By Joe Pulizzi published July 13, 2007

The Five Pillars of Content Marketing – The Ultimate Definition

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I probably define what content marketing is at least twice a day. Try telling your parents that you are a content marketer – very challenging indeed. Even worse, try talking to your neighbor. Most of my friends have given up (and that’s okay).

One major challenge is that there are so many different words and phrases used when discussing the same thing. Okay, here goes…

Content marketing, custom publishing, custom media, customer media, customer publishing, member media, private media, branded content, corporate media, corporate publishing, corporate journalism and branded media.

There are probably more…but those are the biggies.

Another point of confusion is that people (and marketers) in general have so many different perceptions of what marketing is and should be. So, when you say marketing, they are already a bit confused. Add content marketing and you’ve lost them.

We at Junta42 are backing content marketing as the preferred term. Why? We believe that term resonates the most with marketers for two reasons:

1) Content marketing has marketing in the term. Marketing, according to, is “the act of buying or selling in a market.” We believe that any term has to involve the process of a sale.

2) Content. The creation of great, story-form content (through any channel) is what ultimately influences someone to buy your product or generates a wanted behavior.

OK, before I take a shot at the Ultimate Content Marketing Definition, here is an excerpt of the definition of custom media (publishing) on Wikipedia:

Custom media is a marketing term referring broadly to the development, production and delivery of media (print, digital, audio, video, events) designed to strengthen the relationship between the sponsor of the medium and the medium’s audience. …Custom media is different from traditional media in very subtle, yet
significant ways: Typically, custom media is sponsored by a single
marketer (a company, association or institution) and is designed to
reach a tightly focused audience of customers, members, alumni or other

Had enough yet…here is the formal definition of custom publishing from the Custom Publishing Council:

Custom publishing marries the marketing ambitions of a company with the
information needs of its target audience. This occurs through the
delivery of editorial content – via print, Internet, and other media – so intrinsically valuable that it moves the recipient’s behavior in a desired direction.”

Both excellent definitions…but can we do better with content marketing? Since sentence definitions don’t do it for me (and frankly, most men), here is a different spin on how to define content marketing:

Content Marketing is:

  • Editorial-based (or long-form) content. It must tell a relevant, valuable story. Must be informative, educational or entertaining.
  • Marketing-backed. The content has underlying marketing and sales objectives that a corporation, association or institution is trying to accomplish.
  • Behavior-driven. Seeks to maintain or alter the recipient’s behavior.
  • Multi-platform (print, digital, audio, video, events). It can be, but does not have to be, integrated.
  • Targeted toward a specific audience. If you can’t name the audience, it’s not content marketing.

Yes, somewhat the same, but hopefully more concise. We leave out the creation and production of the content from the definition. We feel that’s too obvious (yes, it has to be created).

This definition is very close to the CPC one. We added associations and institutions, since some people may not associate them with the word ‘company.’

But overall, I believe the key is that there are five main components (or phrases) that make content marketing what it is: editorial-based, marketing-backed, behavior-driven, multi-platform and targeted.

And we dub thee the “Five Pillars of Content Marketing.”  May you live long and prosper.

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Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi considers himself the poster boy for content marketing. Founder of the Content Marketing Institute , Joe evangelizes content marketing around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books, including best-selling Epic Content Marketing (McGraw-Hill) and the new book, Content Inc. Check out Joe's two podcasts. If you want to get on his good side, send him something orange. For more on Joe, check out his personal site or follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • Mike Horgan

    Good post. Not that you need a sixth pillar, but I would also add “educational.” The content must be informative and provide something of value or the audience will ignore it.

  • Joe Pulizzi

    Good point…I think we can add that under the editorial pillar. I’m not sure marketers could take “another pillar.” Thanks!

  • Andy Panjaitan

    Good article Joe..
    I was wondering whether we can put Content Marketing under the umbrella of the Integrated Marketing Communication efforts done by the companies or not..
    I guess we can talk more about this tomorrow then..
    Keep up the good work!
    Andy Panjaitan

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  • Brian Haugen

    Thanks for this post. I appreciate the way that you have really created a framework for what content marketing is all about that is quick and easily digestible.
    I just wrote a post that not only elaborates a bit on the definitions of content marketing, but also includes my thoughts on why content marketing works!
    Here it is-

  • Jon

    Good article and insightful definition. I’m glad you use “audience” instead of “consumer”, but we like to use “stakeholder. We think it inspires more critical thinking because stakeholder says that the particular group actually has a stake in how your brand or organization is perceived in the marketplace…and many stakeholder groups for a brand are not consumers, yet can have profound impacts on how you are perceived.

    Nice article.