The Work Seminar

Ep. 24: Joe Pulizzi - MA in Rhetoric Turned Content Marketing Leader & Serial Entrepreneur

June 15, 2022 Jesse Butts Season 2 Episode 9
The Work Seminar
Ep. 24: Joe Pulizzi - MA in Rhetoric Turned Content Marketing Leader & Serial Entrepreneur
Show Notes Transcript

Before Joe founded and sold Content Marketing Institute, wrote six books, and returned to entrepreneurship with The Tilt, he exemplified the liberal arts stereotype: a master’s in hand and uncertainty ahead.  

After earning his MA, Joe decided against a PhD and opted instead to find work in internal communications. But that plan hit a snag when hiring managers balked at his lack of experience. 

He turned to temping, and six months later landed a full-time role that blossomed into a career in marketing and communications. 

Joe’s known for positive attitude, lifelong learning, and commitment to goal setting (and achievement). Those traits helped him reach a VP spot in the media industry and then pivot to build two successful, education-focused companies.  

And, of course, Joe’s grad school days spent mastering the art of ethical persuasion, coupled with exploring his passions and strengths while a student, played no small role in his career achievements. 

Joe’s Books & Other Resources 

The Will to Die, Joe’s debut mystery and thriller novel

Content Inc. 

Epic Content Marketing

Killing Marketing, co-written with Robert Rose 

Content Inc. podcast

This Old Marketing podcast with co-host Robert Rose

Where to find Joe & The Tilt

@JoePulizzi on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook  

thetilt.com

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Jesse Butts:

Hey everyone. Thanks for joining me for another episode. I'm your host, Jesse Butts. Today, I'm chatting with Joe Pulizzi, an MA in rhetoric from Penn State turned content marketing leader and serial entrepreneur. Joe is now the CEO and founder of The Tilt, a twice weekly email newsletter an education program for content creators interested in becoming entrepreneurs. He also founded the Content Marketing Institute and has written several business best-sellers including Content, Inc., Epic Content Marketing and Killing Marketing. In 2020, he released his first novel, The Will to Die. Joe, welcome to the show. Delighted to have you on!

Joe Pulizzi:

Jesse. Thanks. Thanks for having me. Now I feel old. I feel like that's just a lot of stuff. I guess that's good. That's what happens when you're, when you're doing marketing and publishing for 25 years, it just, it kind of all adds up.

Jesse Butts:

So, so Joe, before we talk a bit about your journey from that MA in rhetoric to entrepreneurship and content marketing and content creation, can you tell us a little bit about what you're doing today at The Tilt?

Joe Pulizzi:

This sort of happened at the start of the pandemic. I really went down the rabbit hole with Web 3. With focusing on how content creators are figuring out how to build businesses. I got really passionate about it. I started talking to a lot of people that were, bloggers and podcasters and YouTubers and TikTokers. And they're, they're creating lots of content, but they're having trouble building a business. And I thought maybe that's where I could best use my talents. Because I went through that process, figured some things out. And so that's really what we're doing right now. And that's the heart of The Tilt is, you know, the business aspect of content. So lots of people know how to create content. Lots of people can build audiences, but how do you monetize that audience and actually become financially independent? So that's what The Tilt is all about. You know, twice a week newsletter, we're doing lots of education. We have an event called Creator Economy Expo. All that stuff, just trying to educate and help these people who are very talented at doing what they're doing, but have them take the next step and actually become business leaders and, and understand this business side, which is really hard to get you arms around.

Jesse Butts:

And out of curiosity, Joe, why, why the foundation of the twice weekly newsletter versus a blog or a podcast or some other medium?

Joe Pulizzi:

So, it's funny in my book Content, Inc., I've got a thing called the subscriber hierarchy. So it basically talks about when you're building fans and followers. And they're not weighted the same, if you will. So getting a fan on Facebook or a follower or subscriber on YouTube is not the same, because basically that's, Facebook's, that's YouTube's. I can't control that. They can change the rules at any time. So where can I create some kind of a connection with a subscriber, with a community member, and have a little bit more control over the business model? And that's email. To me, email is still the number one thing. It's a little bit harder because you have to go out and do a lot of things to get that audience. But once you get a subscriber, you get that direct connection, they've opted into something. So now you can actually build a business around that. And what I found from monetization, you know, driving revenue. Once you have a successful email newsletter, you can actually build a real business around it. So I said, Well, why not? We just start with that. Let's just start with the email newsletter. So we do a little overview twice and I said, oh, once a week might not be enough. Let's do twice a week. So we do Tuesdays and Fridays. So far so good. It's been working fairly well. So we haven't changed that frequency at all. So we're moving forward. So that's why. I love email. And until somebody tells me different or I see different data, we're going to stick with email as the number one. And that's what I tell somebody, if you start a YouTube channel, or you're on TikTok, ultimately you see them all go this direction. At some point, they say, Oh my God, I have no control over my business model. I need to move to something else. And that movement is usually to email.

