Leslie Carruthers: We are over the moon to have Joe Pulizzi here with us today on Rebound This. Thanks so much for making time, the godfather of content marketing, the king of orange, and just an all around great guy. Thanks for taking time away from the family to be with us today.
Joe Pulizzi: That’s a very nice introduction, Leslie know anything for you, you know that and, of course bringing my orange share for those people watching and always have to wear it. I’ve really got rid of all my other outfits that hey, that had bald and had no orange in it. So basically, I don’t have a choice anymore. I go into the closet and it’s orange. That just makes it easier.
Leslie Carruthers: Yeah, decision fatigue, right?
Joe Pulizzi: Like that Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. I’m a big believer of that mentality. You know, focus, your energy, your thinking on what’s really important and other stuff is not important. Just don’t don’t waste any effort at all.
Leslie Carruthers: And that may be one of the qualities that we identify today that helps people to take lemons and make lemonade in times of uncertainty like this is such a cliche now, but this is this is craziness. Just like the great recession of 2018, like 911, like there have been lots of instances when it looked like we should pop a squat, weighted out, be safe. And that’s not what you recommend.
Joe Pulizzi: Well, from what you’re thinking about it from an entrepreneurial standpoint, or even from I’m a marketer at a small midsize large enterprise. I, first of all, lots of horrible things going on right now in the world. I don’t think we need to go into it or talk about it. But at the same time, there’s never been more opportunity than there is right now for those people that want to go and grab it. I don’t know if you want to The last dance, which was the 10 episodes of the the Chicago Bulls era when they won their six championships, and it’s mostly about Michael Jordan. But in the last episode, filled coach, Phil Jackson comes up to Michael Jordan and says, Can you believe this? We won six times. Nobody’s ever done this three, you know, three times and three times? And he said, Yes, I absolutely expected us to do this. So sure of himself. And I think that’s one of the qualities if you’re looking for a quality. You have to have whatever you want to call it, arrogance, or this pure blind belief that you can accomplish something. Because that’s what I found is, you know, I’ve been in business for over 20 years, been an entrepreneur for shoot over 13 now, and I think where we were successful, especially going through the Great Recession, I mean, as you know, we started what became Content Marketing Institute on April 2. 2007, which was the day that new century financial declared bankruptcy, which is so funny, that was the start of the Great Recession. So everything that we did to build that, that business was during the worst economic time we’ve ever seen until now. And we’re starting to see the same thing. So the first thing is you just have to absolutely believe it. And the second thing is you have to push away from the fear that, Oh, God, we’ve got to batten down the hatches. Because everybody’s doing that. Everybody who you it’s natural, as a human, you want to protect yourself. You want to go find shelter, but the ones that are going to really come out of this successfully in two to three years are the ones right now having this conversation that we’re having, looking at, oh my god, there’s so much opportunity. You’ve got businesses that are going out of business, you’ve got less competition in certain areas from a content marketing standpoint. You’ve got media companies going up for sale, bankruptcies, journalists that are out of work. I mean, terrible, terrible things. But at the same time, from a business perspective, I’m like, Oh, my goodness. And I mean, I’ve been sort of retired the last couple of years. But I’m almost thinking, wow, there’s just so much opportunity I want, you just want to jump back in, because there is that opportunity. So just to kind of wrap this up. First thing is you just have to believe that you can do it because most people don’t they doubt that. The second thing is, in all this bad stuff going on, you’ve got to remember that with pain, with it with an increasing amount of pain, you have on the other side, the same amount of opportunity. So if you have little pain, you have little opportunity, big pain, huge opportunity. And that’s I think, if once you realize that you can move forward and saying, well, we really can do something special here.
Leslie Carruthers: Great, I got it. Absolutely believe it push away from the fear and know that the pain and the opportunity are equally weighted. So Go for it. There you go. I got it. Okay. So you often advise that you focus that people focus, instead of going after every possible channel to achieve mediocrity across the board the best that you choose one or two, and be excellent. Is that a quality that you find often in the folks who can take lemons and make lemonade make good out of bad circumstances?
