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.

By joepulizzi published March 24, 2009

Tear Your Content Walls Down – Why Gated Content Might Not Make Sense

So much amazing information to share from the Branded Content Conference in Miami – but one key point I wanted to share now was from David Meerman Scott’s presentation on World Wide Rave.

David shared some key statistics on white papers. Almost all brands create and distribute white papers – those 8 to 20 page downloadable pdf’s that are now staples in most marketing programs.

Many, dare I say, most brands (including my own company) “gate” their white papers.  To “gate” a white paper means you put an information requirement in front of the content in exchange for getting access to the white paper.  This could be as simple as an email address, or as complicated as purchasing information.

Here’s the point David made.  According to his statistics, a white paper or eBook will be downloaded 20x and up to 50x more WITHOUT a gate in front of it.

Please go back and read the last sentence again.

What is your objective?

Most people gate their content for lead or customer management purposes.  This means they want the prospect’s information in order to sell them something, or they want more information about the customer in order to sell to them more precisely. Makes sense, right?

This is a solid marketing objective, but is it the “best” objective, or even the “right” objective?

Shouldn’t our goal with the creation of branded content be to spread our ideas? Doesn’t it make more sense from a marketing perspective to have fifty people engage in our content instead of one?

And here is a key point that David made clear.  Who are the customers you have that will actively share your content? Bloggers. What customers do you have that usually DO NOT download gated content? Bloggers.

So, not only are we limiting the people that will get access to our content, we are cutting off those customers that will actively share it with their audiences.

The Possibilities

Let’s say you received 1,000 leads via your white paper download.  From David’s numbers, let’s even take a more conservative 10x more downloads if we remove the gate.  This would give us 10,000 downloads with no lead data. Of all those people, let’s say that 1% would share this/blog this with their audiences (with a VERY conservative audience of 100 people, although most blogs get much more).

With those numbers, the total possible content reach for gated content would be 2,000 people.  Non-gated content would be 20,000 people.

And take this note to heart – I haven’t seen one piece of branded content “go viral” and massively spread that was gated.  If you have, please let me know.  What’s more important to you?…lead information on the few, or the opportunity to spread your brand to decision-makers who you are not talking with right now.

There are times and places to get customer information. Is that time or place in front of the content you want shared actively?

I have a pretty good feeling that I’ll be removing the “gates” to our content very soon.  How about you?

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By joepulizzi published March 19, 2009

Change is coming faster than you think

If you have told yourself recently that new media marketing will not affect your industry or your business significantly because of FILL IN THE BLANK, then watch this video.

Change is happening faster every second. What changes will you make?

By joepulizzi published

Why would you buy advertising?

M&M
It's an honest question, and was the major discussion in an interview I had today with Lauri Sihvonen, a reporter from Markkinointi&Mainonta (a publication dedicated to marketing and communication professionals in Finland) at the Ateljee bar in Helsinki.

Lauri's magazine is a mostly paid subscription publication, but they also drive revenues through online and print sponsorship. His advertisers are trying to target M&M readers to sell their products and services. Let's say that over the next few years, his advertisers were able to collect the information they needed about the M&M readers they wanted to target, and combined it into their own customer database.

Here is the question I asked Lauri: If that was the case, why would someone advertise?

Let's really think about this. In general, companies advertise to:

  • Reach New Customers.
  • Remain With Prospects Through the Buying Process.
  • Because Your Competition is Advertising.
  • Because it Pays Off Over a Long Period.
  • Generate Store/Site Traffic.
  • Make More Sales.
  • Because There is Always Business to Generate.
  • Keep a Healthy Positive Image.
  • Maintain Employee Morale.

I'm sure there are others, but those are the biggies.

But as companies gather the information they need about their customers and prospects, the need to advertise is almost eliminated. If a brand has similar assets to a media property, why wouldn't they just go direct (through content marketing), rather than go through a distributor?

Neither of us had an answer to the question – why advertise? New markets? Possibly. New Product? Could, but why if you already can communicate directly. Credibility? Maybe, but a brand that provides quality relevant and valuable information can quickly develop a relationship with customers/readers. Site Traffic? Content works best.

