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 his latest book Epic Content Marketing (McGraw-Hill). 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.

By joepulizzi published April 2, 2015

Keys to the Intelligent Content Kingdom: 5 Conference Takeaways

“Managing content is hard. We tried it at Google & decided to focus on easier stuff, like self-driving cars.”

This tweet from Rebecca Lieb, attributed to an “ex-Googler,” was shared by Cleve Gibbon during his keynote talk the first day of this year’s Intelligent Content Conference (ICC) last week. The laughter in the room confirmed that many content pros identify with this summary of the complexity (and frustration) of trying to manage content.


This slide in Cleve Gibbon’s ICC keynote presentation set off laughter throughout the audience.

Every person I talked with at this year’s event is struggling to keep pace with the amount of content being created at work. Many sessions and hallway conversations touched on this challenge.

Good news – and many ideas – came from this year’s event. Of course, we’ll be talking about intelligent content and the complexities of managing all of this in the weeks and months to come on the Intelligent Content blog. For weekly updates, subscribe to our newsletter.

For conference highlights, read on.

The keys to the kingdom

Before I share my top five key takeaways from the Intelligent Content Conference, I would like to acknowledge the literal keys that I was privileged to take away: a set of giant wooden keys that Ann Rockley presented to me onstage as we kicked off Day One.


Ann Rockley presenting me with the keys to the Intelligent Content kingdom on the ICC stage as we kicked off Day One.

Ann had labeled each key with a large laminated card. (All those years in technical documentation were not wasted on Ann.) She read the labels out loud for the audience: “structurally rich,” “semantically categorized,” “automatically adaptable.” We all recognized these as elements of her well-known definition of intelligent content. What a memorable way to mark the passing of the conference’s ownership from the Rockley Group to the Content Marketing Institute.

Ann keys

The keys to the Intelligent Content kingdom include these three elements of intelligent content as defined by Ann Rockley: “structurally rich,” “semantically categorized,” “automatically adaptable.” For the complete definition, including three elements not identified here, see What Is Intelligent Content?

In fact, I had many key takeaways during the conference – too many to count. Here are my top five:

  • Treat content as a product, not a project.
  • Work backward from the experience you want customers to have.
  • Structure content – and teams – for intelligent outcomes.
  • Instigate change or follow fast (yes, you!).
  • Think big; start small.

Let me tell you some of the things I heard that relate to each of these.

Treat content as a product, not a project

Product, project: Does it matter which way we think of our content?  It sure does.

Several presenters, including Cleve Gibbon, stressed that content is a product that needs to be managed throughout its life cycle. It should not be a project that is completed and considered done.

Another speaker who touched on this was Mark Fries, Principal Strategic Marketing Manager at BMC Software. “You’re not launching a website,” he said. “You’re launching a hypothesis. You’re never done testing assumptions about what users need.”

In ongoing work with ISITE Design based in Portland, Oregon, Mark and his team are focusing on the most important sections of the site from a revenue point of view and optimizing them based on the ways users are interacting with the content. BMC Software has already seen a 67% increase in marketing-sourced pipeline for, and that has paid for the project many times over.

Similarly, Ardath Albee talked about how companies need to stop thinking about content as a campaign with a beginning and an end – and start telling stories that create a progression throughout the buying cycle. She said,

“The reason I talk about the continuum approach is that this is an ongoing conversation, an ongoing story-building exercise to help educate people about everything they need to know to make that decision to buy, hopefully from you. It’s about getting your expertise in the room, not about three touches and a sales call.

“A one-off piece of content is not helping companies … Good topics have longevity, and people don’t master them overnight. If you really develop your content well and you’re telling the story that people need to know, then it’s valid for a long time until that story changes.”

Work backward from the experience you want customers to have

Another key theme that surfaced in many of the sessions relates to customer experience. Scott Abel shared this stat: Three-quarters of brands think they care for customers, but only 36 percent of customers actually feel cared for.

Robert Rose added this: Only 23% of customers feel that they have a relationship with a brand (and that’s from any brand). “Are you wondering if your customers are in that 23%?” Robert asked. “They’re not.”

Are you providing the kind of experience that makes your customer want to be a part of your brand? And do you do this at every touchpoint: at the right place and right time and on the right device?

Cleve Gibbon stressed that we need to start with the experiences we want our customers to have and work backward from that. Content (and technology) decisions flow from that.

Here are some points from other ICC speakers who reinforced this theme of the importance of customers’ experience of content.

  • Over-optimization leads to sameness (Todd Wheatland). When business content is too much of the same thing, it’s easy to ignore. The brain responds to and remembers change. (Carmen Simon)
  • Build a few remarkable experiences. You’ll never scale to be in every channel. Don’t let the term omnichannel fool you – you don’t have to be everywhere. In fact, you can’t be everywhere. You do have to be where your customers are. (Robert Rose)
  • Creating more content doesn’t mean we can get content down more channels; you actually get less, because you can’t manage it. (Cleve Gibbon)
  • What’s the 10% of your content you want people to remember? Focus on that 10%, and make sure that it’s a memorable experience. (Carmen Simon)

Structure content – and teams – for intelligent outcomes

If there was one word that rang through the Hyatt at the conference, it would be structure.

