Heidi Cohen Interviews Joe Pulizzi and Brian Piper
Epic Content Marketing, Second Edition: Break Through The Clutter With A Different Story, Get The Most Out Of Your Content And Build A Community In Web3
Q: Joe – Why did you decide to update Epic Content Marketing? What do you see as the most important change in terms of customers, marketers and technology that has taken place since you wrote the first edition?
Well, the first reason is because Brian Piper asked me to. That’s a true story.
The second big reason is that so many people reach out to me about the first edition and I immediately feel bad because 10 years is a LONG TIME in marketing. There was so much that changed and needed changing, from Web3 to AI to Community-building to tools and technology.
Brian and I initially thought a minor edit was needed, but once we started going through it, we had to overhaul the entire thing. The strategic framework is still there, but everything else is new.
Q: Brian – I know that you played an influential role in persuading Joe to write a second edition of Epic Content Marketing. What did you experience and/or see happening in the business environment that prompted you to act?
I had been doing content optimization and data analytics for 18 years as part of different web development teams before I read the first edition of Epic Content Marketing in 2014. After reading it, I immediately switched to the marketing team at the company I was with. So the impact the first edition had on my career was one driving factor to get it updated.
The biggest factor was amount and speed of change over the past few years in this space. We’ve seen the rise of the creator economy along with new technologies like web3 and AI which are creating new tactics and workflows for content marketers and content entrepreneurs alike.
Epic Content Marketing has always been a handbook, a guide, for content marketers and I knew it was time to update it to include content entrepreneurs as well as the changes in the content marketing ecosystem.
Q: With changing content consumption habits and time-shifting, should content marketers think about the context in which their content marketing appears? Specifically, do they need to consider where, when and with what device their audience needs, finds and/or consumes their content?
Absolutely. If we truly care about the needs and pain points of our audience, we’ll make decisions on how they should best consume it. That said, sometimes it makes sense for the program to do video or audio or text or image because the company has expertise in that area. I believe great content will be found, if we market it correctly.
Yes! If you’re creating content in a place where your users don’t consume content, you’re just shouting into the void and wasting your time. That said, it’s important to create in a way and on a channel where you can excel and stand out but you have to know where your users go to consume content and make sure you are there, directing them to what you’ve created.
For example, if you hate writing and your users prefer to consume written content via email, you can go create an amazing podcast and then re-purpose that content into newsletters that you can send out with calls to action to drive traffic to your podcast for anyone who wants the entire episode.
Q: How can marketers integrate content marketing across the entire purchase process, including customer service, onboarding and building loyalty? In particular, how can marketers persuade non-marketers in their organization to participate in content creation and distribution?
I would say this – don’t do it.
Find one problem in the organization where content marketing can be the solution. Focus on that and do that well for 9+ months. Once that’s successful you can move on to a more integrated approach. Most companies who try to integrate from the get-go generally produce a lot of mediocre content that ends up getting people fired.
Integrating content marketing into an entire organization is a great end goal, but not where any group should start. Start small, create a strategy you can implement and use to demonstrate effectiveness and then start looking for ways to scale.
There are many ways to make the case for content marketing within an organization but one tactic that works well is to not sell it as “marketing” but just tell people within the organization that more content is needed to help users solve their problems at different parts of their journey.
Employees want their particular areas to be showcased and featured so if you can help them create epic content for their team, you’re not only helping them be more visible and effective, you’re helping the customer navigate their journey in the space.
Q: How should content marketing be integrated across the entire organization? What can marketers do to accomplish this? If they can’t do so on their own, how can they get help to accomplish this?
As much as I’d love to give you an answer, the best models out there (like Cleveland Clinic or Arrow Electronics) are NOT integrated. They have separate groups whose sole job is to build audiences and drive unique forms of revenue.
A small company can start fresh by leading content-first, and the integration naturally happens.
In large companies that have been around for a while, it’s nearly impossible. So don’t do it. Start it as a test project and educate where you can. When another department reaches out for support, that’s a great start.
Almost every part of an organization needs content or puts out content, either to their end users or to their internal teams. All of this content should be tied to a content strategy and flagged as part of a content marketing strategy where appropriate.
That said, most large organizations tend to be very siloed with limited communications between teams. If one team has created an effective content marketing program, share it with leadership. A key to any company-wide initiative is having leadership support and an understanding of the resources and time needed to launch and sustain a content marketing initiative.
