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Joe Pulizzi

Content Marketing Has Arrived. Should Publishers Be Worried?

Joe Pulizzi Sales and Marketing - 09/22/2011-11:55 AM

September 6th was a coming out party for content marketing. Over 600 marketing professionals came together in Cleveland from 18 different countries for Content Marketing World (the largest content marketing event) to learn how to create and grow their own publishing and storytelling platforms.

Yes, you heard that right. Marketers are actively trying to figure out how to do your job…publish valuable, relevant and compelling content to build subscriber bases and ultimately sell more products and services.

Content marketing is not new. You used to (or still do) call it custom media or custom content or custom publishing. Your advertisers now call it content marketing.

Your customers have been publishing content for years. Just look at John Deere. Their magazine The Furrow has been published since 1895 and is now distributed to more than 40 countries to 1.5 million subscribers. But now that the barriers to enter the publishing industry are all but gone, marketers are swiftly moving to allocate more resources to communicating directly with their customers and taking out the middleman (uh, you).

Just look at American Express and their wildly successful small business publishing effort, Open Forum. How about P&G, which has multiple publishing platforms including for “moms on the go”, for adolescent teen girls, or for guys.

According to research from the Content Marketing Institute, nine out of 10 organizations are actively using some form of content marketing, with approximately 25% of marketing budget and resources dedicated to these efforts.

The Content Marketing World event shed some light on where the industry is going and ultimately what it means for publishers and media companies.

Brands of all Sizes Are Operationalizing around Content. Marketing executives like Pam Didner from Intel and Todd Wheatland from Kelly Services shared in-depth details about how content creation and distribution is becoming the center of their marketing efforts. For Intel, they develop “Topic Marketing Kits” that include content missions for each of their customers, then they distribute those to individual editorial boards all over the world for localization. This effort is helping to drive attention and engagement for Intel through search engine optimization, social media, public relations and co-marketing activities. This is no small endeavor and is taking massive organization and resources, much of which are coming out of traditional programs.

The Chief Content Officer has arrived. More than 20% of the marketing titles attending the event are new “content-oriented” titles, including: VP of Content Marketing, Chief Content Officer, Content Strategist, Content Marketing Coordinator, Brand Journalist and more. These people are responsible for the brand story, and how to integrate that story within the entire organization. Who are these people? Many of them are your former chief editors or writers.

Real-Time Content Marketing is Now. In multiple sessions from the likes of David Meerman Scott and organizations like Eloqua and Dell, content strategies are being setup to manage real-time content creation. This means that brands are starting to act like news organizations, taking advantage of current industry events with immediate commentary and thought leadership. Who are they hiring to do this? You guessed it…journalists.

Content Marketing Technologies are Exploding. The majority of attendees at Content Marketing World never heard of 90% of the technology vendors at the show. Most of these technologies are less than two years old and moving to take advantage of the money flow into content marketing. Almost across the board, these technologies are helping marketers to manage the editorial process within the organization. Think of it…how do you organize an employee blog with over 1,000 contributors? No easy task.

Not Just Outsourcing, but Content Strategy. There continues to be strong opportunity for publishers to work with brands on helping them execute content strategies. That said, the biggest pain for marketers is not execution, it’s strategy. Publishers that are setting up marketing services arms that understand how to develop a content strategy, including content audits, gap analyses, and total integration of the story within the entire marketing programs are going to win out. While custom publishing used to be a separate, often siloed effort like a custom magazine or webinar, tomorrow’s content strategies wrap into social media, search, PR and run across marketing, corporate communication, PR, social media and even IT departments. To prove the point, on three separate occasions recently, agency of record (AOR) with some large international brands recently went to content agencies.

Traditional marketing is not going away. It never will. Marketers will continue to spend money using a megaphone or shotgun advertising when needed, especially in newer industries. But now, since consumers are completely in control of the informational gathering process (the sales role is changing dramatically), brands need content consistently, matched to their buyer personas, and they need it at multiple points in the buying process. They need it for social, for PR, for enewsletters, for print, for in-person events, for SEO, for mobile and for their internal stakeholders. To do this effectively, they need to develop subscribers, just like you do, to position themselves as the industry leaders and be there for customers when they are ready to buy.

