Content marketing in 2016 – with Joe Pulizzi


Welcome to the all new Brand Storytelling podcast! We have a fresh format and fresh content planned – and are very happy to kick off with special guest, Joe Pulizzi. Joe is the founder of the Content Marketing Institute and a revered marketing expert. 

In this episode, Joe gives his insights into what the year ahead may bring for CMOs and content producers. Get his tips on content strategy, keeping it simple, distributing your content, and goal setting. 

Listen to the podcast to catch full discussion – and learn why Joe Pulizzi loves LEGO and Star Wars (hint: it is do to with great storytelling and content!) 

The following is an excerpt from the Brand Storytelling podcast. Available on  iTunes and Soundcloud.


Rakhal:    Just on a really simple campaign, I’d love to talk about one campaign or one company that’s done content really well and we’ve mentioned in the past a bank out of Denmark, do you want to just tell our listeners a little bit about their work and what really impressed you about it in 2015 as the stand up piece of content marketing?

Joe:    What I love about that is it actually it took a lot of guts to do this, so this is Jyske Bank. It’s one of the largest banks in Denmark. Basically, they were doing sponsorships and promotions just like every other bank would do and they were spending quite a few millions of dollar on sponsorship. They would sponsor soccer tournaments and whatnot. You’d see Jyske Bank on the side of the wall and they’re spending a ton of money. Marketing people said, “Are we getting our money’s worth here? Are we getting our $3 million plus worth here?” They all got together and said, “What if we actually develop our own audience? What if did that? What if we talk directly to our customers?” They said, “Well, let’s do something crazy. Let’s create a television station.”

    They did, they created and they actually have a tagline that says, we’re the only media company with its own bank. Which I absolutely love and I love this model and I was able to meet a lot of the key people that put this together. They spoke at Content Marketing World before, and we found and presented the case studies in our documentary called the Story of Content. I just love this because they started with a very simple model, as you know, it’s this video programming, 24/7. They took the money that they were spending on sponsorship, they put it into hiring some amazing journalists going out and getting good talent and doing this on a regular basis. Over two years, I mean, it took them awhile, it took them commitment and over a couple years they were able to build a pretty significant audience.

    What was so funny about this is those organisations that used to charge them millions of dollars for sponsorship of these soccer tournaments and whatnot, were coming to them saying, basically saying, “Hey, would you be a media partner? We’ll give you all the same benefits you had before but we want you to cover our event.” Isn’t that amazing? They basically were paying for something before but now that audience was so valuable, other organizations wanted to go and actually reach that audience and that’s when you know you’ve built an asset. There’s lots of wonderful content marketing examples we could talk about but I love it for the fact that this is a bank, it doesn’t happen very often in financial, you had somebody take a risk and say, “What do we need to do to communicate directly with our audience?” It’s something like you could use bank TV and it’s worked out really well for them.

Rakhal:    I love what you said – what my key take out there is that it was one content type, one platform to live it consistently over a period of time, going back to the simplicity of that. It’s a huge project, of course, granted. It’s still just focusing on one thing not trying to do everything all at once, right?

Joe:    It’s amazing that so you said that. In my latest book Content Inc. I think I talked about that, it’s the third step back so he’s building the base. It’s one content type, one platform consistently delivered over time. What I love about that model, first of all, it’s simplistic. We don’t have to do it. We think we should do is basically throw up our content in every platform on the planet. What we do is that model right there, that’s been used by every major media platform that has grown from nothing to something over the last hundred plus years. This is not new. It’s like we think because we’ve got all these new social platforms that we have to do all this different, we’ve got to be everywhere across. No you don’t. One content type is an audio, a video or a textual.

    One platform, is it iTunes, is it YouTube, is it your own blog or website? Consistently delivered. Is it every day, is it every other day, is it every week, over time. It takes time to build a loyal audience. That’s where if I go and I talk to small businesses or large businesses, wherever they are in the world. I tell them, “Look. Maybe you should simplify your model. Maybe you should be the leading educational player in your industry and that you need to focus on it and do it this way.” Sudden appointment with your audience on that consistent delivery and that’s why I love the Jyske Bank case study because if you were to say, “Look, go out and build a media company today.” That’s exactly how you would do it and I think a lot of businesses, and you know this -they just get lost – they feel they have to do everything.