All that, and it's still an interruptive media choice (not permission marketing), and is almost always the most expensive choice….and…there are more free distribution choices available than ever before (just in case brands don't have the databases they need).

It's Not Just Print

And, as we all know, the move away from advertising has been happening for a while.

Advertising is projected to be down 13% this year. Could be more.

Advertising Age itself just announced that it was cutting its number of issues from 50 to 43 or 44 this year due to the drop in advertising. “It’s pretty horrible,” said editor Jonah Bloom. “If a publication loses 50 or 60 percent versus last year, that’s half your revenue that disappeared! A great quote from someone I was talking to the other day said I’m just kind of hoping if I can get to 15 or 20 percent down, I’ll be somewhere in the middle of the pack. You know what I mean? It’s pretty serious. In our case, we feel like we’ve built a number of non-print-ad-related revenue streams.”

One problem with the online strategy Jonah – online advertising is less expensive and may be better option for marketers than print, but it is less effective each year since 2004, as click-through rates continue to decline.

It's advertising in general that's the problem…all forms. Brands are going direct, both because they can and they have to in order to stay relevant with customers.

So this was Lauri's final question…"If that's the trend, and advertising will never come back, what are media companies to do?"

My answer: If the company is built upon sponsorship revenue, find a new business model, and quickly. Most media brands have excellent credibility, a great database, industry expertise and some have the best journalists. Those assets are a great place to start to offer products and services that are not sponsorship based.

In many markets in the very near future, the look of a non-media brand and a media brand, in terms of their general activities, will be nearly identical. Everyone is a publisher and media companies need to provide products and services to survive.

What say you?

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By joepulizzi published March 17, 2009

Five Content Marketing Books You Need to Read

Over the past month, I've had a large amount of flying time to Europe and back. That means it's been the perfect time to catch up on my reading.

Below are books that I've read and taken something significant away.  I believe they can help you too (these are in no particular order).

#1 – Content Rich by Jon Wuebben

I recently had the chance to chat with Jon, and subsequently read his book. Here's my take: if SEO copywriting and content creation is important to your business (it should if it's not), this is a must read. Jon knows this stuff and will show you step by step how to do it. This will change the way you think about online content.

Best for: Anyone trying to increase conversions from search engines.

#2 – World Wide Rave by David Meerman Scott

You won't find a bigger fan than me of David's previous book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR. WW Rave is as good, if not better. If you are not a believer in the content marketing revolution, you will be after reading this book. It's a game changer. The examples are priceless. Need executive buy-in? Buy them this book.

Best for: Decision-makers that don't understand how the Internet has changed the game. Opportunity is now.

#3 – HVAC Spells Wealth by Ron Smith

As some of you know, I've done a bit of work in HVAC (Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning) publishing and marketing in my day. Through my travels I've had the opportunity to meet and work with Ron. Okay, Ron's book is not really about content marketing. But it IS one of the most practical small business operations, sales and marketing books I've ever read. Ron's examples are geared toward consumer service businesses, but the tips are priceless. Ron includes dozens of what he calls "1%ers" (small changes that when added up are game changers). I started making a list of them.  I'll share in a future post.  Great stuff. Get the book.

Best for: Owners and executives that need to focus more time on customers, and less time on internal politics. The process detail in invaluable.

#4 – The Zen of Social Media Marketing by Shama Hyder

Shama was kind enough to let me preview a copy of this eBook before she released it. What I truly love about this book revolves around "the art of giving." Social media is about giving of your expertise in a way that helps your ideas spread. If you are a social media novice or a self-proclaimed social media guru, you will take some points away that will help your business. No doubt about it. Good for any sized business. Includes concrete best practices for Twitter and Facebook.

Best for: Businesses unsure about how to proceed into social media.

#5 – Personality Not Included by Rohit Bhargava

I didn't start using the term "authenticity" until after I read this book. Today's marketing environment means that brands needs to stand for something, and back that up with ideas and content that are meaningful to customers. We don't have a choice anymore.  Rohit's examples are worth the price of admission.

