By Joe Pulizzi published September 21, 2013

The 6 Principles of Epic Content Marketing

epic content marketing-book coverMy latest book, Epic Content Marketing, is launching this week. Naturally, the title has prompted many a marketer to ask me, “What, exactly, does epic content marketing entail?”

To start, you need to be honest about the content you have. Most likely, your organization has plenty of feature- and benefit-related content — truly, the majority of brands have become quite adept at talking about themselves. We clearly don’t need more of that kind of content, especially when that type of information is only useful for a very small part of a buyer’s journey. What brands lack are stories that engage their customers — and drive customers and prospects to take a desired action. 

Below, I’ll review the six key principles of epic content marketing in more detail. But before I do, let me remind everyone that the ultimate goal of our content marketing efforts is to “move” the customer in some way. We need to positively affect them, engage them, and do whatever is necessary to play a useful role in their lives and their conversations.

  1. Epic content fills a need: Your content should address some unmet need or answer a question your customers have. It needs to be useful to them in some way — above and beyond what you offer in the way of products and/or services. In some cases, it may fill an emotional need (like Coca-Cola’s content and Red Bull’s storytelling efforts aim to do).
  2. It communicates consistently: The primary hallmark of a successful publisher is consistency, both in terms of quality and delivery. Epic content reliably delivers on the promises your brand makes. Whether you are asking your audience to subscribe to a monthly magazine or daily email newsletter, you must ensure that they receive what they signed up for and that it always arrives on time and as expected. This is where so many companies fall down.
  3. It requires you to find your unique, and human, voice: The benefits of not being a journalistic entity is that you have nothing to hold you back from being… well… you. Find what your voice is and share it. If your company’s story is all about humor, share that. If it’s a bit sarcastic, that’s okay too.
  4. It expresses a point of view: This is not encyclopedia content. You are not giving a history report. Don’t be afraid to take sides on matters that can position you and your company as an expert. Chipotle’s runaway viral hit The Scarecrow clearly has a point of view — that locally sourced and responsibly produced food is, well, superior to how most food is processed today. Don’t be afraid to take stances like this.

  1. It is devoid of “sales speak”: At Content Marketing Institute, when we create a piece of content that is about us vs. an educational post, it only garners 25 percent of the average page views and social shares our content normally drives. The more you talk about yourself, the less people will share and spread your story. It’s that simple.
  2. It’s recognized as the best of its breed: Though you might not be able to achieve this at the very beginning, the ultimate goal for your content is to be considered the best in its class. I know it may sound overly simplified, but if you expect your customers to spend time with your content, you must deliver amazing value to them, and nothing less.

Take some time to look at your content marketing strategy. How many of these six principles are you achieving in your content efforts? 

Epic content marketing in action

Think about the content sources that you rely on every day. What makes them so special? Do they provide information that you can’t find anywhere else? Are they consistently delivered at the same day and time? Do they express a particular point of view that you subscribe to? Does the information you get from them help you live a better life or grow at your career?

There are a number of content sources that I have “subscribed” to that have become part of my life:

  • Inc. Magazine (a media company) — I actually get excited when this print publication comes in the mail. Monthly frequency.
  • Seth Godin’s daily blog posts (an author). Daily frequency.
  • Quarterly reports from Fisher Investments (an investment firm). Quarterly frequency.
  • Copyblogger Media’s daily posts (a software company). Daily frequency.

As a business, your content marketing goal is to become part of the fabric of your customers’ lives. Once you can do that, selling to them becomes relatively easy. What you might find interesting about the above examples is that I’ve purchased multiple products from all of the companies above, even though they give away so much value for free. That’s exactly what you need to do with your content marketing. The good news is that we can all be epic — if we follow these six principles. Good luck! 

Portions of this post were excerpted from Joe’s latest book, “Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break Through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less.” Buy the book today and you’ll be entered into a raffle to win a free video-on-demand subscription to view all the sessions from Content Marketing World 2013 — a $595 value. Click here for contest details.

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.

Other posts by Joe Pulizzi

Join Over 150,000 of your Peers!

Get daily articles and news delivered to your email inbox and get CMI’s exclusive e-book Launch Your Own Content Marketing Program FREE!

  • aboer

    This is the first time I have seen someone (besides us) talk about having authors and brands “move” their audiences. There are actually two senses of the word at play, both of which apply. First, brands need to learn how to locationally “move” an audience from their or their authors’ social networks and content sites to the brand’s content destination, and then to some kind of mid-funnel action. And second, they need to emotionally “move” them, the way we sometimes say “that movie really moved me”. Effective content marketing needs to be movable media. (Yeah, I just did that).

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Amen!

  • David Cheng

    I always find it amazing that some corporate websites still don’t put pictures and names of their authors next to the blog post. “Epic” content marketers like Jon Miller @ Marketo, for example, put out high quality content that doesn’t always have to do with the core business. Rather, he serves his audience content that he knows they’d find useful or interesting, even if he never mentions Marketo except in his byline.

    Just like Apple demonstrated epic design to be a necessary component to product, companies like Marketo and HubSpot are proving epic content is a necessary component to marketing.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Well said David!

      • David Cheng

        Joe,

        We are building something at ShareBloc (www.sharebloc.com) that I think you’d be interested in. Craig Rosenberg (www.funnelholic.com) is an advisor along with a few others. PM me on Twitter? @davidpcheng

  • http://www.it-sales-leads.com/ Barbara Mckinney

    Great article Joe. We have to put in mind that content marketing is not about selling. It’s about providing our customers with some important information.Every marketer/blogger should take time to read this article.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Barbara!

  • http://www.softship.com/ Ava Cristi

    Great article Joe. We have to put in mind that content marketing is not about selling. It’s about providing our customers with some important information.Every marketer/blogger should take time to read this article.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Would love to see that happen Ava 😉

  • Lauren

    Joe, I could not agree more about the sales speech. I recently took over the social media aspect of our business. I have talked to my boss about “sideways marketing,” but she didn’t buy it. How do I get her on board?! It makes so much sense and is clear as day to me, I need to unfog her lenses!

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Blatent sales pitch Lauren, but give her my new book. It’s jammed with examples that will help. If she doesn’t buy in after reading it, just let me know.

  • Lily154

    As it was said at Content Marketing World: Helping is better than selling.

  • Brian Heller

    Joe – I agree! And I’d add to your list of great content worthy of an opt in:
    -Smartbrief.com
    -PaidContent.org

    -BusinessInsider
    -Content Marketing Institute newsletter (of course!) 😉

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Nice Brian!

  • http://www.ronvanpeursem.com/ Ron VanPeursem

    Joe; great article, and great appetizer to get me ready to purchase your book. One piece of data that really jumps off the page (for me)… 75% loss in page views when a content piece revolves around the author (or his brand’s services). Wow. I’m highlighting that stat in a post tomorrow. Check it out here in the morning: http://www.shiftdigitalmedia.com/author/ron-vanpeursem/

    Thanks, Joe!

    And thanks for the list of Content Sources; practicing what you preach!

  • Full Tilt Consulting

    Entertaining and enlightening piece, Joe. I definitely agree the best content marketing is devoid of sales speak. Thanks for being so transparent and sharing the stats of your content’s social popularity – a lesson all business bloggers can learn from. I like your tip that the more you talk about yourself, the less people will want to spread your story. Building on this point, when blogging with the intention of conveying your business expertise, it’s important to write as if your words are a one-one-one conversation with your audience. This approach builds trust and rapport with each post as readers will feel that you’re writing with the selfless intent of advising, enlightening and sharing.
    http://www.fulltiltconsulting.com