    You don’t have to do everything, you have to do something, and do it really well. If your content is for everybody, it’s for nobody, so let’s focus on one audience and really be exceptional at that particular continent and that’s what you’re targeting.

Rakhal:    I think that that viewpoint, that real life focus goes to something that I’ve noticed about you, Joe. You’re a real goal setter, aren’t you?

Joe:    It’s funny. If you said, Joe, what was the turning point in your life outside of the fact that I’m meeting my, now, wife my having my kids, all that personal stuff. If you said business related, what changed in your life? It would be that I wrote down my goals and I review them every day like it’s a very simple thing. It’s not rocket science but if you look at some of the most … Basically, I read quite a few books, I’ve read Think and Grow Rich from the Napoleon Hill. I read The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone. A couple of other books, Seven Habits Book. A lot of different. When I put this together and I said, “Okay, what are the successful people have in common? They have goals. They write them down like really write them down and they review them regularly.”

    It’s not rocket science it’s just. That’s the way it is. I started doing that probably about when I started the business, probably about 7 or 8 years ago. That has just changed my life because the greatest thing it does is when I review those goals in the morning. That whole day I’m focused and I figured, “You know what? Don’t get called in an e-mail. Don’t go do that thing. Focus on what’s what’s going to help you accomplish thos
e goals.” It’s really changed everything. By the way, it’s not just career goals, I have a career goals in there, financial goals, I have family goals, spiritual goals, philanthropic goals. Those are all in there and I focus on those every day. It’s really kept me grounded.

Rakhal:  Here we are in a fresh new year, it’s 2016. What are the biggest challenges or issues to come out of last year and where does that leave us in terms of the state of content marketing right now in the cast of what is a very exciting new year ahead?

Joe:    It’s interesting. What’s great about what’s going on in enterprise, in small and large, is the fact that everyone knows –  sort of knows – what content marketing is and they’re making decisions about whether they want to invest on that approach or not. It’s a lot easier than it was 7 years, 7 or 8 years ago where we were just educating. Now people know. They have an idea of what to do. What I think we’re going to see in 2016 is a real flight to quality and getting off of the more is better. I think that that’s been a better real. Google is responsible for this in some respects where there was a time in 2008, 2009 and even in social media as it was starting to grow up that more content was better. That’s not the case anymore. More mediocre content does not help you in any way at all.

    Actually, I always use this quote from Robert Rose and I love it and it’s basically, we actually don’t want more content. We actually want to create less content with more impact. That’s what we want. There’s no company out there that says, “We should be creating more content.” Nobody wants to create more content. We want to create the right content that’s going to focus on solving our goals and our challenges and whatnot and then really build long-term relationships with customers. I think what you’re going to see as a trend is more companies saying, “Look, maybe we don’t need to be in these 6 social channels, maybe we’re going to be great in 3.” Maybe we don’t need to do a blog, a video, a podcast, all this other stuff.

    Maybe we’re going to do this podcast or this blog really well and be the leading informational expert in that. I like seeing that. I think we’re still a ways away from it but the more companies we work with at Content Marketing Institute, the more we’re talking to them and saying, “Look, they understand that quality wins out. There are things we have to do to get that message out there, no doubt about it but just cluttering up the blogosphere or the web or the Internet or whatever you want to call it, with more content is just detrimental to the brand and you’re not rewarded in the long run so let’s take all our resources and focus on really making a positive impact on the world and your customer by telling stories the right way.”

Rakhal:    I love that. What does that tell us about the year ahead? Do you think that they’ll be my more focus on strategy? What’s the really big take out from that?

Joe:    I can only say, God I hope so, because what we’ve found from the research, whether you’re looking at the Asia Pacific research we’ve done or whether it’s the North American research, most companies out there don’t have documented content marketing strategies. They’re literally just saying, “Let’s go do a blog. We should be blogging. We should be doing podcast. We should be doing whatever. Let’s get on social media.”