Best for: Marketing executives trying to grasp the integration between new and traditional marketing. Those trying to find a connection with customers.

Also (warning…sales plug), I have to mention our book, Get Content Get Customers as well (revised paperback to be released in May). I've seen this book in action with both businesses and media companies, and I can guarantee that it will make a difference in your business if you implement these steps.

Finally, I haven't read it yet, but I'm intrigued by John Blossom's Content Nation. That's the next one on my list.

Any others that I should add to my content marketing reading list?

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By joepulizzi published March 12, 2009

10 Commandments for Custom Magazine Failure

This topic was created for two reasons.

First, I’ll be giving this presentation in Helsinki, Finland next week for their 2009 Customer Magazines Symposium.

Second, I was inspired by the book, The Ten Commandments for Business Failure, written by former Coca-Cola CEO Donald Keough (good book by the way). After reading, I thought it would be interesting to look at custom magazines in this way.

So here’s the quick overview. To be sure, if you follow any of these commandments, your custom magazine will be an utter failure.

The Ten Commandments for Custom Magazine Failure

Commandment #1
Keep Thinking Like a Marketer

Some custom magazines are often positioned as glorified sales brochures – lots of company news, case studies that tell how great the company is, and advertorial type informational pieces. For a custom magazine to work, brands need to remove the “sales speak” and start to think like a publisher – with the #1 goal of providing valuable and relevant content to the reader.

David Tokheim from Six Apart put this nice roundup together about thinking like a publisher, including:

  • Give them something to talk about
  • Listen
  • Foster relationships through social currency
  • Align with influencers to create something remarkable

If you cannot take your sales hat off and communicate like a publisher would, your custom magazine is bound for failure.

Commandment #2
Talk about Yourself A Lot! – Sell, Sell, Sell

If you mention your company or brands more than a few times on each printed page, you’re in trouble. In one test of a recent corporate magazine, we found up to 19 mentions of the company’s brand and products on just ONE PAGE. How valuable could that be?

One of the cores of content marketing is that you can actually sell more in the long run by selling less (best case, not at all) in your content. Custom magazines are no different.


Commandment #3
Keep Doing the Same Thing

The majority of custom magazines still use this formula:

  • Create glossy custom magazine
  • Mail magazine to targeted customers or ship to distribution locations
  • Upload content to website/microsite and/or create digital magazine replica
  • Repeat in three months

A custom magazine today cannot just be a custom magazine.  Here is what the custom magazine of the present and the future looks like.

  • Record interviews (video/audio) for later repurposing.
  • Develop a news release schedule pre- and post- issue release.
  • Discuss upcoming issue on your magazine blog (editor). Set up RSS feeds.
  • Post video interviews via YouTube or Vimeo. Embed in your blog post.
  • Print and mail/ship your magazine.
  • Send digital replica version to international audience or online subscribers.
  • Upload content onto magazine website. Be sure content is sharable via social media (Facebook, Digg, StumbleUpon)
  • Provide a “remarkable” download on magazine site (eBook, white paper, etc.). Here’s an example.
  • Continue to provide relevant content on magazine website – articles, blog posts.
  • Use Pay-Per-Click, targeted specific keywords to drive people to your online magazine or download (in addition to the SEO magic of consistent, compelling content.
  • Continue news release program (plan for at least one, best for two per month).
  • “Listen” to who’s talking about what online (more to come on this).
  • Upload articles to key vertical and social bookmarking sites.
  • Other social media – Facebook group, LinkedIn group, etc.

Commandment #4
Wait for Better Timing to Expand

There has never been a better time for marketers to leverage publishing tools than right now. The rules of the game have changed.

  • If you create and develop consistent and relevant content to your customers, buyers will engage in it as credible, just as they have traditional expert media content. This is happening now!
  • Check your databases.  Do you have customer information and permissions to communicate directly with your customers and prospects? You most likely do.
  • Traditional media is losing journalistic talent. Hire some!
  • There are no technology barriers.