For publishers, the opportunity to partner with brands on these initiatives is clear. What will you do?

Joe Pulizzi

Content Strategy and the Dying Art of Execution

Joe Pulizzi Sales and Marketing - 11/18/2010-09:46 AM

Don't get me wrong, content marketing strategy is critical to the success of a content marketing project. Not having a content strategy is like playing baseball without the bases (envision people running everywhere...not a pretty sight).

That said, I've seen a multitude of content strategies die for the following reasons:

Lack of support from the executive team. They fail to understand why they can't talk about themselves all the time.  They don't "get" the idea of content marketing. The brand ends up producing mediocre content without real organization and continues to think that content marketing doesn't work.
Lack of setting success criteria. This happens more often that you think.  Ever hear the "we want to do a blog" request? The response to that request is "Why?" Understanding why you are creating and curating content seems like a "yeah, duh," but you'd be surprised how many times corporate content creators have no idea of the strategy behind their content execution. Result: the execution fails.
Lack of talent. Content marketing takes new skills. Combine a content strategist, a journalist and a marketer, a salesperson, a touch of Walt Whitman and you're halfway there. Just because we can doesn't mean we should with the talent we have. Hire more journalists.
Lack of consistency. Creating a content marketing plan is a promise to your customers that you are going to deliver information that helps them solve their pain points. Starting the plan, and then stopping it is like sewing up a wound halfway. Painful. Marketing agencies around the world have blogs where the most recent posts are from March. Ouch!
Lack of integration. There is no such thing as just a blog, just a custom magazine or just a webinar. These things work as part of a content marketing system, which works inside of your entire marketing program. Do me a favor...take the content creators out of the basement and get them talking with your marketing team. If content indeed is the center of your marketing strategy, you need to act like it and show your employees (and C-level) that it matters.
Lack of promotion. No, if you create information on your Web site in the form of a blog, article or e-book, people won't just come naturally and neither with Kevin Costner (Field of Dreams reference). You have to work it.
Lack of effective outsourcing. Outsource effectively or be effectively outsource. The majority of brands outsource portions of their content marketing. Outside expertise is mandatory for truly great content. We need people on the outside that don't have OUR brand or sales hats on. Find them, use them, make them part of your team.
Lack of a call to action. What do you want people to do when they engage with your content? If you don't know, how do you know what success looks like?

Yes, content strategy is critical, but execution is king for content marketing. Frankly, you need both.

Where is your "lack of"?

[EDITOR'S NOTE: You can read more of Joe at his blog.]

Joe Pulizzi

Seven Reasons Print Will Make a Comeback in 2011

Joe Pulizzi Sales and Marketing - 08/23/2010-14:13 PM

Okay...there, I said it.

You'll find no greater supporter of online content marketing than me, but marketers and agencies are talking up print for 2011. Yes, in the era of iPads and Apps, there is still a role for print.

Jeff Jarvis recently wrote about how media companies need to ignore print.

"The physical costs of production and distribution are killing. The marketing cost of subscriber acquisition and churn are hellish."

He's right.  And if you are a media company that relies on most of your revenue for print, you need to post Jeff's article on your forehead.

But if you are a corporate marketer, there is an opportunity here. Here's why:

1. Getting Attention: Have you noticed how many fewer magazines and print newsletters you are getting in the mail these days? I don't know about you, but I definitely pay more attention to my print mail.  There's just less mail, so more attention is paid to each piece. Opportunity? Less traditional publishers are printing magazines today, which leaves opportunities for content marketers.

2. The Focus on Customer Retention: In a soon-to-be-released research study conducted by Junta42 and MarketingProfs, customer retention was the most important goal for marketers when it came to content marketing outside of basic brand awareness.  Historically, the reason why custom print magazines and newsletters were developed by brands was for customer retention purposes.  We have a winner!

