Joe Pulizzi Shares Thoughts on Content Marketing World 2012, and the State and Future of the Field

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Content Marketing World 2012 took place two weeks ago in Columbus, Ohio.  Given its importance, I thought I’d be remiss if I did not cover it in this column.

Although I unfortunately did not go, and thus could not file live updates from the event, there are some benefits to not being the first out of the gate with a story (see this page, which references and links to the many good posts about CMW); the extra time gave me the chance to track down and interview Joe Pulizzi and get his thoughts on the event, on where the field is going, as well as practical advice for social media and content marketers.

For those who may not recognize his name, Joe is perhaps the most influential person in content marketing today.  He founded Content Marketing Institute, the company that is the force behind the event, and that publishes print and online publications about content marketing.   Joe is a practitioner and also a noted author and speaker – see this link for his bio.

He was kind enough to answer my email interview questions:

By all indications CMW 2012 was a tremendous success. For those who could not attend, could you share some of the major themes and highlights?

First, the industry is at a tipping point.  To see 1,000 marketers come together and share best practices with each other was invigorating.  Second, the “Why Content Marketing?” is not a moot point.  The majority of attendees are getting C-level buy-in for these strategies.  The challenge is in operationalizing content marketing within the business itself, and trying to think about how content doesn’t just solve content objectives, but solves business objectives.  Third, we have a long way to go.  Even though 90% of marketers are using some form of content marketing, just 35% feel that their content marketing initiatives are successful.

Overall, I like the trend we have seen from last year, where the talk was about creating more and more content, to this year, where an emphasis on quality, impactful content took center stage.

Michael Brenner said, in his B2B Marketing Insider blog post 18 Tweetable Moments from Content Marketing World 2012:  “For me the biggest takeaway of Content Marketing World 2012 is that we are still answering the ‘why content marketing’ and ‘what is content strategy’ question. We saw similar things with social media with people asking ‘what’s the ROI of social?’”  Do you agree?

As just stated, I don’t think people are really asking why content marketing, but they are really struggling with what it means to them as a brand and what it can do as a strategy.  Where advertising only affects a few in the organization, content marketing can involve all employees.  It’s a real culture shock for those companies that are fighting against 60+ years of paid media.

All that said, even though content marketing has been around for over 100 years, we are a very immature industry.  If this were a baseball game, we are just getting out of the dugout for the first inning.  BUT, it’s ready to explode… not in a ‘buzz’ way, but in a real way that will alter businesses (and consumers) forever.

I watched your video about the Future of Content marketing, in which you talked about some of the challenges, like the need to break down silos separating marketing, PR, and social media, the difficulties in storytelling and for marketers to think like publishers.  Looking ahead, where is content marketing going and how can WMN readers equip themselves with the skills they need to get ahead of the curve?

Let’s be honest… most content created by brands is still about products and services.  We need to realize that our customers don’t care about us, our products or our services.  They care about themselves.  That means we have to stop talking about ourselves and start focusing on the pain points of our customers.  Content is becoming a utility.  Content that is truly useful and helpful, gets spread and will solve marketing objectives.

Coming in with a huge content marketing strategy in an old-style organization won’t work… we need to start hitting some singles.  I recommend that brands start looking for a chief storyteller or content marketing coordinator to start filling in the gaps between silos.  All areas of the company create content, so arm someone to own that process and help develop better experiences for our customers.

The Marketo blog’s post 5 key Takeaways from Content Marketing World includes this excerpt from your preview of the 2013 Content Marketing Benchmark Report: “The biggest challenge content marketers face is producing enough content, followed closely by producing the kind of content that engages.”  Is the pace of content generation needed to stay ahead of ever more noise and competition for attention sustainable? How do we solve this problem?

I think the research speaks for itself.  Brands are focused on creating more and more content.  This is a problem.  Sometimes the answer is less content.  Each piece of content we put out needs to be epic and valuable content.  We need to stop putting out content because we feel we have to.  How do we solve this?  Strategy.  Most brands we talk to don’t have a long-term content marketing strategy… they have lots of content tactics.  That’s why thinking like a publisher is so critical for marketing organizations today.

CMI did a great job of  using content marketing to spread the word about the event, and share some of the great info; this included developing an app for attendees, which was apparently very effective. Was it a difficult project, and did it take long and cost a lot to develop?

We market Content Marketing World 365 days a year by building great relationships with our customers through amazing content.  Most events have a production schedule that fits into a box.  We don’t do that.  We focus on our customers’ needs all the time and build that relationship over time.  One of the outcomes for us is their attendance at CMWorld.

As for the APP, we had a great partner and listened like crazy to what our attendees wanted from last year.  Yes, it took a lot of time, but was worth it in the long term.

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“Jungle Jack” explains the wild content marketing that’s been done for the Columbus Zoo to boost the zoo’s status to one of the premier zoos in America.

I understand Jack Hanna was there, and was very well received, along with his cast of large, wild cats;  did you fear a Siegfried and Roy moment?

Actually, yes.  I was checking with my insurance guy during the presentation just in case.

By the way, Jack Hanna is one of the best examples about how telling genuine stories can make all the difference.

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Jack Hanna explains the wild side of social media content marketing.

 

Bob Geller
This monthly Content Marketing and Social Media column is contributed by Bob Geller. Bob is president of Fusion PR, and has a background that combines a solid grounding in technology with a 25 year record of success in sales, marketing, and public relations. Bob joined Fusion in 2000, and has helped build it into a leading independent tech PR agency. He has led client teams that have achieved outstanding results in areas ranging from enterprise tech, to telecom, online, CE, financial and clean tech. Bob also helped launch Social Fluency, a subsidiary of Fusion that develops dynamic social media practices which are integrated with traditional PR efforts. Bob has provided critical commentary to publications such as CMO Magazine, PR Week, PR News, and Bulldog Reporter. He created and manages the influential blog Flack’s Revenge, and has contributed to Cision Navigator, Ragan’s PR Daily, and Handshake 2.0, among others. +Bob Geller
Bob Geller

@rgeller

President of Fusion PR (http://t.co/i9MhB0C0Bp), news junkie, music lover, dad.
CMI » This Week in Content Marketing: PR Pushes and Pulls to Define Its Role http://t.co/hDWK7Oz5zq - 3 hours ago
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