By Joe Pulizzi published December 1, 2010

The Three Rules of Content Marketing

On the flight over to Belgium I was reading a combination of Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman, Screw It, Let’s Do It by Sir Richard Branson, and Why We Suck by Denis Leary.

Quite a potent combination.

As a content marketer, what can we learn from this brew?

1. You Are a Publisher

Publisher? What is the meaning of that word?

Ann and C.C. state in the preface of Content Rules about the hesitation to use the word publisher. Non-media brands immediately think of traditional publishers like the Wall Street Journal or the top trade magazines, but not themselves. But like it or not, we are all publishers.

Simply defined, a publisher delivers on the informational or entertainment needs of the reader in whatever format in which the reader wants to engage.  A traditional publisher does this to generate sponsorship revenues or get people to pay for content. The non-media brand does this to ultimately sell more products and services. More and more companies, like ours, do both.

Publishing is hard work, but also mandatory for today’s companies.  Believing that you are a publisher is the first rule.

2. Dream it, Do it!

The one thing to note about Richard Branson’s success is this: Whenever a fresh opportunity came, he grabbed it. Not maybe. Not, “I’ll consider it”. If the odds were good, and he could be the best at it, he did it.

That’s what a publisher does. Innovation through content.

Innovation is a new way of doing something, or new stuff made useful. As publishers, we innovate to solve our customers’ pain points. Every day, every minute. The innovation happens not because of the content, but the affect it has on the reader. That’s true innovation.

If we wait for someone else to do it, maybe for a traditional media company, or possibly a competitor, we will fail.

3. It’s Not About You

For all the rantings of Dennis Leary, his biggest criticism of Americans is that everything is about us. Look at our kids, our house, our dog. Simply put, nobody cares.

New content marketers have the same problem.  We like to talk about ourselves all the time. Our products, our services, features and benefits.

The barrier to entry into publishing is gone but the belief that marketers still have the deep need to talk about themselves all the time remains.

Successful publishing is all about the reader…your customers. If you are not solving their pain points with relevant and compelling content, you are adding to the noise, the clutter.

You have a choice.

Willing to take the next step? Check out Ann’s and C.C.’s book.  I’m proud of them for writing such a piece.  Thanks to both of you.

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • MaKenzie Birchell

    Thanks for another great post, Joe. You never fail to leave me with a refreshed sense of what content marketing is REALLY all about–which is why #3 is my favorite.

  • Chris Mortimer

    Excellent Joe, I think the “Screw it, let’s do it” attitude is crucial. It’s important to be pro-active, be open to opportunities and then explore them but quickly: if it’s not going to work, you’d better find out as soon as you can.
    I’m going to keep this in mind this week.

  • C.C. Chapman

    Well I’ve always wanted to meet Sir Richard Branson so I guess I’ll count this as one step closer?
    Glad to hear you are enjoying the book and thank you for sharing it with your readers.
    Safe travels.

  • Rene Power

    Nice succinct post Joe. No nonsense.
    For me it’s about delivering something relevant, engaging and above all personal. And that’s what I look for in other content.
    If I want a text book, I’ll buy a text book.

  • Jerry Yu

    Yes, Joe, I think the essential point is “It’s Not About You”, we must say something that can help and lead people to a right direction. Always saying how good your products or services means nothing in running a business, we must talk about thing based on our experience in order to help our potential customers making a smart decision.

  • Michelle Esso

    Great post. I agree with all three points. I wish more marketers and organizations would understand #3, “It’s not about you.” Hasn’t a salesperson’s goal always been to serve as a resource for their prospects and customers, and to build a relationship of trust with them? Marketers should have the same goal. Nobody cares to hear an organization brag about itself. They want to know what that organization’s products or services can do for them.

  • Debbie Williams

    Great insights as usual Joe! I totally agree with Michelle’s comment above. It’s still such a challenge to convince clients that “it’s not about you” and that they can really serve their customers (and themselves) better by being a resource that adds value to people’s lives.

  • Christina Pappas

    Looks like marketers agree that #3 is a must! Any advice on convincing the rest of the company? Everyone at their own company likes to talk about their product. I mean, its the best right? And everyone should buy it? Well, we know that providing good stuff that may or may not be related with the intent to Help is essential.
    I like #2 as well. There is something to be said about seeing how another brand handles something to see if it works then following suit while mixing in a little innovation of your own throughout the process.

  • Ann Handley

    Hi Joe! Thanks so much for the book shout. I’m also a huge Branson fan-girl. Love his blend of fearlessness (the “screw it, just do it” bit) and compassionate humanity.

  • Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion

    Love these 3 Joe….and excited about ‘Content Rules’. Surprisingly, Ann interviewed me for that book and she’s certainly a gal that ‘get’s it’.
    I especially appreciate your 3rd point here. Too many businesses want to yap about themselves all day long— their products, services, sales, events, blah, blah, blah….
    Just teach consumers something they didn’t already know. That’s what it’s all about.

  • Jon Thomas

    Right on Joe. Exactly what we’ve been preacing – Consumers control brands and everyone’s a publisher.

  • Hamilton Wallace

    Focusing on the reader or viewer for content is clearly a good way to go. I’ve even found in basic sales copy it’s best to give 60% or so of the copy to connecting with the reader, convincing them you understand their issues. The best sales copy isn’t about what you’re selling.