On the one hand, content needs to be structured. This is a foundational element of the  intelligent content definition. In essence, content chunks cannot be tied to any format. As Rahel Bailie mentioned in one of her sessions, only when you have structured, unformatted content can you begin to prepare your content for the future.

In fact, the term future-proofing came up several times in the context of structure.

Cleve Gibbon – citing a Joe Gollner blog post published a few days earlier – pointed out that in order to lead to intelligent outcomes, structured content needs to have three qualities:

  • It must be raw. It has to be independent of formatting so that it can be used in any number of types of output.
  • It must be self-describing. It needs metadata labels so that computers know what to do with it to serve the business objectives.
  • It must be modular. Each component of the overall structure stands alone so that it can be mixed and matched in various ways.

Cleve slide—raw etc

This slide from Cleve’s ICC keynote talk identifies three qualities that structured content must have to qualify as potentially intelligent. It must be raw, self-describing, and modular.

Just as content needs to be structured strategically, so, too, do content teams. This question came up a number of times: How are you going to organize people to get all of the work done, especially with challenges and responsibilities that cross departments?

Instigate change or follow fast (yes, you!)

If you work for a mid-size or large organization, you have no doubt been frustrated with how tough it can be to make progress. Is too much of your time spent justifying what you need to do instead of doing it?

Instigating change is a challenge, but we must take it on.

Noz Urbina reinforced this point: “If content is not properly positioned in the organization then you can’t solve the people, process, and technology problems.”

As I mentioned in my closing remarks, I see a palpable shift: We can make change happen now more than ever because there is so much disruption. This is a new opportunity in the last six to 12 months for many. Now is the ideal time to do something new – or, as Robert Rose mentioned, to quickly follow someone who is doing something new. Revolutions happen when one person leads and when the first person stands up and follows and encourages others to do the same. Robert shared a three-minute video that demonstrated the importance of both change instigators and “first followers.”

Our organizations depend on us to be change leaders – and first followers.

Ahava Leibtag pointed out that the way you successfully instigate change is to tie it to business outcomes. “Executives care about one thing: Are the numbers at the bottom of the spreadsheet round and green? Start with the money. Find something that is hurting the bottom line. Fix that.”

Think big; start small

Many speakers agreed – we need to think big and start small. Examples:

  • In the health care roundtable, Ann Rockley said, “Start at a single point. Find the biggest pain point, and address that first.”
  • Cleve Gibbon reminded us that we need to get in there and get our hands dirty.
  • Rahel Anne Bailie suggested that we think about the ideal scenario and plan for it in a scaled-back way.
  • Mark Fries and Guy Bourgault talked about focusing on those sections of a website where conversion happens and optimizing them first. This is how they were able to have the biggest impact.

Robert Rose and Carla Johnson’s new book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing – which rolled off the presses just in time for conference-goers to pick up a copy at the book table – puts it this way:

“If we aren’t willing to start someplace and begin to experiment, we risk being left behind. New ideas, new platforms, and new media all matter. It’s not about grabbing the ship with both hands and trying as hard as we can to turn it. It’s about placing little bets and learning. It’s about trying little experiments and seeing what happens.” (p. 297)



Obviously at any conference, the takeaways can’t be summed up in a list of five or even five hundred. Did you attend the Intelligent Content Conference? If so, what were your key takeaways? If not, plan to join us at ICC next year!

A thanks to our editorial “ears on the ground”: Marcia Riefer Johnston, Karen Ronning-Hall, Carmen Hill, and Michele Linn. 

Title image courtesy of Joseph Kalinowski, Content Marketing Institute

By joepulizzi published March 28, 2015

This Week in Content Marketing: The Third Era of the Internet Has Begun


PNR: This Old Marketing with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose can be found on both iTunes and Stitcher.

In this week’s episode, Robert and I discuss AOL co-founder Steve Case’s take on the third era of the Internet (yes, this is such a thing). We also ponder whether or not LEGO went off the rails with its “beauty tips for girls” section in the LEGO Club magazine, and explore PR’s role in content marketing. Next, we critique a set of predictions on the future of consumer behavior and advertising and finish up this week’s news with a look at revenue models for podcasts.  Rants and raves include Starbucks’ awkward response to criticism of its “Race Together” campaign and IDG’s clever method of affiliate marketing. We wrap up the show with a #ThisOldMarketing example from Backcountry.

Continue Reading

By joepulizzi published March 25, 2015

Research: Technology Marketers Align Around Lead Gen

Technology-research-CoverOf all the segments of content marketers we’ve studied over the last year, technology marketers are the most focused on lead generation as a goal for content marketing. While tech marketers were the group most focused on lead generation last year as well, the percentage has increased from 86% in 2014 to 91% this year.