Jesse Butts:

Got it. That makes a lot of sense. And just one quick question, before we get into how you've arrived to The Tilt and Content Marketing Institute and all those things. What is the difference, at least in your mind between a content creator and a content entrepreneur? You emphasize turning content creators into content entrepreneurs.

Joe Pulizzi:

So, first of all, almost everybody's a content creator. We're all creating, creating content. A content entrepreneur is somebody that takes this seriously as a business. And I would look at it too. And there's a lot of content creators out there that'll say, Oh I'm looking for my book deal. Or, I'm looking for a big sponsorship from somebody... They're looking for one thing. They're not necessarily looking to build a business. That's what a content entrepreneur does. And really it should be entrepreneur content. The entrepreneur comes first. We're actually building a business. We want financial independence. You're crazy enough to go out there and not want to work for somebody else. That means a lot of things. And then there's just specific things that happen in the content business. I want to build an audience. I have to deliver content over a consistent period of time to do that, to build that community. And once I build that community and they, know like, and trust me, then I can monetize that in 5, 6, 7, 8 different ways. That's the business. It's like a little media company. So that's what being a content entrepreneur is all about. So I started using that content entrepreneur term about two years ago. And I'm really trying to push that out there, kind of like we did with content marketing years ago. Because I want content people that are in that business to see that there is actually a difference. And there is. And these... so, you're running a business. What does that mean when it comes to the business of content?

Jesse Butts:

All right. So as we, we kind of trace the roots of all this, I'm curious, as you were wrapping up undergrad, why did you initially want to go to grad school? What was, what was the appeal? What was the draw?

Joe Pulizzi:

Wow, this is... Yeah. Okay. So bear with me, bear with me on this one a little bit. Undergrad was Bowling Green State University. I was a communications, interpersonal communications undergrad. It took me three years to actually figure out a major. And the only reason I picked interpersonal communications was I went to my counselor. I was undecided going into my junior year and my, uh, the, the counselor said, Joe, You, you have to pick something. And I said, Okay, well what, what do I pick so that I actually graduate on time? And she said, Well you can't now. I mean, you have to take some summer classes or something to graduate on time. Cause you didn't pick anything. And I was like, Okay I said, Well, what's the shortest amount of time. And she said, Well if you take some summer classes, you can do interpersonal communications. I said, Great, that's my major. So I picked that one. I go ahead. I got my interpersonal communications degree and I was very interested in sports marketing. So I graduated. I got an internship with the Cleveland Cavaliers for sports marketing. And then I found out that basically all the money goes players. And the people that work at a sports organization get paid very, very little for a lot of time. And I'm like, I don't know if I want to do that. So I'm working at the Cavs and I'm like, Well what do I do? Like, I don't know if I want to go into this. Whatever. And I said, Well let's, let's keep going. Let's keep going on to graduate. And I applied at Michigan State, Kentucky and, and Penn State University for their communications program. And what was really great, I found out about Penn State is they had a teaching assistantship. And I was really interested in public speaking at the time. They said, We have a, an assistantship here. You have to teach as part of that public speaking, are you interested? And I was lucky enough, somebody dropped a, so I did this. This was very late in the process. So I applied and somebody at, in the Penn state program dropped out. And I got a call literally two weeks before we were supposed to go on campus...this, so this is the fall of 97. And they said, Joe, we got an opening, do you want it? And I said, Yes, absolutely! Because I didn't know what I was going to do. So I fell into that one. Went down, found like the last place on campus to live or just off campus to live. And, and started working. Doing, doing the teaching and r eally got into rhetoric and persuasion and communications. And I really did fall in love with it. So it's funny how I was, I didn't know what I wanted to do, but once I started to get into communication, of course, I enjoy talking to people and I like this, the salesmanship side of it as well. So it got into that and, you know, two years at Penn State and I was lucky enough to get my master's in communication there. So who knew?