3. No Audience Development Costs: Publishers expend huge amounts of time and money qualifying subscribers to send out their magazines. Many times, publishers need to invest multiple dollars per subscriber per year for auditing purposes (They send direct mail, they call, they call again so that the magazine can say they that their subscribers have requested the magazine. This is true for controlled (free) trade magazines).  

So, let's say, a publisher's cost per subscriber per year is $2 and their distribution is one hundred thousand.  That's $200,000 per year for audience development.  

That's a cost that marketers don't have to worry about.  If marketers want to distribute a magazine to their customers, they just use their customer mailing list. That's a big advantage.

4. What's Old Is New Again: Social media, online content and iPad applications are all part of the marketing mix today. Still, what excites marketers and media buyers is what IS NOT being done.  They want to do something different...something new. It's hard to believe, but I've heard many marketers talk about leveraging print as something new in their marketing mix. Unbelievable.

Customers Still Need to Ask Questions: We love the Internet because buyers can find answers to almost anything. But where do we go to think about what questions we should be asking? I talked to a publisher last week who said this:

"The web is where we go to get answers but print is where we go to ask questions."

The print vehicle is still the best medium on the planet for thinking outside the box and asking yourself tough questions based on what you read. It's lean back versus lean forward. If you want to challenge your customers (like Harvard Business Review does), print is a viable option.

Print Still Excites People: I talked to a journalist recently who said it's harder and harder to get people to agree to an interview for an online story.  But mention that it will be a printed feature and executives rearrange their schedule. The printed word is still perceived as more credible to many people than anything on the web. It goes to the old adage, "If someone invested enough to print and mail it, it must be important."

Whether that's true or not, that is still a widely-held perception.

7. Unplug: More and more people are actively choosing the unplug, or disconnect themselves from digital media. I'm doing this more myself. I'm finding myself turning off my phone and email more to engage with printed material.  A year ago I didn't see this coming.  Today, I relish the opportunities when I can't be reached for comment.

If I'm right, many of your customers (especially busy executives) are feeling the same. Your print communication may be just what they need.  

Online content marketing is definitely here to stay.  Yes to social media, apps and the rest of it.  But don't forget that print can still play an important role in your overall content marketing mix.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: You can read more of Joe at his blog.]

Joe Pulizzi

Ten Questions to Ask Before You Blog

Joe Pulizzi Editorial - 09/18/2008-10:45 AM

One of the most frequent questions I receive while traveling is about blogging. The questions revolve around how to get started, what to talk about, and what software to use.

My questions back to them usually startle the person, because so many start thinking about what they want to say, other than what their target audience needs to hear.  Here are a few...

1.  Who are your primary and secondary targets for your blog?

2.  What do you want to tell them?

3.  Do you understand what the key informational needs of the audience are?

4.  Are you reading other blogs on that topic, and ones targeting your customers and prospects?

5.  If you are reading, are you leaving comments that add to the online conversation on the blogs you cover?

6.  Do you have a firm grasp on the types of keywords to focus on that would be relevant to your blog?

7.  Do you follow those keywords on Technorati and Google Blog Search?  Do you have alerts set up around those keywords at Google Alerts?

8.  Can you commit to blogging at least two-to-three times per week? (consistency is key)

9.  What is your ultimate goal in starting a blog?  In one year from when you start blogging, how will your life be different?

10.  Are you looking at blogging as a challenge or something that could be fun?

Of course, I don't ask all of these in order in fear I would scare them off, but these are the general starter questions.  These questions should be the same for individuals as well as businesses.

The majority of blogs out there don't make it.  The worst thing you can do as a business is start a consistent dialogue with your customers and then stop.  Better not to do one at all.

Remember, blogging is just a tool.  Some businesses aren't ready to commit resources or change their culture (full transparency) to adapt to a blog.  That's okay.  But all businesses must understand the power of blogging.  Your brand is what people read about and talk about online.  You have to decide if you want to be a part of shaping that conversation around your brand.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: You can read more of Joe at his blog.]