By Joe Pulizzi published July 12, 2014

Content Marketing: Clearing the Rumors, Half-Truths, and Misinterpretations

PNR-this-old-content-marketing-podcastPNR: This Old Marketing with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose can be found on both iTunes and Stitcher.

In this episode, Robert and I discuss how content marketing is hitting the big time at Harvard Business Review. In addition, we chat about media agencies getting into the content production business, explain why email is far from dead, and then touch on a handful of research posts that are readily made fun of. Our weekly rants and raves include a great case study from Newcastle Brown, and we wrap up with this week’s #ThisOldMarketing example from Southern Poverty Law Center.

This week’s show

(Recorded live on July 6, 2014; Length: 54:09)

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1. Content Marketing in the News

  • Content Marketing Finally Arrives, According to HBR (3:10): A new article on the Harvard Business Review website, written by the vice-chairman of respected PR firm Hill & Knowlton, proclaims there’s a content marketing revolution going on. While Robert and I felt this article arrived a bit late to the party (we both looked at its date to see if it was an old story — it wasn’t), it does help reaffirm that content marketing is now an accepted and important part of the brand marketing mix.
  • How Should Brands Be Working With Media Agencies? (9:41): A new article on MarketingWeek UK’s website says traditional media agencies are increasingly offering marketing services as a way to differentiate themselves from ad agencies. One large media firm has even realigned its services to embrace an owned media-first strategy. Robert and I express our differing opinions on whether these media firms are better off “renting” these capabilities from boutique content firms or acquiring them outright.
  • Why Do We Keep Trying to Kill Off the Email Newsletter? (18:55): David Carr, who writes The Media Equation column for The New York Times, discusses how email can still be very effective when it comes to communicating with customers. Robert and I feel that predictions of its death are premature, and stem from large companies that don’t seem to understand the value of a permission-based email list — something Dany Levy, founder of the popular Daily Candy eNewsletter, discovered after Comcast purchased her company.
  • Is Search Traffic Really Bottoming Out? (25:35): A new report from Shareaholic claims the top five search engines — Google, Bing, Yahoo,, and AOL — have all experienced a decline in search traffic since December of 2013, as reported by SearchEngineLand. Robert and I explain why we feel the results of this study are very misleading, and debate a number of reasons why they appear to show such a precipitous drop.
  • How Brands Should Deliver Customer Service on Social Media (31:01): AllFacebook reports on a new survey by Accent Marketing Services, which claims that consumers only want to interact with brands when they have a problem or when they’re trying to find an answer to a question. Robert and I felt that the survey missed the mark and discuss why analyzing actual customer behavior would have delivered much more accurate insights.
  • Is Social Media Losing Its Consumer Influence? (36:25): As reported in a Marketing Land article, 62 percent of consumers say social media has no influence on their purchasing decisions, according to a new study conducted by Gallup. As with the Facebook survey we just discussed, we think this research project is somewhat flawed in the questions it asks consumers. Of course consumers will say that brands have no persuasive power over them — even if they actually do.

2. Sponsor (38:17):

  • This Old Marketing is, once again, sponsored by Emma — email marketing for the modern brand, featuring mobile-responsive templates, social integration tools and concierge services. Emma is promoting a new webinar entitled, The 8-Second Challenge: Email Marketing for the Shrinking Attention Span. You can download it at

example-8 second challenge

3. Rants and Raves (39:41)

  • Robert’s Rave: Newcastle Brown Ale has hit a home run with its hilarious If We Won website, which launched on July 3, the eve of America’s annual celebration of its independence from Great Britain. In an entertaining series of videos, Elizabeth Hurley, Stephen Merchant, and Zachary Quinto imagine all the advantages America would enjoy if England had won the Revolutionary War, including better accents, different swear words, and more. It’s an absolutely brilliant owned-media campaign. 

woman's face-elizabeth hurley

  • My Rant: Last week, I was a guest of Mac Collier’s weekly BlogChat. During this session, I was asked how to formulate a content strategy for a blog. I explained how it all boils down to three potential objectives: driving more sales, reducing costs, or increasing customer loyalty and/or retention. I was surprised, though, when quite a few participants came back with questions about motivations like thought leadership, brand awareness, and growing blog traffic. Apparently some of the chat participants were personal bloggers — a role that doesn’t necessarily require a business objective. But it does highlight an ongoing challenge for many businesses: Developing a clear vision for why they’re creating and distributing content.

