsletter but it was completely separate.  Now it’s coming into the fold, it is the part of the overall marketing mix, and I think, what is really interesting to me, is it’s scentful. The story that you have as a company that you’re telling your customers is now in the middle of everything you do in marketing. It’s a big change, and it’s also a political nightmare in most companies. So, what we are really seeing is that content marketing is growing up, which is great; it has shown many great processes, it’s been mature but we’ve got a lot of pain to get through to get to where we need to get to.

Helen: What types of content should a company create to be successful in 2013?

Joe: So, the types of content that a company should create… I would say, if you don’t really have a good understanding of what a content marketing mission statement is, don’t create any content. A lot of people think that, “Oh, Joe, you’re out there promoting content marketing where people create lots of content.” That’s absolutely not true. Most companies that are out there right now, I would like them to stop creating content because it’s horrible. Basically what you’re seeing is that a lot of companies are filling channels, and I completely understand why – we have so many channels that we fill, and these companies that we have to fill, like “Oh, how are we going to get this content? So let’s go to get that content”.

I think that companies need to take a step back, figure out what are the real pain points of my customers, my readers, let’s say. If we’ll look at them as readers and start thinking more like a media company or like a publisher, and say, “What are their pain points?” And then we come back. That’s first and primary but not our marketing objectives. Then we’re back in our marketing objectives. It’s always done the other way around: “Ok, what are we trying to do from a marketing standpoint?”, and then “Oh, let’s create some content for that.”

No, first start with the customer. It’s basic marketing 101 but from the marketing standpoint most companies don’t do it. So, I’d say the one thing that I would recommend is taking a step back, figuring out what that mission statement is. If you’re going to Ink Magazine, you know that their mission statement is basically for solutions and best practices, so that entrepreneurs can grow, small businesses can grow. That’s their mission; all content is done around that. So, with your company you need to do the same thing and have to figure out what that is, and then you can figure out what kinds of stories, what kinds of channels, whether it’s video or audio or slideshow, and all that other stuff – that comes second.

Helen: What marketing tactics are essential from a strategic prospective? What a company should do to be successful in the long run?

Joe: Let’s pretend that the company already knows what the customers’ informational needs are, what the pinpoints are and what keeps them up at night. Then you figure out “What are my marketing objectives?” and then from that we can start looking at the storytelling strategies. First of all, there’s a whole big strategy that was on this because we’ve got to know what’s the buying cycle of our customers, what are their needs, how are we going to move them along with cycle (B2B, B2C), all that other stuff. But let’s move past after a second because the question you’re asking is “what kind of tactics”.

I really think that 2013 is going to be the continuation of 2012 for two things. One is visual – you have got to focus on what your visual storytelling strategy is. That means looking at channels – such as SlideShare – is really important. Pinterest… maybe, if you’re B2C. But I think that for B2B and B2C SlideShare is going to be the channel. By the way, if you don’t know SlideShare, it is YouTube for PowerPoints. I think that it will grow like crazy in 2013 because it’s underutilized right now. Only about 20% of all businesses have a SlideShare account in some way. So that will really grow.

The second thing is that I think from a podcasting standpoint. For some reason it has been going on forever, and all of a sudden this podcasting hit has just taken off. And what I think has a lot to do with this is Apple, when they changed their iOS – they added this little podcast button “Feature App”. Even with the companies and people that I talk to, it’s amazing how many more people listen to the podcast because that little button is there. Now you’ve got more podcast.

As a company, look at your visual channel. It doesn’t have to mean video, it could just be how you are taking the textual content that you’ve been creating, and create a visual story out of it. Some other way you might see this is an engaging-looking PowerPoint – that’s really good content. How can you get your thought leaders into an ongoing series of getting them as part of, maybe, a podcast series, or get influencers in an ongoing story around your business, around your customers’ pain points, whatever. So I would look at those in 2013.

Helen: One of the biggest challenges for content marketers this year is creating enough content. What can content marketers do to overcome this challenge?

Joe: Creating enough content… When we did our research study a few months ago for the Content Marketing Institute, it was the number one challenge – producing enough content. I think that’s good and bad. Producing enough content is good because we understand we have more buyer personas, we have more readers out there, we have to create different content strategies which means we need more content. It also could mean, “Oh, we have all these more channels, so we can shove more content out there”, and that’s the problem. I get a little bit scared when people say they need to create more content because when we go and we talk to mostly fortunate one thousand companies about their content strategy, most of the time the problem is not with producing enough content. It’s mostly that they have to stop doing things and really focus on certain things.

So, I’d say, the first thing is maybe not producing more content, maybe it’s really focusing on how to create really truly epic content, great content marketing. Let’s focus on that first. Then, from a producing content standpoint – I think it’s going to be a big trend in 2013 - it’s co-creation. Good friend of mine, Andrew Davis, who wrote a book called Brandscaping, a terrific book about content co-creation. Look at partners that you have that are targeting the same audience, that you can partner with to create amazing content: stories, other efforts like that. I think that it’s a huge trend that we’ve barely used. It’s been going on for a long-long time but I think you’ll see it in 2013. Of course there’s outsourcing, there are freelancers, those types of things will continue. But I like the content co-creation idea.

Helen: Joe, thank you very much for sharing your insights. It was a very good interview.

What are your thoughts on content co-creation? Do you think this will be one of the leading trends in 2013?