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Visible Expert Profile: Joe Pulizzi

At Hinge we have been studying Visible Experts℠, people who have attained high visibility and expertise in their industry, creating a personal brand that is recognizable industry-wide. We study them because we want to understand how they attained that status and what we can learn from them. This profile focuses on Joe Pulizzi, a Visible Expert for content marketing.

The Godfather of Content Marketing

When it comes to content marketing, Joe Pulizzi wrote the book. Actually, he’s written three of them. As founder and CEO of the popular Content Marketing Institute and one of the first marketers to define and implement the concept, Joe has been dubbed the Godfather of Content Marketing. And there’s a good chance that he even coined the phrase. “It’s possible, but I can’t say for certain,” Joe says, modestly. “When I started using the phrase content marketing back in 2001, no one else was using it.” 

Starting Out

Joe’s journey to Visible Expert started at Penton, the largest independent business publisher in North America. In 2001, Joe was tapped to run Penton’s custom media division, where he helped the firm make the transition from print to digital. He also put his public speaking skills to good use, conducting over 300 webinars for the publishing company. In 2007, his division produced over 300 webinars in a single year.  

Joe had always wanted to run his own business, so in 2007 he left Penton to launch his own firm, Junta42. The company was the “eHarmony for content marketing,” says Joe. “We were a middle man, matching companies that needed content marketing with the marketing firms that could provide that service.” Over time, though, Joe realized that Junta42’s business model just wasn’t working. “The epiphany came when we landed a million dollar contract for one of our firms,” says Joe, “but they didn’t renew our service contract. We were shocked.”

Joe wasn’t about to give up. He knew that companies desperately needed help with content marketing training and education, and there were few firms filling that need. So in 2010, using many of the staff, resources, and business contacts he had established with Junta42, Joe launched a new training and educational platform: the Content Marketing Institute. Besides assisting large corporations with content marketing training and strategy, the firm began planning Content Marketing World, the biggest conference on content marketing ever to take place.

Achieving Visible Expert Status

After a year of planning, the first Content Marketing World conference kicked off in September, 2011. Joe was onstage, presenting, when it occurred to him that he had just reached the next level of visibility. “I’m on the stage greeting the audience,” Joe says, “and I’m realizing that over 600 people have traveled here—to Cleveland, Ohio—from 27 countries, to learn about content marketing from us. It was a huge moment.”

The event was a success, and Joe and his team immediately started planning the second one. Two years later, their 2013 event drew over 1700 participants from 46 countries. The team decided to add a sister conference in Sydney, Australia, which was popular enough that it has since become its own thriving annual event, CMW Sydney.

Content: The Three-Legged Stool

Content marketing is not only Joe’s area of expertise, but it’s also the vehicle through which he has become highly visible. For those who wish to become a Visible Expert in their own field, Joe recommends a three-prong strategy involving blogging, public speaking, and book writing. “It’s hard to say which of those activities is most important,” he says. “The strategy is like a three-legged stool—if you cut off one of the legs, the whole thing collapses. All three are immensely critical.”

For Joe, the three-legged stool of content was built like this:

Blog: When he founded Junta42, Joe also started a blog—his very first blog post, in April of 2007, was about content marketing. He began blogging regularly, demonstrating his thought leadership and helping people understand the concept of content marketing.

Speaking: The blog led directly to public speaking engagements. Joe was invited to give his first keynote because someone had read and liked his blog posts. The public speaking engagements attracted new business leads and a bigger readership for his blog.

Publishing: Based on the strength of his blogging and speaking, Joe was invited to co-author a book. The content for this first book, Get Content, Get Customers, was taken, in large part, from his blog. He reworked old blog posts, tying together relevant information into longer chapters—a model he still uses to write books today. Joe’s most recent book, Epic Content Marketing, became an Amazon.com marketing best-seller.

The Snowball Effect

Similar to Visible Experts Charles Green, Alan Weiss, and Tim Ash, Joe says that becoming an author launched him into “a new sphere of credibility,” opening doors that would have otherwise remained locked. Because he had written a book, Joe was asked to speak at bigger and bigger events, he was invited to contribute to a special “Author Series,” and major clients, like LinkedIn and DuPont, were attracted to his company. The snowball effect that occurred as a result of using content marketing to promote his business is typical of Visible Experts, and today, Joe’s company has so many inbound leads that his staff regularly has to turn away business.

But Joe remains modest about his success. “At the end of the day, I’m not smarter than anyone else,” he says. “I didn’t give up, and I found a niche where I could distinguish myself.” For others wishing to become a Visible Expert, Joe has some parting words. “Think strategically. Have a vision. Niche yourself as small as possible. And prepare to work really hard.” 

To find out more on becoming a visible expert in your industry, check out our new book, The Visible Expert.

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Author: Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D. Who wears the boots in our office? That would be Lee, our managing partner, who suits up in a pair of cowboy boots every day and drives strategy and research for our clients. With a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology, Lee is a former researcher and tenured professor at Virginia Tech, where he became a national authority on organizational behavior management and marketing. He left academia to start up and run three high-growth companies, including an $80 million runaway success story.

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