Joe Pulizzi: Well, you know, Leslie, you’re an entrepreneur. I’m an entrepreneur. You and I both know a lot of people that have started businesses. And the one thing that I’ve seen for a long, long time, I know a lot of really good folks with very good intentions that have side hustles. They’re working a job, and they got this thing over here they’re working on on the side and they’re always hoping that’s gonna be my thing someday, you know, I know I’m working a job and I got the corporate thing going or whatever they’re doing whatever their safety net is. But I got this thing I got the other business or I always wanted to start a fitness operation or whatever it is, right? They’ve got it as a side hustle. You know how many of those people have turned that side hustle into reality? None that I know of, maybe you do, I don’t know of any. Because you know why? Because they’re not doing a great job at work because they’re focused on the side hustle, and they’re not gonna turn that side hustle into a business because they still have to work. So if I go back to 2007, where you know,I had a really good job making six figures as an executive and a media company. And I knew that if I wanted to start a business and live my lifelong dream of starting something, I had to completely stop what I was doing and start something fresh. So at the end of march in 2007, I quit my job I left. And on April 2 2007, started what became Content Marketing Institute. And I could forget everything I was doing and I completely focused on something new. What I would love what I love to say, for six months, I was working on building an audience that I put the website together. And when I left in April, everything was done. I would love to say that, but that doesn’t happen. That’s fantasy land that you have to focus on being great at one thing. And those like we just talked about Michael Jordan, he focused on being the greatest basketball player then he stopped that. And he said, I’m going to stop that. Now. Forget about that for a while. I’m going to go be a baseball player. If the strike wouldn’t have happened in 94-95. For Major League Baseball, he would have become a major league baseball player.
There’s no doubt and anybody that saw Michael Jordan play that he would have been a very good or great baseball player too, because he stopped basketball. But when he stopped playing he went right back to basketball and focused, never did two at the same time. Same thing in business. Same thing in marketing. Same thing when you’re talking about turning lemons into lemonade. So that’s where if you’re in marketing, you don’t do everything. I know a lot of marketers and you do too, where they are “Let’s do some social ads over here. We’ll do a little bit of PR, we’ll do a little bit…” and I get that you sometimes have to do a little bit of everything but from a building audience standpoint, you do not.
If you look at the greatest media companies of all time, how do they start New York time started by doing one thing, Greg did a great newspaper, Huffington Post started by doing one thing great. They did what started with one blog now they’ve got hundreds, right. Ted Talks. Ted, a great media brand now just started with their in person events. Very small thing blew up to this huge media thing. Red Bull media house if you want to look on the brand side, how does Red Bull media house maybe one of the greatest sports, entertainment media companies around maybe second to, to ESPN, if you will. You’ve got Red Bull, Red Bull media house start, they started with a Formula One magazine and turn that into the red Bolton. That was their one thing and then they diversified and all these things. So that’s my thing. And you know, you don’t start two businesses, you don’t you don’t start two platforms, you don’t be great at one, build your audience and one, be amazing, be helpful, whatever you want to say. And then once you do and you build your audience and that platform, then you can have a discussion about diversifying, but only then when you have that bill.
Leslie Carruthers: Got it. Great. So let’s say you’re in house right now, and everybody’s freaking out. And they want to throw all the spaghetti at the wall that they can cook. What advice would you give them how Would you recommend they begin to position efforts so that if they’re focused on building audience, that they can get the permissions they need to focus for excellence.
