Joe Pulizzi puts marketers on edge

Joe Pulizzi opened the BAM Marketing Congress and fulfilled that difficult task with verve. He advised marketers to make clear choices. We had a conversation with the man who was at the cradle of content marketing.


Embracing uncertainty was the title of the congress. Is uncertainty a risk for marketers?

I've been in the business for about 25 years now. Uncertainty in marketing has always been there. But no doubt it is a little bigger now because the recession specter is lurking around the corner. But that immediately brings with it a gigantic opportunity. At such a time, a lot of companies go into a cramp. They say "let's just do what we've always done and not take any risks." My advice: do just the opposite and start great content marketing initiatives. The timing is perfect to do it just because there is more room.

Joe Pulizzi
Joe Pulizzi
Joe Pulizzi

Does a crisis open up opportunities for content marketing an sich?

Indeed, crises so far have always been good for content marketing. When consumers have adequate budgets, you as a marketer can satisfy yourself with campaigns. People buy you anyway; they are in a buying mode. But when that is no longer the case, you have to make important decisions. And those pay off.

Look at Red Bull. Everyone talks about this brand. But when did they become big with their marketing? During and after the 2008 financial crisis. They started their magazine in 2005, but it didn't really take off until 2010, 2011. By the way, until then no one was talking about content marketing. And the corona crisis was also an accelerator.

We are two years away from a moment when magic will happen. But before that, you have to build your strategy now and get started. You have to ask yourself what you can do that will have the greatest possible impact for your consumer and that will pay off within two years.

What do you think the current state of content marketing is?

Every organization has an idea of what it is and does something. But only 5% do it well. The problem is that there is still too much focus on campaigns. What a missed opportunity! You build a reach and when you've built it you tell people, "sorry, I have to go sell something else. I don't care about you anymore." And after that, of course, it's hard to start back from scratch.

Another problem is that everyone wants to be present on every channel. A competent content marketing organization listens on every channel, but does not create content for every channel. As a result, much of the content created in recent years is average. And that is not enough to build community, achieve engagement and sell.

Joe Pulizzi
Joe Pulizzi
Joe Pulizzi

Do you still see opportunities?

Content marketing is a commitment and I hear that in Belgium that has not yet fully caught on. It's not about creating content for your marketing, it's about content marketing, about changing behavior in the long run. Creating content for your marketing is just... marketing.

For long-term behavior change, of course, you need time. It takes 12 to 18 months before you can see and measure it. If you don't have that time, don't do content marketing. Go and interrupt people.

You also advocate looking for the content tilt, the moment when your content creates a snowball effect. How does a marketer find it?

You have to recognize that there is a giant content clutter and you have to break through that. You do that by differentiating yourself from the others. Find a niche where you can answer the questions and besognes better than your competitors. That niche is something a marketer doesn't like. He likes to go broad. That's fine, but from that niche. That's where you have to start.

Conceet you can ask yourself where is a good opportunity for you. Maybe none of your competitors are on Twitch or no one has a podcast? In doing so, always start from your content mission statement: what do we do? For whom? What do we want to achieve? We don't ask ourselves these questions enough.

One way to do it right is to make the switch from rent to own. Can you point that out?

Marketers have a lot of presence on social media, but don't realize that's not their own audience. It's not their followers, it's those on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. As advertisers, we borrow connections from these platforms.

They control the distribution, the data ... They can change the rules. And they do. And then you stand there as a brand. Or whatever happens: social media disappearing, or being blocked by the government. A lot of states in the US have already banned TikTok... Brands have spent a lot of money on this.

So marketers should strive to gather first-party data, to reach out to people you can contact yourself because you have their e-mail address or physical address.

Finally, what can brands learn from content creators, many of whom are highly successful?

Content creators are fantastically consistent in distributing their content. They make firm commitments to their audience. They are committed.

And they build trust faster than brands. This is because they dare to go for an outspoken attitude: you love them or you hate them. Brands do not dare to do that and remain a gray mouse.

But brands can do a bit more with content creators. After all, they have a hard time monetizing their reach. Brands can take over creators. I see that connection being made often at the moment.

The BAM Marketing Congress is your annual meet-up with professionals passionate about marketing.