How Joe Pulizzi pulls out the stops to help businesses deliver their content Featured

2:38pm EDT January 3, 2013
How Joe Pulizzi pulls out the stops to help businesses deliver their content

Weatherhead 100

1. Upstarts

Content Marketing Institute

City: Cleveland

Founded: 2007

Sales growth: 1,684.28%

Founder and executive director: Joe Pulizzi

Content Marketing Institute runs the largest international event in content marketing, Content Marketing World, and the leading magazine, Chief Content Officer.


When Joe Pulizzi left a media company some six years ago to found what is now the Content Marketing Institute, he knew the traditional way that companies go to market was changing — and changing big time.

“Instead of mostly through advertising sponsorship of some sort, more and more of those companies were creating their own content, looking and feeling just like publishers, and that’s what content marketing is,” he says. “Basically, it is regular talk about small, big, medium-sized and large companies, saying, ‘Look, in order to get any kind of attention, we need to create valuable, relevant, compelling content all the way through the buyer’s journey.’”

Pulizzi also knew it wasn’t easy for companies to get their own content marketing rolling through websites and social media as well as other channels and they needed somewhere to go for help.

“Content marketing takes a lot of effort; it takes a lot of processes,” he says. “It’s multiple channels; it’s both strategic and tactical. And most companies are really bad storytellers — I mean let’s just put it out there. And that’s why they want to hand it over to someone else. There is such a huge need for education, and we are trying to fill that need.”

The crowning jewel of the Content Marketing Institute, of which Pulizzi is executive director, is its Content Marketing World events, held in cities such as New York, Sydney and Cleveland. The event is the largest in content marketing and grows each year. A Columbus version last year drew 1,000 participants. Pulizzi’s goal is 1,500-2,000.

CMI also publishes a magazine, Chief Content Officer, and does consulting for Fortune 1,000 companies, such as Petco, AT&T and Allstate.

Pulizzi finds some real challenges working with content marketing and larger companies.

“If you are a marketer in a midsized to large company, you are dealing with hugely complex content issues because in a larger organization now, content is the most political beast in the marketing department,” he says.

“It is owned by everybody, there are lots of feuds regarding it but there is no real strategy behind it in most organizations. Most of the time, the content creators in big organizations don’t even talk to each other. It’s just all over the place now. So what we really try to focus on are complex content issues and how as a large enterprise marketer you can really try to figure those out.”

While any size of business can find help at CMI, Pulizzi realizes that midsized or large companies and PR professionals are the organization’s secret sauce.

“That’s where we feel the bigger problems are — and also a lot more revenue because these companies have the money to spend on this,” he says.

If you haven’t guessed it by now, Pulizzi feels very passionate about content marketing. He takes the Content Marketing World stage wearing a burnt orange three-piece suit. It gets the audience’s attention that it might be wise to hold on to their seats for his message.

“You’ve got to be a little bit different from the rest, and that could be the things you wear, the colors you like, things you do,” he says. “And those are the people at least in our industry who are getting the most attention. They do things a little bit differently.”

That’s why good, creative, compelling content that answers customers’ questions serves to differentiate a company from its rivals.

“Why the heck would they spend time with you?” Pulizzi says. “There are 10 million other resources where they could go to but what makes yours the best?

“If you’re not offering compelling content, you had better start investing time to both have an understanding of technology but more importantly to understand what your content strategy is.”

His advice is a three-pronged approach.

“Let’s say, you want your website to get found in Google — that’s search engine optimization. You want to drive online leads — that’s lead generation. Or you want to be successful in your social media efforts.

“None of those three start without first a good content marketing strategy. Because what are you going to have to say? You have to have something compelling to say to drive your business objectives.”

How to reach: Content Marketing Institute, (888) 554-2014 or