Joe Pulizzi: So what you bring up I mean, it’s a real life problem. And you and I know a lot of marketing VPS marketing managers, where the request is, hey, we want to do all these things. We want the podcasts, we want the event series, we want the webinar series, we want the mini magazine, we want the blog, whatever they want all of it at the same time. So it’s your job in marketing to set the correct expectations. So you have to create the roadmap for people that don’t understand how audiences are built so. So when we really started to get serious about building a media platform, a Content Marketing Institute, so let’s go to 2009. That’s when I really realized Okay, how do we roll this out? How is how do we create the Number one, media brand and content marketing. Well, I had a, you know, cocktail napkin at the time and I’m writing down and I’m like, okay, we want to be we have big goals, big vision, and we want to have the the largest in person event around content marketing in the world. Okay, that’s what we want to do. We want to have the number one industry leading magazine. Okay, we want to do that. And we want to have the number one online destination for marketers. Well, that’s great. All right, but I can’t do all that at the same time. So I wrote mapped it out. So this was in September 2009. I said, Okay, this is all the things we have to do. I think that we can do a roll out of the, of the destination, the online destination in May. So we worked on that. That went really really well because I didn’t think we could launch the magazine until a year after that. But we ended up we ended up launching the magazine nine months after that because the online rollout went so well. Why I think I mean, that was a good time to be in content marketing a people were just coming out of the gate. Great Recession. But the other thing is we were really focused on just that. Be great blog, focus on the E newsletter, write blog posts, blog posts, blog posts call to action, a newsletter. We didn’t do anything fancy. That was it. Okay, that worked really well. We got hundreds of thousands of people go onto that site. And then we said, boom, now we can diversify, and launch the magazine because we built that audience online. So in January, then we said, okay, now we’re going to do the rollout to do an every other month magazine, boom, that worked great, started gone. And then nine months after that, 10 months after that, then we did content marketing world, the event first year, so that was the rollout plan. So that’s the recommendation that I would make for any marketer is like, sure. You want it all right. You want to be everywhere, but it doesn’t work that way. You can’t do it. I haven’t seen it work successfully, where I say we’re gonna launch it all at the same time and see what works doesn’t work that way. And he’s talked about all the reasons why Yeah.
Educate your team. educate the executives in your organization about how building audiences work, focus and build that up and say, Okay, if everything goes well, and we hit our markers here for audience building on the podcast, then we can launch whatever the second thing is the event series or whatever, but make that rollout so that they know, hey, this person wants to do all these things, but is realistic about what resources we have and how it’s done. Okay, I can live with that. So that’s what a lot of marketers don’t realize your number one job is educating internal communications is educating the people around you, and then that will give you the ammunition to communicate with your external audience.
Leslie Carruthers: I’m going to add that to the list of qualities. Internal educator,
Joe Pulizzi: Yeah, I mean, Don Schultz, one of my mentors, father of integrated marketing communications. He always said, Do you have a choice between marketing internally or externally, you always choose internally first, because employees are your best marketers. And if they don’t know the mission and the vision, how do you expect your customers to know it? So that comes first. And then you can go ahead and have the privilege of communicating with your customers.
Leslie Carruthers: Really great. Got it? So if if somebody is in house, and they’re working their internal communications and they get the permission slip, to focus and shoot for excellence. How do you decide where excellence is? Have you set some KPIs before measurements? You say, Okay, at this point, we get to add something else. But not until we get here or do you just go until it be like that? We’ll pick something as we move along.
