I firmly believe that establishing yourself as a content writer is the surest way to freelance writing success. It’s the most realistic opportunity in the world of writing. Especially if you go after the corporate market.
That’s because the fundamentals of content writing are stronger than ever. Content marketing has gone mainstream — and is not showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon.
In this episode, I interview Joe Pulizzi, founder of The Content Marketing Institute, Content Marketing World and Chief Content Officer magazine. Joe is also the author of the newly released book Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less.
Joe explains why content marketing is hot and getting hotter … why businesses need writers desperately … and how to get hired at top rates.
The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes or on Stitcher to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.
Joe, tell us who you are and what you do.
Joe Pulizzi was in the publishing industry for 15 years. He launched the Content Marketing Institute in 2007: a training and education resource for enterprise brands. The Institute is best known for Chief Content Officer magazine and the annual Content Marketing World event held in Cleveland. The event attracts 1500 enterprise marketers from around the world.
The focus of the Content Marketing Institute is to help its clients tell better stories.
What is content marketing? Is it a fad?
Content marketing is a new term for an industry that’s been around for a hundred years (e.g., John Deere’s The Furrow magazine).
It’s getting harder and harder to get the attention of customers. To overcome this, brands are becoming an information resource for their customers. That’s what content marketing is all about: creating valuable, compelling, relevant content on a consistent basis.
Brands have been telling stories forever. But for a long time, mass media atrophied storytelling and focus shifted to advertising and traditional marketing. Today, brands are shifting back to storytelling to get the attention of customers.
Search engine optimization, social media, lead generation—all of these should begin with amazing storytelling. That’s the heart of content marketing.
Aren’t customers overwhelmed with all the content out there?
Customers aren’t looking for content per se. They’re looking for information that will help them have better lives and careers or that will make things easier, funnier or whatever. That will never change.
Customers self-select the information they want. As long as information is helpful and answering their questions, people will want it.
Focus on a defined audience and their informational needs with a channel that makes sense. This could be:
- White papers
- Research reports
- Print magazines
Print magazines are a huge opportunity. There’s clutter in social and online. But we’re not getting much mail anymore! Magazines could make a comeback.
What are B2B marketers’ biggest challenges when it comes to producing/writing marketing content?
Joe has researched this for the past four years. The biggest challenge is creating enough content—keeping up with demand.
Also, most B2B companies don’t have formal content strategies. They’re filling holes, and they’ve forgotten how to tell stories.
Writers: There’s a huge opportunity here. And it’s not just in writing—it’s in helping companies understand what makes great storytelling, and how to link it to their marketing objectives.
- Top of funnel
- Demand generation
- Lead nurturing and movement through funnel
- Customer retention (loyalty)
- How to create brand evangelists and create content they’ll share.
B2B has more opportunities for writers than B2C. In B2B, you can clearly define the buyer. Each division needs multiple types of content. There are usually 7-9 influencers in any purchase decision, and the brand will need tailored content for each.
Advice to freelance writers:
- Don’t be a generalist. Great writing has become commoditized. Instead, focus on a core area of expertise, such as engineering, pet supplies, etc.
- Don’t just write. Include strategy. Help marketers understand how to tell a story under a bigger content strategy, and how this strategy can work with advertising and traditional PR. There’s a huge opportunity here.
When it comes to content, most companies are reflex driven. They need to stop for a moment and think about what they’re doing. It’s not about more content. It’s about quality content at the right time.
How much of this work is being outsourced?
About 50% of all companies outsource some part of the process, which could include writing, design, distribution, etc.
91% of all B2B brands are doing content marketing in some way. They’re setting up groups of freelancers to call when needed, including writers, editors, proofreaders—similar to a publishing organization.
Companies such as Coca Cola, Kraft, Procter & Gamble and Red Bull are all creating compelling stories to make an emotional connection with customers.
B2B companies are also doing this. They’re hiring staff and using freelancers.
Do you have some examples?
On the B2B side, storytelling is simply useful information told in an entertaining way and on a consistent basis.
A few examples:
Kelly Services (HR outsourcing company): Every month they put together a huge story package (topics such as talent mobility, talent management) and create 20-40 pieces of content from that one asset. They need lots of writers with expertise in different areas because they have so many verticals.
Content Marketing Institute: They post one blog post every day. They also have a monthly eBook, two webinars every month and a magazine. They have over 200 contributors as well as staff writers and in-house editors. And they’re a small company!
Advertising is still useful. But Joe is seeing an advertising correction that better balances traditional marketing and content marketing.
What are B2B marketers looking for in an outside writer?
They want someone who specializes in their industry. Timing and flexibility are also important.
You need to be somewhat social media savvy. Joe always checks out blogs when hiring. It drives him crazy when he’s looking for a manufacturing specialist (for example) and the person’s blog is all personal writing. He needs to know if you “get it,” and this type of blog doesn’t help.
Get your arms around the technology, such as social media tools, WordPress, Slideshare. Show him know you understand how to use them.
When he hires a freelance writer, he’ll be using (reimagining) that content in ten different ways using multiple tools and channels. He needs to know you understand that and aren’t just writing for one tool or channel.
If you can position yourself as a thought leader, that opens up new revenue options, such as:
- Advertising through email
As a thought leader, you can get yourself into the enviable position of not having to put in time to get dollars.
What are some of the most important trends in content marketing?
Most brands on the B2B side are just getting started with content marketing. We’re at the first-mover, innovator stage.
Since most companies don’t have a content marketing strategy, the execution is poor. That’s why there’s so much bad content out there! Most content doesn’t line up with any marketing objective. This creates a huge opportunity for writers.
B2B companies are starting to hire to support their content marketing. They’re focusing on subscriptions to get people into their lead nurturing systems. Once companies go beyond email into marketing automation tools, they need more content to move prospects along. That means more eBooks, more white papers, etc.
- Coca Cola just launched Coca Cola journey—a media site.
- American Express Open Forum gets as many small business inquiries as any of their other Amex marketing.
- SAP is setting up its Content Center of Excellence.
Are there opportunities for journalists in B2B content marketing?
This is a heyday for journalists. But they won’t be working for a media company—they’ll be working for a brand.
Joe remembers when there were five to six trade magazines in every vertical. Now there may only be two. But look carefully at the advertisers in those magazines. They are the ones who’re launching their own content initiatives. They don’t want to compete with other advertisers in that magazine, so they’re starting their own content initiatives.
You have a new book out. Tell us about that
Epic Content Marketing is Joe’s third book. It covers everything from how to create content marketing strategy to execution to using social media and other channels.
Whether you’re a marketer in a Fortune 100 company or an entrepreneur, you can take this book and be successful through content marketing. Joe’s packed in everything he’s learned about content marketing over the past 15 years.
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Till next time,