Jesse Butts:

So I know, I mean, from my peripheral experience communications, right, degrees, you can, you can kind of go different routes. Like some people do a lot of media analysis and, and things like that. Other people are steeped in all those Greek terms that I once knew, like antimetabolite, that are now slipping from my vocabulary. What was your, what was your focus of study? What were you really getting into at that point?

Joe Pulizzi:

It really, I was setting myself up to teach, to get the PhD and ... like, I, I was part of a number of research studies. A lot of it was around concessions. So, so when someone, somebody does something wrong, what did they say? And what did they do to, t o to make sure that their image is, is, is. Comes out as clean as possible, if you will. So I did a number of studies there. They did pretty well. One paper got published and I was thinking, Okay well, what's the next step? The next step is I continue on with this journey either I continue on at Penn State or go somewhere else and get my PhD. But honestly it was six and a half, almost seven years of study and taking classes and teaching and I'm like, Okay I think I've had enough here. I didn't put the PhD. I didn't say that. That's something that I didn't want to do. I said, I need to take a break. I like need to go get a job. I need to do something. At the same time I fell in love. I want and what was getting married and I wasn't making any money. And I'm like, I can't just pay more loans. Like, what am I going to do? I actually need some revenue here. I want to start building a family, those types of things. So I graduated and then, you know, went off and did, we can talk about kind of the next steps there, but, but I loved i t. And I think it plays a, I mean, it's incredible how now I look at it and how important that was thinking that it had nothing to do with what I'm doing now. But actually, I mean, content marketing, content creation, it's all about, you know, how do you persuade somebody in the nicest way possible to subscribe to what you're doing and then persuade them in the nicest way possible to buy what you have. I mean, everything we do, I mean, we're all salespeople, is sort of what I learned in this whole thing. And there are right ways and wrong ways to do it. So, it's just interesting how that path laid out in front of me.

Jesse Butts:

So what did you end up doing after you, you graduated?

Joe Pulizzi:

So I got the master's degree, and I'm like, Okay, well, what could I do with that? So I started to look at, Okay, I would love to try some internal communications jobs and roles, marketing roles, inside large corporations. And I put, I probably sent it... This is before the internet was really the internet, right? So this is 97, 98, and they didn't really have job boards. So I would look in the newspaper and I looked for open positions and I probably applied to about a hundred positions. And I kept either not getting a call back or they would say, Sorry, you have all this education and no experience. And it was such a let down because I'm like, look, I've done all this stuff. I did the teaching. Look at these studies. I wrote these papers, whatever. But they didn't care about that. All they were looking at was, Okay, what, what marketing and communication experience or public relations experience do you have? I didn't really have any, so what, what am I supposed to do with that? So I, I basically went temping. I went and signed up with a temp agency. And for the next six months I did administration jobs. I did a lot of filing. What could you do? I'm not ... I just needed a job. I needed to find something. So I, I took all these, and most of them were with banks. I was doing a bunch of filing. And then I was lucky enough, I got a job at an insurance ... a temp job at an insurance company, like working the front desk in their internal communications department. And they just lost somebody. And I worked the front desk and apparently I was doing a halfway decent job. And by lunchtime, the manager called me in and said, Joe, we like what you're doing already. Do you want a full-time job? Uh, it pays $25,000 a year. And I call my wife and I said, Oh my God, these people are crazy. They're going to pay me $25,000 to do this job. This is the greatest day of my life. So I went in the head that point, I took that job and held on job and actually ran the department after a year. And then was there for three years, basically running internal communications. So we did, there's a lot of word processing, but I got into Access databases. I got into creating PowerPoint presentations for people. We started to really work on, you know, how can the accountants serve their customers better? How does marketing serve their customers better? And so I was sort of internally working on all those things and it was just... And it was a great way for me to work on my skills about putting databases together. And that led to my, my next role in publishing, so, you know, just kind of luck and figuring it out and just sort of desperation for a job and was able to get onto something that worked fairly well.

Jesse Butts:

I talk to a lot of people about this, and many of them mentioned this, this lucky moment, where you know, they took whatever job or, you know, were just chatting with somebody or whatever, and this opportunity came about. But in all the stories that I hear, and it sounds like, you know, yours is similar to you are doing well. I mean, you, you know, it wasn't just like your rich uncle said, Oh you graduated from college. Here's the gig. You, I mean, you took some risks with some temp jobs and you were, you're doing well.