Joe Pulizzi: Yes. I wish it was a science. It’s not I mean, Brian Clark talked about getting to the point of minimum viable audience. It’s the point at which you can actually start driving revenue through that channel. So that’s where the hypothesis comes in. So you might say, let’s say I want to build a blog with an email companion. And that’s, that’s how we started Content Marketing Institute. So we’re like, okay, that’s, that’s our core platform. Coming from media Coming from business to business publishing, I knew that you could monetize an E newsletter at 10,000 subscribers, active subscribers. So that’s what we set as our minimum ability to move on to the next level. So that as we’re doing the platform, okay, launch, maybe we’re going to launch this blog and go out and say, we’re not going to launch that magazine till we get it to at least 10,000 because I know at 10,000 I’m monetizing the blog and I’m monetizing the email newsletter. So I can say cool, good things are working So those are the types of levels that I would set in. Now if you’re on the consumer side, it’s much different. You might say it’s 50,000, it’s 100,000. I don’t know what your audience would be. But hopefully you have some idea, depending on what your niche is, what what is a good number. That’s a flexible number, but I would put it in there. And and we always recommend, when you lay out the concept for your team that’s in there. Our expectation, you know, you do put the plan together. Here’s who we’re targeting. Here’s the mission. We’re going to do a podcast, we believe that the frequency of that podcast is every Tuesday and Thursday, we’re going to send it out at 6pm. Eastern time, every Tuesday and Thursday, we’re going to have a guest format. It’s going to be 45 minutes. We are going to distribute on iTunes and Spotify. We’re going to focus on those two channels. And we believe that if we get to 10,000 downloads by Six in six months, then that will help us whatever your call to action is hopefully you have a call to action that is a an E-newsletter. I’m a big believer in E-newsletters because that’s the the one subscription outlet that we have some control over. So that’s what I would look into and through all those things. You might say, okay, that’s 5000 10,000 15,000 subscribers coming from the podcast, then you can go to the next level, but put that in there as a hypothesis and then see how it goes.
Hopefully you’re using a lot of tools to understand the behaviors of your audience to understand the content opportunities, and the areas that you can cut through all that clutter, because you’re focusing on a certain area, to a certain audience, and then see how it goes and give yourself I would like to say like, give yourself 9 to 12 months to see how it goes.
Hopefully I’d like to say hey, you’ll know it’s six months, but it takes a long time to build a loyal audience. And from our research, you know, generally from start to monetization, it takes about 12 months or more to see any fruit from from all your practices. That’s why people love advertising. Because you go out and advertise, especially on social, right? Today, I can see that I can see the numbers, I can look at the dashboard and see it happening. Well, can’t really do that with content marketing. But if you do it well, by the end of it, you’ve actually built an asset that you can monetize in 235 710 different ways, just like a media company does when it comes down to it. And that’s way that way when you’re in an enterprise. When you’re in an in house, you can create your own budget. I mean, that’s ultimately what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to create marketing as a profit center. And this way you can do it you can you can sell your own products and services, and then you can monetize in multiple different ways. And that’s the big coming out of this economic crisis that we’re in right now. Leslie, I think that’s the thing that We’re going to see in 234 years we’re going to see more Amazon examples, more Red Bull examples that are actually driving revenue from their audience creation and content creation. So it’s going to be an exciting, devastatingly horrible time for a lot of companies. And then coming out of this, we’re going to see some of the most innovative marketing examples we’ve ever seen.
Leslie Carruthers: Got it. So what I heard you say added a couple more qualities to the list. Okay, I’ve got a plan, plan your work and work your plan. Scientific, be scientific about it, test trial, and I would probably add there. Don’t be afraid to not cut and run. But you know, listen, and respond. Fair. And yeah,
Joe Pulizzi: Get your listening posts in order. Get good feedback as much feedback as you can.
Leslie Carruthers: Yes. And not be tied to, you know, have it be okay if your baby’s ugly.
Joe Pulizzi: Well, It will be, the baby will be ugly the first couple months. And you’re gonna go back to the content, you’re gonna say, Oh, I can’t believe we actually did that. That’s okay. Everybody does that.
Leslie Carruthers: Really great. And then to make sure you’re planning based in research data from multiple sources, right, great. Okay. And what I heard you just say to was that there are things that will be possible that had Coronavirus, not happened wouldn’t have been possible. This explosion you’re predicting in two to three years of more Amazon’s more Red Bulls because people had this time compressed. Almost leave the stone where they weren’t able to sell or they were flooded. What do you I get that you’re making this prediction? What is the source of factors? What are you seeing that you’re saying? That going that way? Sure. Well, we
Joe Pulizzi: Talked about the Anheuser Busch example where the CMO comes out and says, you know, we’re pulling away back on our advertising because we know right now we’ve got to focus on communicating directly with our audiences. And I’m like, oh, brilliant.