Commandment #5
Don’t Leverage Free Online Tools

If you want your custom magazine to fail, don’t use:

Usage – Finding new stories, new distribution channels, listening to customers prospects, speaking one-on-one with customers, becoming a part of the conversation in your marketplace, developing real relationships with customers and prospects.

Commandment #6
Create Multiple Marketing Objectives

Many marketers want to accomplish the following with their custom magazine:

  • Customer Retention
  • Lead Generation
  • Thought Leadership
  • Lower Customer Service Costs
  • Open New Markets
  • Inspire Former Decision Makers
  • Magazine to Pay for Itself
  • Solve World Hunger

That’s a recipe for failure.  Too many goals = lack of focus. To succeed, focus on one key goal.

Commandment #7
Ignore Traditional Media in Your Market

Five out of every 10 magazines and newspapers will go out of business, scale down their frequency or move entirely to the Web,” predicts Andy Cohn, vice president and group publisher, Fader Media.

The opportunity? Do what camera manufacturer Adorama did with JPG magazine and invest in traditional media outlets. Brilliant move.

Any struggling media properties in your market?  Buy them.

Commandment #8
You Don’t Need a Content Audit

If you want your custom magazine to fail, don’t develop processes to extract the best content from inside your organization.  Don’t do a content audit.

The future of a custom magazine is about developing a content strategy that makes sense so you can actually “be the publisher”.

Commandment #9
Let the Customer Figure Out the Action Step

If you don’t have a call-to-action (some additional piece of content or valuable information) on almost every page, you’ll start to have problems. Custom magazines are about creating or maintaining a behavior change, but you have to have an understanding of what you actually want your customer to do.

Commandment #10
Disregard the LEGO Principle

If you want your custom magazine to fail, don’t pay any attention to LEGO magazine.  Starting out as your basic custom magazine in the 80s, this top-tier magazine has spread into an email newsletter, branded music, in-person events, a social network, variable versions (LEGO Club Jr., Brickmaster), spin-offs (Bionicle magazine), and even an on-demand TV Channel.

To ensure that your magazine will not be successful, don’t pay attention to what LEGO is doing.

What did we miss?

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By joepulizzi published March 10, 2009

Enter the Content Strategist: Content Strategy as an Asset

Wanted to share an excellent presentation from my good friend (and past content strategy co-presenter) Kristina Halvorson (@halvorson) from Brain Traffic.

Couple of points that I think are important to pull out of this presentation:

  • Everything you do today in marketing can and should be web content (see Slide 55).
  • Readers of this blog already know this, but the role of what we call the “content strategist” is one of most important roles in a marketing organization.  Any aspiring journalists out there? Start the path to becoming a content strategist.
  • Content, or the delivery of valuable information for your customers to evoke some action, is often discounted by brands (a pesky, last-minute detail).
  • Unorganized, irrelevant content will confuse customers and hurt the brand. Relevant, organized content is an asset (and a powerful one at that).

I especially love the commentary on how we are “using brands” today. Yesterday Gerber…Today Babycenter.com. Yesterday Hush Puppies…Today Zappos.com.

Nice job Kristina.

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By joepulizzi published March 8, 2009

Dangers of Social Media in the Workplace – A Real Life Example

Big thanks to Heather Rast (@heatherrast) for sharing her real-life story of how social media involvement affected her corporate career. This is a very important topic that affects nearly all businesses today.  In Heather’s case, you’ll see that her social media activity led to some significant problems with her former employer. You’ll also hear from Heather that she’d do it all over again, despite what happened to her.

When I heard about Heather’s situation, I was anxious to get this story out. We can all learn from this issue – as owners, employees and personal brandkeepers.Would love to get everyone’s thoughts on this.  Thanks!

By the way, Heather and I first met via Twitter. Heather put a ton of detail into this, and I truly appreciate her time. – Joe Pulizzi

What types of social media/social are you involved in?

I’m actively involved in: my blog, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Delicious, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, FriendFeed, and Flickr. I had active presences on each of these before the incident and remain active today at those sites.

Can you give us an overview of what happened, as it relates to your social media involvement?