4. This Old Marketing Example of the Week (47:21)

  • Southern Poverty Law Center: The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) was founded in Montgomery, Alabama in 1971 to fight hate and bigotry in all its forms. It publishes a magazine called Teaching Tolerance, which is available to teachers for free and can be accessed in print, on the web and via mobile devices. Three issues per year, distributed to over 400,000 people, contain updates on issues ranging from race and ethnicity to gender equality. This high-quality publication, along with SPLC’s other resources for educators, helps them teach students about social justice issues. Teaching Tolerance is an excellent example of a content marketing initiative that is driving results for a nonprofit organization.

magazine cover-diverse faces

For a full list of the PNR archives, go to the main This Old Marketing page. 

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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.

Other posts by Joe Pulizzi

  • Mack Collier

    Hey Joe, loved having you co-host #Blogchat last week, it was a great night! #Blogchat does indeed have a good mix of participants that work for a company that blogs, of participants that are trying to monetize their blogs, and ‘personal’ bloggers or bloggers that just blog without any thought to monetization or selling anything. What I appreciated was your point on the importance of planning. Even if you are a ‘personal’ blogger, it still pays to have a plan guiding your efforts. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. I get that some bloggers think ‘I just want to blog’, but IMO if anything is worth doing it’s worth doing right. If your blog is public, then you want others to share your content and engage with you. Otherwise it would be a private blog. So having a plan for your blog helps you reach your goals. Appreciate your co-hosting as I’ve gotten a ton of positive feedback from last Sunday, as I knew I would!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks so much Mack…such a critical point. I hope more casual bloggers get the importance of a plan.

      Thanks for all that you do!

      • Isabella Lo

        Hi Joe, Great podcast and I appreciate that you and Robert doing this. Thumb up! In response to your “three potential objectives: driving more sales, reducing costs, or increasing customer loyalty and/or retention. ” If you agree that loyalty and retention go to sales in the end, then all of your 3 potential objectives are about money. So my question is – what can be the non-monetary objective for a business related blog, if there’s any?

        • Joe Pulizzi

          Hi Isabella…thanks for listening. So, sales, savings and customer loyalty/retention are the three big goals. Regarding your question of non-monetary goals, what are you thinking? Maybe you can reword to think about something like “growing the business”, “creating business savings” or “keeping members/readers longer or coming back”? Let me know what you are thinking.

          • Isabella Lo

            Hi Joe,

            Thanks for your prompt reply. Impressive 🙂

            From CMI’s definition, “Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience — with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” This objective or positioning justified the three big goals of blog (or any other form of content marketing?) as you laid out. In fact, as consultancy, you should have focus on and the competence to channel your clients effort to a monetary outcome.

            However to brands, shouldn’t there be some non-montery objectives too?

            1. Thought leadership. There’re a lot, like me, that have benefited a great deal from CMI’s extremely relevant and valuable material. Yet not ready to be your customer so far. You have certainly educated and inspired us while kept raising the bar of the whole industry.

            2. Shaping company culture, as Tony Heish of Zappos expressed around the use of Twitter or their publication of the culture year books.

            3. What about a sense of pride for employees (or empowerment?) like those of Virgin due to what Richard Branson keep delivering across multiple channels? Or the employees of TED, a strong brand with strong products?

            Does these make sense or just my imagination?

          • Joe Pulizzi

            Hi Isabella…thanks for the detail.

            On the first one, thought leadership is a goal that has to be underneath a sales or customer loyalty goal. Thought leadership by itself is not a primary objective.

            On the other two, you are correct. I’m looking at external goals, but internal goals are key. Keeping employees longer or attracting new employees could definitely be goals for an internal program.

            Thanks so much for this!