I mean, I love that Anheuser Busch is doing the one of the greatest advertisers ever, in our history is saying, you know what advertising right now in this climate is not going to cut it. We’ve got to focus on direct communications. So the one thing that we’re seeing right now that we know for sure is advertising budgets are getting cut across the board. advertising is a different animal than content marketing. I’m not saying that content marketing doesn’t cost money, because content marketing absolutely does cost money, but you can do things with communicating with your audiences today that don’t cost what it costs to advertise directly in somebody else’s medium. So we can get very creative with you know, for example, let’s just say that you wanted to launch a podcast theoretically If you wanted to launch a podcast, it probably cost you less $100 a month to do that, if you really wanted to, you know, you’re not. You’re not paying for studio time here, but you’re doing things like we’re doing here. We’ve got professional mic setups. I mean, all the things that are possible today that anybody can be a great content, content creator, you can do those things. email newsletter, doesn’t cost a lot of money to do that, right? What actually cost the most money, which I love doing. And maybe there’s another opportunity that we wouldn’t have a chance without this going on is Facebook ads are a little bit cheaper. LinkedIn ads are a little bit cheaper than they were. So if you want if you’re creating a content platform, and you want to promote that on those platforms, you are now getting an opportunity to do that at a level that you didn’t have before. So what are you going to do during a time when people are going through this horrible, horrible pain points, Dire Straits? Are you going to advertise your product? Or are you going to try To solve their pain points with really good information to help them make their lives better. It’s a non choice, right? You’re absolutely going to focus on information. This is really why we’re content marketing is, you know, I call this the third stage of content marketing, you had the first stage after 911, you had the second stage was the great recession. And the third one is going to be the most powerful, or we’re going to start to see more and more companies be media companies, but we’re not going to see him as media companies, because they’re going to have these made build these amazing audiences. Now it’s easy for people like Amazon Amazon has been helped by this, you’re gonna mean they’re just going to blow up with this apple. I mean, those big tech companies are are probably the next big media companies that we’re going to see because they have the resources to do it. But that doesn’t mean that any of you listening to this right now that are struggling on budget, can’t be competitive. When you are looking at the next opportunity where you have media companies that are really struggling right now, so for the same reason, you have advertising getting pulled back. So media in general is struggling outside of even the New York Times which their subscriber rates are going through the roof, but their advertising has come down significantly. So thank goodness, they have direct subscribers and email list. But let’s be honest, in every market out there, the media companies that have survived this transformation over the past 20 years are really hurting right now the event business who knows when that’s going to get come back? So they’re in real trouble. So what are they gonna do? They’re gonna come back. They’re gonna, they’ve been we’ve seen it, they’re gonna let journalists go, their editors go, it’s really sad to see what’s going on right now. That means that there is a content gap that probably needs to be filled, that any company out there with focus and energy can probably do that and not spend a lot of money to become the leading expert. at any particular niche, and they could probably do it by hiring some of that talent that’s being let go from some of these wonderful organizations.
Leslie Carruthers: Now, great, I decided focus and energy to the list.
Joe Pulizzi: I got a lot of focus, a lot of focus and a lot of energy.
Leslie Carruthers: No, that’s great. I mean, I’m really interested in this question about how do we develop ourselves during this time to be well positioned for the rebound and beyond? And this is a this is a great conversation. I appreciate all these bullet points. Anything else stand out for you that you’d like to say in the realm of that?
Joe Pulizzi: About what what separates?
Leslie Carruthers: Yeah, and how people can train and develop themselves because not we’re not all duplicity.
Joe Pulizzi: Thank goodness
Leslie Carruthers Oh, please, please. Awesome. So if you are in house, out of brand, and you got. Yes. I got to get my roadmap I got to market internally and make that be my primary to get everybody on the bus. And then how do I develop myself because that’s a slog, you know, 12 months, and to keep all that going, if you’re inside of a bubble that doesn’t think that way to begin with, and you’re not going to be able to prove it in a quarter. So we can talk how I sustain. Yep.
