The Orange Content Guru Believes in the Golden Age of Media

To Joe Pulizzi in Cleveland, content marketing isn’t just a job. It appears to be his whole life. He always wears orange clothes to support his company Content Marketing Institute, which not only teaches people about content marketing in any channel they can, but is also an example of how companies can market themselves by building their own media house. We got an interview with him before his presentation at Super Content Marketing on April 21 in Stockholm.

Why are you so interested in content marketing?
“I’ve been in this industry for 16 years. Right from the start I had a feeling this would turn into something big. There was no consistent communication about content marketing. You’d hear people mutter in different departments on how to get it done. Some Europeans called it a customer magazine, others in the US called it branded content.

“I also felt that this was the most democratic form of marketing. If you create real value for your audience, which you then translate into sales, instead of just paying for it, then I think that’s the best way to go. Content marketing isn’t the easiest way. But it’s the best.”

Everyone has discovered content marketing today. How does that affect the opportunities for reaching out?
“The good news for those who do content marketing the right way is that almost no one else is doing it right. Recent research shows that most companies lack a documented content marketing plan, they don’t have a solid structure, they don’t build an audience, and they spread their content everywhere. We still need to educate people about telling their story and finding their target audience.”

What’s happening in the content industry 2016?
“I’m realistic, I can put it in perspective. During 2015 there was a lot of expectations surrounding content marketing. This will be the year for those who have it and those who don’t. They will say, we tried content marketing, but it didn’t work so we’ll try something else. At the same time, we’ll see some of the most successful cases from organizations that have been patient.”

Why aren’t there any major international content agency networks?
“There will be a few acquisitions and mergers. Many large international communications agencies have bought smaller content-driven agencies. One problem is that more or less any agency thinks they work with content marketing, but in reality they work with things like search engine optimization. It’s not necessarily those agencies that build the most successful long-term stories. The confusion is big out there.”

What do customers expect from their content agencies in 2016?
“I hope they expect them to see beyond the campaign. You see a lot of this in Europe, especially in Britain. It’s all about the campaign. But that kind of content marketing is only a longer advertising campaign. It takes time to build a relationship with an audience. Of course, you want to attract leads and make sales. But with content marketing you’re creating an asset for your organization. And that takes time.”

We see a pattern where companies and organizations market their content through Facebook and Twitter. What are your thoughts on that?
“If you don’t have an audience, you need to market your content. If you create content and expect people to find it, then good luck with that. It won’t happen. Many big brands put so much effort into creating content that they don’t put enough resources on their marketing.”

Is it enough to have your content on platforms like Facebook and Google?
“If you don’t publish content on platforms that you control, you’re playing a dangerous game. Facebook can change their rules, and so can LinkedIn and Snapchat, you name it.

How do you think the investments in content marketing will change over the next couple of years?
“According to our research, 70 percent of marketers are planning to spend more on content marketing in the next 12 months. They will invest more in distribution than in content creation. Nobody needs more content. But we need more of the right content at the right time. We can’t expect that social channels will be free in the future. Instead of marketing our products and services we will market our content.”

What is required to create successful content these days?
“I would say two things. First, are you really telling a differentiating story? If I’m honest most large corporations produce content you can find anywhere. The other thing is consistency. In many cases consistency is the problem, not the quality.”

Today everyone is a publisher and produces content. How does that affect the media industry?
“It’s the golden age of media. Print engages and the readership is getting higher and higher. The problem is that the media are not supported by the advertising deal. The problem is not about audience’s involvement, but business models. We will continue to go away from paid advertising to media companies that sell products and services. In 5-10 years it will be very difficult to distinguish between someone who starts a content platform and someone who starts a media company. What’s the difference between American Express Open Forum and Inc Magazine? They have the same target group, small businesses. The only difference is in how they make their money.”

Which companies are good at content marketing today?
“Marriott International (hotel chain) has created their own content studio with more than 100 people in the organization. They are not the leading industry brand, but they are the leading media company in the traveling industry. I’ve never seen so much money being invested in one place before. In Europe, there is Jyske Bank that created, which broadcasts financial news around the clock. In the US, John Deere (tractors) started publishing The Furrow about 100 years ago. The magazine has 1.5 million subscribers and John Deere is the largest agricultural media company in the US.”

You’re speaking at Super Content Marketing in Stockholm. What will you be talking about?
“About our new model that shows how a company can get an audience in six steps.”

The ”content tilt” step sounds interesting?
“It’s the most important part where we take up if we have a differentiating story and where we can find a space with less competition. We go through this step before we create our content, which most other companies don’t do.

What’s your relationship to the color orange?
It’s the color of the company, so I started walking around in orange clothes. They asked me if I wanted to go to Brussels for a presentation, but they wanted me to wear a black suit. After the presentation, three people approached me and wondered why I wasn’t wearing my orange clothes. Then it occurred to me that orange differentiated me and today I always wear orange clothes, even outside the office.