Meet the Marketer: Joe Pulizzi, the Godfather of Content Marketing

January 25, 2016

Editor’s note: This week we’re honoring one of our all-time favorite marketers. It’s Joe Pulizzi Week on the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog. Stay tuned for a look at Joe’s new book, Content Inc., along with a handful of other posts, including a collection of Joe’s greatest content marketing hits.

There’s a reason people call Joe Pulizzi the Godfather of Content Marketing: He’s a master of making marketers an offer they can’t refuse. Need to know where content marketing has been and where it’s going? Joe’s Content Marketing Institute has answers in B2B and B2C flavors. Need to learn from some of the brightest minds in the business? Content Marketing World has you covered. Need a steady stream of content marketing insights? Joe has podcasts, articles, guides, and a monthly magazine to offer you.

Need to rock a bright orange suit? Well…Joe may be the only one who can pull that off.

Joe Pulizzi has spent the better part of a decade defining, refining, and evangelizing for quality content marketing. His latest book, Content Inc., is a blueprint for building a business through content. His knowledge on the subject is only paralleled by his passion to see it done right. Simply put, Joe is an inspiration, a legend, and an all-around nice guy.

We were privileged to grab time in Joe’s busy schedule for a Q&A. In this interview, he talks about founding the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), the marketers who inspire him, and how CMI practices what they preach.

Q&A with Content Marketing Institute Founder Joe Pulizzi

LinkedIn: Content Marketing Institute and Content Marketing World have grown to become pillars of the marketing world. How did you identify content as a lasting trend and build a successful business out of it?

Joe Pulizzi: First of all, the approach of content marketing has been around for hundreds of years. When I started in this industry, it was called custom publishing or custom media, and most enterprises kept their custom magazines and newsletters as part of their publishing operations (not in marketing). During that time I sold content services to marketers at large B2B organizations and there were a couple key trends going on.

First, where we had just eight channels to communicate through before 1990, there were now hundreds (and growing). This meant that the power was moving away from media and big budgets to consumers who had access to any information they needed. For enterprises, this meant that our customers could ignore our (mostly) sales messages (and advertising). We believed there was a big trend toward a critical approach to developing audiences and getting attention. 

Second, when we met with marketers, terms like custom publishing simply didn't resonate. We needed a term that could unify the industry that actually resonated with marketers. Content marketing was that term. It instantly resonates with marketers (whether they understand it or not). We began to use a consistent language about content marketing in large enterprises and we began to see change happen. 

The result of all this was the need for an ongoing training and education resource. Enter Content Marketing Institute, and thus the event, Content Marketing World. 

LinkedIn: You’ve been adamant about the importance of saying “no” as a strategy. How do you personally go about this?

Joe Pulizzi: Strategy is all about making choices. If you choose to do everything, it's not a strategy. That means we have to focus on what we can actually be the best in the world at. Too many marketers try to "throw up" content wherever they can. That is a losing proposition. We need to create a business strategy for our content. That means saying no to many channels and content types, and focus on where we can build an asset, an audience, over time.

For me personally, I have a list of goals that I review daily to keep my career and family life on point. If it doesn't fit within my goals, I don't do it. It means I have to say no to a lot of things. 

LinkedIn: A large percentage of modern marketers (and pretty much every reader of this blog) turns to you for insight. Which people have been most responsible for shaping your marketing philosophy over the years?

Joe Pulizzi: One of my favorite books on the planet is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Although written in 1937, it's an amazing book for personal improvement and it started me on my path to goal creation. Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki were amazing resources as we began to launch the business. Today, there are a number of amazing thought leaders that I look to regularly, including Robert Rose, Ann Handley, Doug Kessler, Andrew Davis, Jay Baer, Lee Odden, Brian Clark, Michael Stelzner, Kristina Halvorson and many, many more.

LinkedIn: There’s a strong link between documenting a strategy and achieving content marketing success. How does CMI go about documenting its strategy?

Joe Pulizzi: Mostly, we focus on our overall mission (Advancing the Practice of Content Marketing) and what that means for our audience. Everything we create must be valuable to our audience and help them be better marketers and human beings (and must tell a unique story that they need to hear).

We review this strategy on a regular basis with the team. A documented content marketing strategy is a never ending initiative...a living document. 

LinkedIn: And finally, anyone who has been to Content Marketing World knows there’s a certain color that dominates everything, from the snacks to the stage to your wardrobe. What’s up with the orange?

Joe Pulizzi: When I first started to do keynote speeches, I wore the color orange…usually an orange shirt. It was our company color so that made sense.

After about 5 or 6 speeches, I was hired to do a keynote in Brussels, Belgium, where they asked me to wear all black with a silver tie. Of course, this was fine with me.

After the speech, multiple people at the event and many on social media asked me where the orange was. I had no idea that I branded myself with that color.

I immediately thought that this could be a differentiator for our company. From that moment on, I went over the deep end in wearing orange…shoes, shirts, suits, pocket squares…everything.

People now identify the company by the color, and I usually get some kind of orange gift in the mail every few weeks.

Lesson – whatever you can do to differentiate yourself, do it.

If it can help you become a better content marketer, you can learn all about it from Joe and his team at Content Marketing Institute. And definitely check out Content Inc. for some truly revolutionary ideas about how content relates to business success.

Get more insights from leading lights in the marketing profession when you subscribe to the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog.