I was about to push out the standard book review for yet another marketing book when I came across "Epic Content Marketing" by Joe Pulizzi. The problem with attempting this book review was that I felt dishonest putting myself into the role of the grader. In reality, this book is capable of reminding us all that when it comes to creating content that can compel audiences to do something afterwards, we are are still very much the students, and Pulizzi is the king who turned the content creation-advice business into a $4 million a year commodity as valuable as oil.
So I am not going to sit here and pretend that I know better than him; instead I simply share with you 7 disruptive moments I experienced while attempting to review the book:
- Joe Pulizzi's own experience heading the Content Marketing Institute taught him that promotional articles are shared way less often than instructional articles (pg. 78). This revealed to me, quite rudely, why my book reviews may not garner nearly as much traffic as those zippy instructional articles that usually have a number somewhere in the headline. Notice how my headline reads now, Joe. Granted, I'm sure this advice was formulated prior to the Buzzfeed era, which has done nothing short of cram the format down our throats. But still, I think I learned something there.
- "Customers don't care about you, they care about themselves and their problems." What? They don't care about me? Yes, that's right, he will say. It's probably the central thesis of the book. While reading through that advice I asked myself, "if I were to post the usual book review, what am I really offering to the reader?" Answer: "one marketing professional's opinion on a book". While some people may find that valuable, perhaps I would be adding much more value teaching you how to do something, rather than giving you a book rating, something you could easily obtain on Amazon.com (I give this book 5 stars out of 5, by the way). With half my reviews containing heavy criticism, one wonders how much of this effort of being critical becomes a huge waste of breath. Given this learning moment, you may very well see me experiment with new forms of content with greater urgency.
- "I am not the target for my content" is a phrase that Joe Pulizzi will ask you to repeat as you read his book. So who is the target for this Examiner column that covers the NY Online Marketing scene? Entrepreneurs? Marketing influencers? CMO's? All of them combined? That's a helpful question. Since I didn't always have a sharp profit motive behind writing this column, I haven't had to interrogate myself along these lines. However, all that is changing as I gear up to launch my own communications agency. Everything I write in this column from now on should in some way or another foresee my desired target's personality. Based on what I've written so far, it is clear that I am trying to grab a slice of Pulizzi's intended audience: a mix of CMO's, business owners and industry marketing professionals. Which leads to my next humbling learning moment...
- "Develop rent to own content strategies". Pulizzi knows that before you see lots of traffic visiting your domain, you will need to bring your voice to other platforms. This is what he means by renting before one can own. In a sense, I too am renting in a sense by piggyback riding off of Pulizzi's brand name. After all, I will invoke his name frequently once my turn comes to push this article out via socal media channels. Perhaps I will end up acquiring a tiny sliver of his target audience in the process. What I learned by doing this book review is that I am not necessarily doing Pulizzi a huge favor by publishing a write up of his book. I mean look, I'm essentially taking his ideas and recontextualizing them through my experience -- what does he stand to profit beyond a little SEO juice he probably already has plenty of? If anything, his hard work has given me the opportunity to divert reader attention away his properties to my property (or in this case, Examiner.com's property).
- Via Jason Calacanis, Pulizzi reminds the reader that "perfect content" is (a) real-time, (b) fact-driven, (d) visual, (e) efficient, and (d) curated. Just imagine, here I am ready to weigh in with criticism involving an author who is in the business of developing "perfect content". You try to stare Pulizzi in the face and the harder you try the more you are blinded.
- By now you will have seen that in this article I've already added a hyperlink to my new agency. I hadn't planned on doing that before. Pulizzi doesn't resist the opportunity to create advice that bridges the pages of his book to his business properties. The links are everywhere, existing as "resources" -- but they aren't annoying for a reason you will learn about while reading the book.
- "What if your content was gone?" Pulizzi taunts us to think of a hypothetical situation where all of our content was removed from the internet. "Would anyone miss it? Would you leave a gap in the marketplace?" Ok, I get it Joe. Our content should be really, really good. So good that if I were to take down my writings, I would set off an Occupy Movement on my front lawn. My plan this whole time was to humble Pulizzi with my 5-star rating scale, and look what happened -- I'm calling my friend for prescription antidepressants, because there's no way in hell my marketing column will ever be missed. Never, ever.
Now if you excuse me all, I need to leave the room and focus.