By Joe Pulizzi published May 30, 2012

Finding Your Content Marketing Hedgehog

content-marketing-hedgehog9-600x588If you’ve read anything from Jim Collins, most notably the author of Good to Great, you know about the hedgehog.

The hedgehog, in business, is that thing your business can be the best at…that combines your unique talents and passion into something you can make money doing.

I believe the hedgehog exists in content marketing as well.

The Move to the Hedgehog

A few weeks back, I was on #atomicchat as the guest for the day, answering various questions about content marketing (with some really good discussion).

One of my tips that drummed up discussion was this:

Do one thing really well…be the best at one thing…you don’t have to focus on every channel.

There was some backlash to this. As content marketers, we have to understand the stories we tell in all platforms, and leverage as many channels that make sense. We can’t just focus on one thing, can we?

Yes, but not at the expense of the hedgehog.

The Content Marketing Hedgehog

When we start scattering our content strategy too thin, I always go back to read this article from Jeff Jarvis on how newspapers (specifically) should cover what they are best at and link to the rest.

Cover what you do best.  Link to the rest.

In expanding on this topic for us content marketers, I believe we have some flexibility to look at our hedgehog in a couple different ways.

  1. The Hedgehog as what we cover: In your niche, maybe you produce the best research, or the best how-to information, or the best investigative journalism.
  2. The Hedgehog as how we cover it: This is channel specific.  You possibly have a winning podcast like Content Marketing 360 or video series formula like Will It Blend?.  Perhaps a webinar or daily blog series.
  3. The Hedgehog as why we cover it: This is your higher purpose. Your content marketing mission statement. To be truly effective content marketers, we have to be creating and distributing content for, primarily, the betterment of your customer.  Once you find that, then you can look for where your product or service fits in. The matching of our customers’ informational or entertainment needs and what we sell is the content marketing sweet spot.
  4. The Hedgehog as who we cover it for: Are there groups of people that are not getting the information they need to do their jobs better, or live their lives to the fullest extent?  Your hedgehog might be covering a piece of information for that niche group, and then do it better than anyone else.

The most successful companies in content marketing have found their hedgehogs.  I think of IBM and their amazing white paper research.  P&G and their informational microsite home tips. KLM and their digital magazine of world travel. Copyblogger and their daily, how-to post on writing best practices (JP – expanded on this per Ardath Albee’s comments below).

What’s your content marketing hedgehog?

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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  • Ardath

    Hi Joe,

    I really like this post. In fact, I was with you until the last paragraph. I don’t think IBM wants to be known for their white papers, for example. As a marketer, when I think of IBM, I think of their research. Most recently, their CMO Study. It may come in the form of a white paper, but it’s the research I remember.

    That’s what makes my ears perk up when I see a new IBM white paper – the inherent promise that I’m going to get solid research and thinking. If it was just another white paper release, I wouldn’t even notice. I get that format can be a component, but, in my opinion, your content marketing hedgehog has to be about more than format. Or did I miss something?

    • Joe Pulizzi

      You are right Ardath…It’s IBM’s research, as always packaged in white paper form.  IBM’s research, P&G’s helpful and interesting home tips, Copyblogger’s clear instruction, and KLM’s pictures of the world.  Thanks for keeping me honest.

      It’s interesting how the channel and message begin to blend when you find your hedgehog.

  • Linda Parriott

    Thanks for linking hedgehog focus to content strategy. Everyday is a showdown between the Hedgehog vs. Be Everywhere, especially when the inbox is filled with the latest tips to optimize Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, YouTube. Throw in the content form, and, as a not-yet-launched-information publisher, I’m down for the count before noon. 

    Just as you saved Jeff Jarvis’s post as your focus touchstone, I’m saving this one, if only for the Comments discussion about the blurring of channel and message. 

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks so much Linda…so true so true.  Stop by anytime.

  • Justin P Lambert

    This is such an awesome and refreshing post.  I’m in a constant state of overwhelm thinking about all the channels I’m not yet exploring, both for my own business and for my clients.  This helped me step back and refocus for a few minutes on which experiments have gone really well and which have had lackluster or failed response.  Maybe I really CAN be everywhere at once without killing myself!  Thanks again!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Wonderful Justin…really appreciated your comment.  You are right, it can be overwhelming.  Sometimes it’s best to take a step back.

  • Aimee Carmichael

    Thinking about my hedgehog!

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  • Aaron Hoos

    Wow. Great, thought-provoking post. Loved it and am now standing at my whiteboard with smelly markers in hand! Let the hedgehogging begin.

    • Joe Pulizzi


  • Nick Stamoulis

    If you try to do it all you may never be able to find your niche.  People should know what to expect from your content after some time.  Don’t worry so much about what everyone else is doing, figure out what you do (or write or produce) best and stick with that.  

  • Suneeta

    It is a great pleasure to
    read your post.I am refreshed and your post makes me think about every aspect
    that I am yet to explore. It is amazing the way you have linked content marketing with hedgehog.I absolutely agree that a business can be at the best when it combines unique talent and passion to make money. Thanks for this wonderful read!!


  • Anika Davis

    Hedgehogs have good characteristics that business people can really gain lessons from. Create your own strategy and focus and work on it to attain your desired results. We must have that hedgehog business concept to survive in this competitive world.

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