I was employed by a software development company, and my role was director-level. My role included leading a team of ten Web interface designers and content strategists.  My focus was entirely on the best ways to present and market our client brands on the Web.

After being involved in social media, I learned that my mindset toward it was not shared by all. Others may be more circumspect, calculating, methodical, and generally more reserved in their approach to growing and learning. By comparison, I prefer to do research, consult with experienced persons, and leverage my intuition to make first steps, closely evaluating results but persisting in moving ahead.

Our company did not have a freelance or social media policy. Because of my level of responsibility, I thought it within my purview to choose methods for generating interest among outside parties about what my team did, and what we had to offer.  I used Twitter to share ideas like “Just had a great client meeting.  I think they’re understanding what a SEM campaign can do for their short-term search goals.”

One of the persons who didn’t agree with my approach/style decided to selectively cull certain Tweets from my stream, and present them to executive management. They asserted that I was sharing confidential client information and using poor judgment. My personal Facebook account (the daily status updates) was also called into question, as was my blog in the topics I wrote about. But the impetus for the sudden focus on me, I believe, was primarily Twitter.  Interestingly, I wasn’t the first person to use Twitter and refer to work-type topics.

The reality is, I never mentioned a client by name, and I never detailed any client project. But the suggestion by my accuser was that if a client found my Tweets and used the time stamp, they could deduce that I was talking about them.

In the end, my saving grace, I believe, was that my boss lacked the bandwidth to easily assume my duties. There were some additional punishments, and the sum total effect sufficiently caused a lot of reflection about earning a livelihood, while also being confused about what the company really thought I could and should offer.

What would be your advice to others in your situation?

Certainly, I learned the hard way that Tweets can be parsed, and meaning can be applied to my words without benefit of context. That those actions intentionally distort facts is immaterial. I find that very ironic—that some “well meaning steward of the company” can twist my words to suggest I’m a poor representative of the company.

To others that feel a compelling need to share, exchange ideas, and grow via Twitter, I’d say this:  if you don’t own the company (and therefore don’t have autonomy), ask what the corporate social media policy is. If you find it flexible enough for your needs, then great—advise your boss in writing that you’re an active in blogs/social media and that you will adhere to rule 4.2 section A or whatever. Be up front and intentional about your after-hours involvement in communities.

If a policy doesn’t exist, go on record providing samples (IBM and Dell are readily available and often referenced [jp-here’s Edelman’s]) to Human Resources, and state that in absence of a policy, you will adhere to these best practice recommendations; when such time as the company develops their own you’ll be happy to comply.

Would you do it again, and why?

I’m no longer with the company, although I still believe in their product and believe a great many talented people work there. But my disappointment in their inability to channel my talents effectively for the good and growth of the company is tremendous.  I had previously been heralded for my contributions. One dissenter was all it took to turn the heads of critical decision makers. I didn’t have a chance to have a rational discussion about the issue. But to be fair, maybe I should have seen trouble coming.

Several months have passed since this went down. Yes, I’d do it all again. Why? Because I’ve met some tremendous people on Twitter. People who share and encourage, people who help me grow. These groups expand my reach and make me feel part of something bigger. Long term, I’d be unhappy and dissatisfied abstaining from social media. And in the end, I believe the very pieces of me that are attractive to employers would be eroded if I didn’t Tweet, blog, or otherwise connect.

The beautiful ending to my story is that I’m now with a company who has full disclosure of my blogging and Twittering—they very much support my writing and sharing and frankly hope to leverage my connections for the benefit of the company—something I’m totally okay with because it’ll make me smarter and showcase skills that will ultimately add to my marketability as a MarCom professional.

Yes, in this economy it’s risky to fly right if everyone else is flying left.  But it was the right (no pun) move for me, even if it was painful for awhile. I learned some lessons that will stay with me forever.

