PR & Fighting the Content Marketing Battle Within

Joe Pulizzi

Content marketing is all the rage. If 2009 and 2010 were the years when social media dominated the conversation, 2011 is the year of content marketing. Businesses aren’t asking why anymore…they are asking how. How can they create compelling and relevant content to attract and retain customers? How can they organize around storytelling? How can they truly engage and profit from great content?

This is a big change. This is publishing at its finest. Organizations weren’t built to be publishers, but that is exactly what they are being asked—scratch that—forced to become.

And whenever there is change, there is politics. Everyone in the organization is fighting for content. Social media wants it. E-mail marketing wants it. Corporate communications wants it and, of course, PR wants it. Everyone is telling stories, but no one is on the same page.

The best positioned may be PR. As the protector of the brand, telling compelling stories has always been part of PR DNA. But this is not your father’s storytelling.

Content marketing means something different for PR professionals. We have to think differently about the art of storytelling…and quickly.

It’s Not About the Campaign

Content marketing is not campaign driven like most PR campaigns. It’s a promise that never ends. It doesn’t start and stop. Content marketers develop a relationship with customers and prospects by providing a never-ending stream of solution-driven stories. PR has to stop thinking about the big launch and start thinking about how to consistently develop the best multichannel content on the planet to drive the business.

It’s Not About the Most, But the One

Businesses naturally want to target the largest possible audience. Makes perfect sense. We did, of course, grow up as part of the mass media revolution.

So it also makes sense that that we want to create content that targets as many people as possible. That is where mistakes are made. We don’t want to create content for everyone. Brands need to develop content so niche, so focused, that they become the leading experts in the world in that niche (yes, this is publishing). That’s content that makes an impact, that’s shared, that delivers for the brand.

It’s Not About Us

This should go without saying, but thinking it’s about you is still the biggest mistake that brands make. We think that our products and services are so amazing that if we talk about them in compelling ways, our customers would want to hear about it and share it. We are wrong.

Our customers don’t care about us—they only care about themselves. Our content has to reflect that. The majority of the stories we create has to directly reflect the pain points and problems of our customers. After all, people go to Google to solve problems. People share content on Facebook that speaks to their needs. No one cares about your widget. It’s not what you sell, it’s what you stand for that will make the difference.

Our Content Is Not Good Enough

Your content competition is everywhere. It’s the 3,000 messages a day that hit our customers. It’s our direct competitors. It’s trade magazines and Web sites. It’s Google. It’s the blog down the street.

To cut through the clutter, our content has to be the best. This will only become truer as time goes on. Good enough is not good enough anymore.

It means hiring journalists. It means finding those internal staffers that have a nose for the story. It means going to where the stories are: in operations, in sales, in customer service and where our customers are hanging out online, in print and in person.

Our Greatest Assets Are Employees

Great stories are all around us. How do we harness the power of storytelling within our employee base? Are we setting up processes for them to share their expertise with customers and prospects on a regular basis? When we think about the next celebrity endorsement or series of interviews, are we thinking about employees or someone else?

Who Owns the Content?

In some way, all departments own content, but someone has to take charge. The political battle is under way right now. Who becomes the chief content officer? Who owns the customer story?

Marketing and PR departments are evolving rapidly, moving to a story-first mentality. They are becoming more like publishing departments every day. In most cases, just inserting a content owner won’t take. Too many in the organization will fight against that. The battle has to start from within. It has to start with you.

Joe Pulizzi is founder of the Content Marketing Institute, creator of Content Marketing World 2011, the premier content marketing event held annually. This year it will be held in Cleveland, Sept. 6-8. Register today at


  • Ford Kanzler

    Joe – Agree with most of your article’s perspective. Suggest its up to PR to help lead and guide various entities within a business toward communications continuity and consistency…”putting a tip on the arrow.” Otherwise there’s likely no clear strategy and too many different voices will confuse various stakeholders.
    More written about this at:

  • Sheree Fitzpatrick

    Sensible, direct. This article explains content marketing the way it is and the way it will be. Thanks Mr. Pulizzi for your honest assessment.

  • Emma

    Great post. I asked this on Facebook, but I’m going to pose the question again, because I’m dying to know: is it e-mail or email these days? Spellcheck corrects neither. (Though it does flag “spellcheck.”)

  • Emma

    Great post. I asked this on Facebook, but I’m going to pose the question again, because I’m dying to know: is it e-mail or email these days? Spellcheck corrects neither. (Though it does flag “spellcheck.”)

  • Rachel Standring

    Emma, Have you considered the possibility that ‘it’ may be both ? That maybe it’s just a matter of style. Bite the bullet and choose for yourself – email / e-mail.