Joe Pulizzi:

Showing up, right?, The the number... the best ability you can have is availability. As I just kept going. I just kept showing up in every job that I did. And I was, I mean, I put everything into it. I tried to make connections wherever possible. That's probably the best learning that I have is I realized early that I'm, especially after sending out those hundred resumes and getting nothing and trying to do all this on my own. I actually started to talk to a lot of people. I started a network. I started to go to events. I started to put myself out there and say, Hey, you know what? I'm motivated. I've got a really positive attitude. I really want to make, make some change happen. And luckily, when I was doing some of the database work and getting that out there, that's how I got, I actually... it was a job at a publishing company to actually put a database together. And that job was for a content marketing department in a publishing company. I didn't get that job, but because I applied for that little side gig, then they had an opening as an account manager, and I was able to then get a job. And this is in 2000 at Penton Media Publishing Company doing account management for content marketing projects. Then I found content marketing, I'm like, Oh my God, this is the greatest marketing that's ever been. It's not disruption marketing. It's how do I build a relationship with customers first, before I sell them anything. This is my favorite thing ever. It leads right back into everything that I was doing. So I was not afraid to ask for help because especially getting that database job or getting, you know, the possibility of doing that, that was a friend of a friend. You have to reach out to as many people as possible. And the wonderful thing is there's people out there that want to help you. They absolutely do. And if you put yourself out there and say, and you're seeing it right now on LinkedIn, right. I get requests all the time from someone saying, Hey, I'm struggling. I'm doing this. Whatever. Can you refer? I'm like, absolutely. I'm happy to help you. And if more people did that, I think they would see more success instead of having to do it all on your own. Because nobody does it on their own.

Jesse Butts:

You know, it's the early 2000s. You, you go to Penton, because of this database experience and you're an account manager. What was that maybe precursor to content marketing that you were doing?

Joe Pulizzi:

So February, 2000, I start with Penton Custom Media. So the industry at this time, for what we're talking about, basically corporations creating content to build an audience, and then monetize that. That was known as custom media or custom publishing really was because ... let's say the association for that area was called the Custom Publishing Council. And it came out of magazine publishing actually. Like Okay. Custom media, custom publishing. Well, in 2001 hard times came up on Penton. So when I started at Penton, there were eight people between me and the CEO. Eighteen months later, I was reporting to the CEO. Because they let go of everyone, everyone with seniority making something, they just had to let everyone go. I literally got the job because I was cheap. I mean, they're like, Okay, you got Joe, he's got a good personality. He can sell. That's wonderful. But why did I get that gig? I got that gig because I was making almost nothing compared to everyone else, I think. So, this is 2001 now, and I'm going out and I have to sell. And I have to sell these custom publishing projects to advertisers. Now, when I go in, or I'm on the phone, or I'm using email, and I mention custom publishing or custom media, marketing people didn't even know what that was. Or they were sleeping by the time I mentioned custom publishing. And I'm like, oh, marketing. I'm talking to marketing people. Well, search marketing, direct marketing, you know, now social media marketing. Everything that has to do with what goes on in marketing is called Something Marketing. This is, so this is about 2001. I started to use content marketing in my pitches. And it started to work. People didn't know what content marketing was, but if you're talking to a VP of marketing or a chief marketing officer, they're like, Oh yeah, content marketing. Do we do that? Like we might, we should because it's Something Marketing. And then I leaned into it, Jesse. I was like, Oh my God, this is the thing. And really started to focus on that. We were actually thinking about changing the name of Penton Custom Media to, to Penton Content Marketing or Content Marketing Something. We did not do that. And, so that's how it got started. And then when I, when I left to do my own thing in 2007, I went all in on this term content marketing, because I thought it was going to be the greatest thing and it was going to be the biggest thing going on in marketing.

Jesse Butts:

Did you always have this kind of entrepreneurial itch? Like, I want to build something. Or was it more that, you know, you just saw that your employer, or employers in general, just weren't meeting some need that you saw? Like, what was that that led you to founding your first business, Content Marketing Institute?

Joe Pulizzi:

So I grew up around entrepreneurs. So they, you know, if you look at entrepreneurs, usually they have somebody, a family member, somebody that has been an entrepreneur. My grandfather, my uncle, they ran a, a funeral home. So that was that background. I spent a lot of time around them. My father, my mother and father started a restaurant. So half the time I was at the restaurant, half the time I was at the funeral home. So it was just nuts. So I had that in my blood. And I always carried, by the, probably by the time I was 18, I always had a notebook about crazy business ideas. That Oh, um, I could do that or whatever. And they all seem to be around newsletter and stuff like that. Content driven. It's just funny as, as how you, you look back. So I had, always had that in my blood. But what pushed me into that finally? So I had a really good gig at Penton.