Lessons Learned:

  • Be very intentional about what I write anywhere. Have awareness about if the first and the fourth (example) sentences were stripped away, could my idea be misinterpreted, or used against me?
  • Have a healthy respect for dissenters. Threatened people will resort to surprising behaviors. Take actions to preempt their plans by being as transparent as possible.
  • You are replaceable, and your achievements are only as noteworthy as your weaknesses are few. Bad things can happen to good people.
  • Isolate what is really important to your career/professional happiness. Then make sure you’re working at a place that truly allows you do those things. Life’s too short to just work somewhere; find that career that offers fulfillment.

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By joepulizzi published March 4, 2009

A Recession Content Strategy that Works – Look at Monster.com

Times are tough, and the folks at Monster.com are responding.

I was forwarded this updated career advice section from Monster (thanks @jimkozak) and from the looks of it, they are responding directly to the informational needs of their customers.

Let’s take a look at challenges faced by those people looking for or trying to keep their job:

  • What jobs will be readily available with the passage of the stimulus bill?
  • If I’m downsized, what do I need to do now to protect my career?
  • How much am I worth in a downturn?
  • How do I protect my job in a tough economy?
  • Can I still get a raise in a recession?

Those five questions that employees are struggling with are actually the first five articles on the Monster.com site.

The Payoff: Monster.com positions themselves as a trusted solutions provider for the jobs market. If someone relies on Monster to get information related to their career, do you think they will use Monster.com when the time comes? I say yes.

What can you learn from Monster.com?

  • Can you create information specific to your website that focuses on recession-related buying patterns?
  • What objections are your sales reps finding because of the economy?  How can you take those questions and turn them into answers on your website?
  • What is that one piece of information that your customers cannot live without during tough financial times?  Why can’t you create it?
  • Can you deliver ongoing, valuable information to your customers and prospects without actively selling your product or service?

If you as a company aren’t providing this kind of information in this manor, I can pretty much guarantee you that your competitor probably is. They will become the trusted provider of information relevant to their lives.

It’s too risky NOT to publish valuable content marketing information to your customers and prospects. It’s a cost of doing business today. Like it or not, you are a publisher.

What will you publish today?

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By joepulizzi published March 2, 2009

Scouting for Content – Girl Scouts Head to the Social Web


The following is a guest post courtesy of Jackie Ross.

Content marketing just received a healthy dose of girl power.

The beloved spreader of good deeds and great cookies, the Girl Scouts, has expanded the conversation beyond the community center and campfire and into new arenas like chat rooms and blogs. It’s all part of a recent brand makeover that uses content to reach the hearts and minds of American girls.

Old-school pastimes like cookouts and sing-alongs haven’t disappeared from the Girl Scout lexicon, but the association has wisely refocused on how to best achieve its mission to “build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” And “the how” is through communications.

Blogs, chat rooms, videoconferencing, and student-penned books give girls a voice and a platform where they can connect to each other and the causes they care about. A Go Girls Only section of the Girl Scouts website gives girls a forum to “Sound off and be heard” and read “What’s up?,” the latest news from the association.

“Now we’re talking the language they’re used to,” the Girl Scouts’ multicultural marketing manager told The Washington Post.

So the value of the Girl Scouts, as it turns out, is not Thin Mints and Macaroons. But instead the messages – the content – that empowers the association’s members to connect and engage.

Jackie Ross is Director of Corporate Development for the World 50, where she builds and manages small, private networks of C-level executives.

By joepulizzi published

Two Presentations Worthy of the Digital Content Marketing Revolution

Found this video via @robertcollins on Twitter regarding SHIFT’s new digital content marketing practice. Worth the few minutes.

The New Digital Content Marketing from Bob Collins on Vimeo.

Prepare yourself for more of this to come. PR firms, agencies, publishers, direct marketers and SEO firms are all after the gold rush we call content. They are all starting to realize that none of the traditional marketing will work without content creation that people want to engage in.

There isn’t one company out there that is not trying to figure out how they can help their customers tell better stories. This is the world we live in now…and he who has the most engaging content will win.

Below is another presentation that I really liked from Bud Caddell (via Imagination) on how fan creation is the lifeblood for tomorrow’s businesses.  How do you create fans?  Create and share something remarkable. Most of the time…it’s content that does the trick.