Rakhal:    Just to jump into that, I think you are referring to that data that you guys found that around 37% of marketers say they have a documented content marketing strategy. In essence, two-thirds of all content marketers, all CMOs in essence don’t have any kind of strategy when it comes to content marketing for our listeners.

Joe:    That’s exactly right. Of course, I mean, we talked about my goal setting before. If you have a no goals, what are you doing? Here’s the thing is, if you’d go out and let’s even say your blog was somewhat successful, I don’t know how you know it but that’s the key. It’s like if you’re creating all this content, how do you know? How do you know what is successful if you don’t have a plan and what is the goal? Is your goal is to generate sales, to save costs, to create happier customers, like what are you doing? I’m not for the, we need a 10-page documented strategy. I don’t care if it’s on a cocktail napkin but just have an understanding.

Rakhal:    You’d probably prefer it on a cocktail napkin. That’s the best. As long as there’s a cocktail with the napkin.

Joe:    Maybe that’s the best way. Anybody that doesn’t have a documented strategy, just get a cocktail napkin, of course it comes with a cocktail. Then, we’re going to write out the strategy. That’s the thing is. I guess for 2016 anyone listening to this, that’s what I would hope is that you’re very strategic about why you’re doing this. We’re not just doing it. I get it, right? This was something that was new couple years ago. Now, we’re past that point. This is a muscle we’re starting to use. It’s really start exercising the right way and start with a plan. Then, if you start with a plan, what I love about a plan is, somebody asked me this today and they said, “Why should I create the plan?” I said, of course you want it because of the goals and that how you’re going to execute that and what are you going to measure.

    That’s all important but the most important thing about a documented a content marketing strategy is you now know when to say no.” You can say no to things that don’t make sense because if you don’t have a plan every idea could be something you consider. You’ve got to get yourself focused because we go into some of these big companies and they create so much content and most of it, it goes unused. They’re not even using it. If it is used and they’re sending it out, it’s not getting any traction, nobody is seeing it. I’m like, “What a waste.” Let’s focus on actually like doing something and making the needle move a little bit and starting that, with means you have to do a documented strategy in some way.

Rakhal:    I want to jump into the foreseeable challenges. Do you see other than the, I guess, internal inabilities or failures to really document or strategize or be focused on one quality piece of content throughout 2016? Are there external factors from within the marketing industry as a whole, the advertising industry, new technology? Are there challenges that are coming at CMOs and other businesses around the world that add an additional layer of challenges for 2016, do you think?

Joe:    I think if you’re talking specifically about content marketing, the biggest challenge is that this is different and anything different means you have to have a cultural change. If you see the greatest example, for the most part, outside, take your red bulls out of there, take your Mary outside of there but for the most part, the examples that you see that are really gaining strength and are really the ones we start using out there are from startups. They’re from newer companies that had no preconceived notions as to how we should market. They went and they started a blog, they started this amazing podcast, this amazing video series, and they were able to monetize that in multiple ways because they built an audience that was valuable. That happened with the most part and that’s why you talk about it in Content Inc. Most of these are startups and entrepreneurs with no budget at all.

Rakhal:    I think that limitation, I’m sorry to jump in there, Joe but that limitation around budget can actually work in a positive way because they’re actually
not able to do everything so they have to, they’re forced to focus on doing, maybe something simple but doing it really well.

Joe:    They don’t have like, “Oh, my God. We’ve got to talk about these 8 product lines and we’ve got all these political issues and we’ve got to make sure we apiece this engine or this product market,” or whatever the case.

Rakhal:    It’s not campaign based necessarily.

Joe:    Yeah. All these startups were doing was they’re saying, “How do we build an audience and how do I get something out there that’s amazing?” That’s why there was a big company there, they’re saying, “We don’t have the budget.” I just laughed at them. I’m like, “Here. Here’s my book. There’s 50 case studies in here of the most amazing examples on the planet and none of them started with any money so don’t tell me that it’s budget.” It’s not budget at all and – it’s focus and you can’t get that focus without changing some things culturally. What’s the remedy to that? The remedy is you should really start this. This is like a pilot program in an organisation.