It’s also notable that the tech marketers are shifting away a bit from brand awareness (which does not generate leads) as a primary goal, and more toward getting measurable results (using leads as one measure).Continue Reading

By joepulizzi published March 21, 2015

This Week in Content Marketing: Starbucks Announces Next Move as Media Company


PNR: This Old Marketing with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose can be found on both iTunes and Stitcher.

In this week’s very special rant episode, Robert and I discuss Starbucks’ move into publishing with its hiring of a prominent Washington Post editor. We wonder if Nokia’s decision to launch a content marketing “campaign” with Wired magazine is a good idea, and ponder whether native advertising is an attractive new revenue stream for publishers – or if it’s making a deal with the devil. Finally, we question the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) skewed view of the future of branded content. Raves include discussion of a valuable new formula to measure the impact of content marketing, and why podcasting needs to be evangelized to help it grow faster. We wrap up the show with a #ThisOldMarketing example from Public Accountant magazine.Continue Reading

By joepulizzi published March 14, 2015

This Week in Content Marketing: Is Google+ Finally Dead? Well, Not Really

PNR: This Old Marketing with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose can be found on both iTunes and Stitcher.

In this week’s episode, Robert and I ponder whether Google+ is really dead or if it will continue to live in some other form. Next, we discuss Google’s planned evolution of its search algorithm to focus more on facts and less on links, and why The New York Times is going Hollywood with native advertising. We also question a research study’s claim that PR is the new content marketing.  Rants and raves include why marketers can’t measure, and how to get your long-form articles to go viral. We wrap up the show with two #ThisOldMarketing examples from RCA Records and Kellogg’s.Continue Reading

By joepulizzi published March 7, 2015

This Week in Content Marketing: The Media Industry Is Desperately Confused


PNR: This Old Marketing with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose can be found on both iTunes and Stitcher.

In this week’s episode (dubbed the “beautiful episode”), Robert and I discuss Uber’s new magazine launch to drivers as well as a thought-provoking article about the negativity surrounding ghostwriting. In addition, we discuss the confusion in the media landscape, how bad native advertising can get, and how Dove’s #SpeakBeautiful Twitter campaign is actually rather ugly. Raves include airline safety that has been transformed into compelling content and headlines that rock. We wrap up the show with a #ThisOldMarketing example from Lands’ End’s Apostrophe e-magazine.Continue Reading

By joepulizzi published March 4, 2015

New Content Marketing Research for Manufacturers: Are You Focused on What’s Working?


Manufacturing marketers shifted gears in a big way this year, turning their attention toward sales as a primary goal for content marketing.

That’s just one of the findings in our second annual report sponsored by Fathom. This year’s research shows that manufacturing marketers have made numerous other changes since last year. But here’s the kicker: In many cases, there’s disconnect between what they are doing and what works. Let’s take a look.Continue Reading

By joepulizzi published February 28, 2015

This Week in Content Marketing: When Will LinkedIn’s Purchase Run End?


PNR: This Old Marketing with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose can be found on both iTunes and Stitcher.

In this week’s episode, Robert and I discuss LinkedIn’s latest marketing solutions launch and what’s likely to be on its radar for 2015 acquisitions to further enhance its toolbox. We explore Seth Godin’s take on content marketing and what the world’s most innovative media companies are doing to stand out today. Finally, we ponder the rise of the Content Economy and The New York Times’ decision to launch a training product. Rants and raves include Time Inc.’s myopic view of its business and how Lego stole the Oscars. We wrap up the show with a #ThisOldMarketing example from Cleveland Clinic’s Health Hub.

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By joepulizzi published February 21, 2015

This Week in Content Marketing: Why the New Golden Age of Marketing Is Now


PNR: This Old Marketing with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose can be found on both iTunes and Stitcher.

In this week’s episode, Joe and Robert discuss an excellent new McKinsey report on trends in marketing, which sounds eerily similar to Robert’s upcoming book. Also in the news this week is the growth of content promotion and SEO, a major Australian publisher that is taking an intelligent approach to content marketing and Kraft’s and Meredith’s bold move to bring native content to email. Rants and raves include an entertaining new video that features President Barack Obama and Barneys’ savvy move into print magazine publishing. We wrap up the show with a #ThisOldMarketing example from the Eastern Color Printing Co. and the start of the comic book industry.Continue Reading

By joepulizzi published February 14, 2015

This Week in Content Marketing: A Net Neutrality Win | Stop Talking So Much About Yourself


PNR: This Old Marketing with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose can be found on both iTunes and Stitcher.

In this week’s episode, Robert and I announce that John Cleese is keynoting at Content Marketing World 2015. After much celebration, we reveal what the FCC’s decision on Net Neutrality means and discuss research that shows B2B marketers are still talking about themselves too much. We also highlight five publishers who plan to use Snapchat’s Discover channel to launch new shows and the IAB’s new native advertising guidelines. Rants and raves include Coca-Cola, Target, and Gawker. We wrap up the show with a #ThisOldMarketing example from KISS.Continue Reading