One way that Salesforce was able to do this was to embed a content strategist and editorial lead into each of their brand, persona, and industry teams and then when an opportunity for content marketing arose, they were able to leverage that content, share it with other teams, and identify other potential areas of overlap or promotion. None of that would have been possible if leadership didn’t make it clear that content marketing was going to be a company-wide focus.
Q: How do you see AI-generated content changing content marketing? Please include points where AI-generated content is improving content marketing and where AI-generated content is hurting content marketing.
AI tools are just that…tools. Content marketers should be testing those tools just like any other tools. If they can help you creation, distribution or audience-building process, then use them.
I believe that more and more of the content we encounter online will be AI-generated and that’s going to lead to lots of mediocre content that answers the most general questions. The downside for content marketers is that there will be more content out there for us to compete with for attention.
The upside is that it will create more opportunities for authentic, creative, and strategic content in areas where that content is needed. It will make IRL events and live virtual events more valuable and will encourage users to join communities where they can interact with actual humans.
I think that AI works great for ideation, information gathering, and research and can help streamline workflows and remove many of the routine tasks that we encounter.
The best content marketing needs to be created with a deep understanding of the end goal, strategic priorities, target audience, and criteria for success. As content marketers, we need to stay focused on that and only use AI tools where they add value.
Q: As more people use the Internet of Things and the Metaverse, they’ll talk more and type less. Where do voice and audio fit in content marketing related to these changes?
I believe there is a future when most search is done through voice. Content creators need to be thinking now about how Google, YouTube and other platforms consume content and present it through voice prompts. Every day this becomes more important.
As technology and tactics continue to advance and change it becomes even more important to understand the content discovery landscape and methodologies. Once you understand how content is selected and delivered, you can work on optimizing your content and messaging to provide the best solution to the problems your users face.
No matter how content is distributed across different platforms, every discovery channel is looking to provide the best answer to user questions. If you create those answers and know how the channels work, you can dominate in any environment.
Q: With social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and TikTok facing a variety of challenges such as declining participation, leadership problems, and privacy issues, how and where should content marketers distribute and promote their content in the future?
Pick your spots.
You don’t need to be everywhere. If it makes sense to be on Facebook or YouTube or TikTok with a regular series, that’s great. Just know that we have no control over those platforms, so we should set up processes to acquire addressable audiences through email wherever we can.
Content marketers should be focusing on owned channels like email and communities. Those are the only places where there is some amount of control over things like data collection and distribution. You can share and promote on rented land (social platforms) but you should always look to convert those audiences to move to your owned land.
Q: Joe: How do you approach writing non-fiction differently after having written a mystery novel?
Writing non-fiction involves a lot of planning. For example, Brian and I had all the chapters organized and agreed to before we started writing and editing.
With fiction, it really is (if I can say this) like opening a vein and bleeding onto the paper. You have to get up every day and write on a schedule and the story will find you once you’ve put in enough time.
Q: Brian: What was your biggest learning from writing your first published book? Has it changed how you view content marketing? If so, how?
The biggest thing I learned is that it’s a lot of work. And I don’t just mean the incredible amount of time spent researching, interviewing, and writing, but also the pre-launch, launch, and promotion tasks that are involved.
As far as how it has changed my view of content marketing, I would say one of my takeaways is that writing a book is an amazing thing to do to help elevate your brand. It gives you immediate credibility and creates numerous opportunities.
The other thing I’m taking away from this is that almost all of the techniques and tactics that we discuss in the book are valuable for all content creators, whether they work for a large brand or are a brand of one.
Q: What podcasts do you listen to on a regular basis?
- The Breakdown by NLW (Bitcoin podcast)
- Prof G podcast
- Audiobooks when I run long distances
- Content, Inc.
- This Old Marketing
- Prof G’s podcasts
- Marketing Artificial Intelligence show
- Smart Passive Income show
- web3 with a16z podcast
- Marketing Over Coffee
- The Higher Ed Marketer
- Voices of Search
- …and so many audiobooks while driving.
Q: What newsletters do you read every week?
- Sahil Bloom’s
- Jay Clouse’s
- Ann Handley’s
- Andy Crestodina’
- Total Annarchy
- The Tilt
- The Hustle
- Morning Brew
- The Baer Facts
- Mark Schaefer’s grow newsletter
- Search Engine Roundtable
- The Chronicle of Higher Education
- Higher Ed Dive
Thank you Joe and Brian.
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