    You say, “Okay. We’re going to do this. We’ve got our resources. Here is the goals. Let’s create the plan. It’s different than what we’re normally doing but we’re going to do this as a pilot.” The reason why you say pilot is because that way the CMO of the organisation doesn’t feel like, “Oh, my God. We have to go all in with content marketing.” You don’t have to. You’re still going to advertise, you still going to do PR, you’re still going to do the stuff you’re doing before but you’re going to communicate a little bit differently with your audience this way. I like that starting off with a pilot. There’s not so much pressure on the organisation.

Rakhal:    What about getting your content out there in 2016? Do you see any new platforms, technologies or methods that our listeners could engage?

Joe:    I think that the core, yes. I mean, there’s by the way, I’m not against paid at all. I mean, if you’re asking me about like social channels, like Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook, they’re great for paid. It’s a great way to get your content out there. I mean, I think the days of thinking that social platforms organic reach is free. I think that’s over. I think we are seeing as brands, we know that we have to pay to play. You know what? Facebook, they do a pretty darn good job of it. What I want to do is I want to think about, “Look, I don’t want to build my audiences on those platforms. I want to leverage those audience because ultimately what I want to do is I want to build my own audience.” What does that mean? That means I want to build e-mail subscribers. That’s really what my focus is because that’s where I have the most control.

    Any, if I build my audience on Facebook or YouTube or Twitter or whatever, they have the control. They control those connections. I don’t have any say over how they change. They’re going to change their model every day because they need to make money and that’s fine and they can do that. I want to use them for how I can, distribute that content where I can but I want to leverage every opportunity I can to get those people back to something where they can sign up and they give me the permission. This is amazing because this is the same thing we were looking at 1990. This is like Seth Godin’s permission based marketing all over again where it’s really what we’re focusing on. We’re going to use all these amazing social channels to distribute.

    Now, the new stuff that you’re asking about like if you’re going to do things. I know a lot of my buddies are doing Periscope and they’re doing Blab which is like live streaming stuff and some of them are getting on Snapchat which I’ve stayed away from as long as I can which is somebody is going to force me on there at some point. I think the point is if you’re going to do that, set it up just like a media company would. Set it up consistently. Use that platform consistently deliver over time. I see a lot of people out there like, hey, we’re this and that. This is spontaneous feed. That doesn’t work very well. It can work for big movie stars but for regular people, it doesn’t work very well so make sure if you leverage those platforms to distribute your content, you set a time consistently just like this podcast will be released at a particular time. Our podcast released at a particular time. I think that’s a winning formula.


Rakhal:    You will be at Content Marketing World… What do you think will be the big trends? What are the big talking points at these events for 2016?

Joe:    I know what mine are.

Rakhal:    Good enough. You are the godfather.

Joe:    It’s funny when I go to events and I see other speakers, I tend to disagree with a lot of them are out there that’s like, “Oh, my God. You’ve got to get active in this platform.” I’m like, you don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to do content marketing. I just think it’s a really good way to market. You don’t have to do that but I’m really into this whole year of 2016. We talked about this before. It’s all about simplicity to me. It’s all about not being everywhere and not taking our resources and spreading them thin and being okay in a lot of different things. I want to be great at one or two. That’s what I really want to focus on. You don’t have to say, “We’ve got to do the e-book and the blog and the newsletter and the print magazine and all this other …” No, you don’t.

    The average company according to that research we were talking about before, the average company distributes 13 different content types. Thirteen. That’s the  average company. Some of them do 20. That’s just a mess of stuff and I’m starting to question on whether that’s right or not. I don’t think it is. If you look at the North America, New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, ESPN, they were very consistent and focused for a long time until they built their audience to a certain point and then they diversified. I think we’ve just got to get down to saying, “Look, how have the greatest companies on the planet done this from content creation?” They’ve done it in a very simple model over time and then that’s what I’m really talking about in 2016.