Joe Pulizzi: So we can talk about the things in the marketing environment that you need to do. So you’ve covered those, we’ve covered those. But if you’re going to survive this thing, you you need to do the things personally, that most people don’t do. So my recommendation is that you get your goals set up. Now, you start thinking about what’s important to you. What’s important to you, from a career standpoint, wealth standpoint, financial standpoint, spiritually, physically, family oriented, and you start listing You know, two to three goals under each of those things. By the way this, this takes time to do so spend a week or two. So write down those things. And let’s say let’s just give you an example. So people can, can visualize it. Let’s say that you have a physical goal. And your goal is to do you want to lose 10 pounds. Alright, so you want to lose 10 pounds, okay? When I lose 10 pounds in six months, okay? Imagine how am I going to do that? You’re gonna lose 10 pounds in six months, by running at least one mile every day. say, Okay, can I do that or maybe not. And not eating desserts, except for Saturday, right? Or whatever it is that but that’s how specific we want to be with our goal. That’s how specific you should be with your financial goal. I want by the time I’m, you know, by the time I’m 60 years old, I want to have $1 million in this bank account, and we’re going to do that by doing this and this right now putting, you know, $50 a month in some account or whatever, right, just be specific and measurable. So once you get those down, you’re feeling pretty good about it, I would say no more than three, no less than two in each one of those major categories. Mm hmm. And then what I want you to do is, once you get up in the morning, and read those every morning, just read them, take it less than five minutes, way less than 1% of the day, right fit is 15% I think is 15 minutes, I think is 1% of the day. So 15 minutes would be nice. If you could review him a couple times, think about him. And that So get up in the morning and then before you go to bed. You do that every day, what you’ll start to do is you’re not even think about your behaviors are going to change, you’re going to do things because these are this is this is me, this is how I live my life. You start to do these things that will affect your job in a positive way. A lot of people don’t realize that because they’ll focus only on Okay, here’s the goals I need to accomplish for this marketing strategy to work. I think that the personal and the business go hand in hand. Anyone who says differently, I think they’re full of it. So you have to prepare for success in all areas of life. And if you do that you can be you can then allow yourself to be successful at work, because you’ll have that part of your goal set. So that’s the thing that I would do if you’re asking, what’s the thing that’s going to, to set you different than everyone else out there if that nobody does this, and if you look at the Bill Gates is to the Warren Buffett’s to the most successful people in the world. That’s what they do. It’s very simple. They write down their goals, they write down what they want to accomplish, and they review it on a consistent basis.
It’s not rocket science.
It’s actually just the same thing as your marketing strategy. Hopefully, you wrote it down on a piece of paper and you review it often with your team. That’s how it works. You need to do that in your personal life as well as your business life.
Leslie Carruthers: Wonderful. Is there anything I haven’t asked you you’d like me to?
Joe Pulizzi: Oh, I think the only the only thing that I would say, and this is building upon, what we’ve already talked about is I don’t know what the budget is or what the monetary situation is for the people listening to this, but there’s going to be a huge opportunity to purchase media properties, influencer properties, blogs, video sites, those types of things, probably starting in six months to six to 12 months, those conversations and that thinking should start now. So I would I would make a list of the properties that you could possibly purchase. That would make sense with what you’re trying to do from your marketing perspective or your business perspective. If you’re an entrepreneur listening to this, and people just don’t think about that. But if you’re immediate right now, that’s all You’re thinking about, like, if you were a publisher and a media company executive, you’ve got the person in MMA all over it like, Oh my god, there’s gonna be so many opportunities because people are going bankrupt, they’re struggling for funds. Maybe they can’t get credit lines, whatever it is. They’re all over it. But we don’t think about that on the marketing side. But you should, because it’s a huge trend right now for non media companies buying media brands, and I think that’s only going to accelerate.
So that’s probably the only thing I want to add.
Leslie Carruthers: Great. Thank you so much for your time. This has been awesome.
Joe Pulizzi: You got it anytime.