Jesse Butts:

After it was over its struggles?

Joe Pulizzi:

Yeah, so basically, so, so 2001, 2002, really struggling. I mean the stock price went from $34 to seven cents. I mean, just think about that. That's how bad it got. They were really far in debt. It was a, it was a big problem. But they made a comeback. They restructured a lot. And in three, 2003, 4, 5, we really started to build ourselves up. And our custom media division was doing really well. Well, I started to put proposals in to management about how I thought that content marketing should be integrated with the entire organization. Well, I didn't really see that happening. They really weren't listening to anything that I was saying. And maybe that was my fault in how I presented it. I don't know. But in 2006, late 2006, Penton sold to another company and it was re-emerging as the new Penton media. And this is how I knew that I needed to leave. When they valued the company, Penton Media at the time for the sale, they never looked at our department. They never looked at what we were doing. They never, they never even added it to an asset line. So that told me all I needed to know. They were just looking... and I get it. involved in a number, in a number of a, M&A procedures. They were looking at how much revenue. What the subscribers are. What are your events? What are your magazines? What are your advertising customers? They didn't care about the content marketing or custom media stuff. So I saw the writing on the wall. So this is November of 2006. And I said, I need to make a move. And I'd been talking about doing something for a long time. And I talked to my wife about it. And she said, Joe, look it, you've been talking about starting a business since I knew you. And I met her in 1994. She said, basically, Go start your business, or stop talking about it. I said, Okay, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to make a decision to do something. And I will make that decision for sure, by the end of the first quarter of 2007. So the end of March 2007. And that was my last day at Penton Media. So that's sort of the, the path of that. Yes. I wanted to be an entrepreneur. And I had that in my blood. And all the people that I looked up to started businesses. But there was that moment where I can't go any further in this job. And I don't want to necessarily work for somebody else. So it's time to put up or shut up. Let's go. And that's what I did.

Jesse Butts:

So I don't think this is a spoiler alert since we had already mentioned that Joe is with The Tilt now, but, you know, Content Marketing Institute, you, you sold that. But you probably could have made a pretty nice lifestyle business out of this. I mean, you, you, you had a lot of experience. You could have done some consulting and do some other work. But, it seems like instead you took a route where you wanted to build something bigger and sellable. Like, what was the motivation for that? Like, was it kind of a crossroads moment? Or did you go into it thinking, I really want to make, pardon the cliche, but a pretty big splash with this?

Joe Pulizzi:

I, oh, you already know this Jesse, but I, I'm a big goal-setter. And, when I decided to launch this business, I wanted to have an exit. And I wanted to have financial independence and not have to worry about anything and take care of my family and my kids and everything. And, and I was like, Well, how do I make that happen? So 2008, started with a blog, but in 2008, I really got serious about writing down and reviewing my goals. And I wrote down this goal and I still have it in one of these notebooks laying around here, but it says, I will sell our business for $15 million by 2015. So this is 2008 and by the way, making nothing, losing money, not, I mean, it was not good. So it's almost audacious to say that I would believe that this could be possible. But then I'm like, okay. Yes. And by the way, why 15 million? 15 million, cause I went and talked to my accountant when I was starting the business, and I said, Let's work the numbers. What do I need? And what's forever money? And he said, Forever money for you is probably like 10, $10 million. And I said, Well, how much do I need to sell for, to get 10 million? He said, Well, you need to sell for 15 million after taxes and all that other stuff to make sure you get the 10 million. I'm like, okay. So that was the goal. That's the reason why the 15 million was the number. That was my forever money. And then I started to look at the business models of it. So I was doing a lot of consulting at the time. So you talk about lifestyle business. I first, to pay the bills, I was doing a lot of consulting with a lot of media companies and marketing folks around content marketing while I was starting up this business. And consulting and services and odd jobs and just paying the bills you can't sell. I can't sell. Consulting businesses are very tough to sell. If it's just about Joe Pulizzi, I can't sell that. I have to actually create a brand and have to put that together with its different pieces, parts, and different revenue lines in order to package that and then to sell it. So that's why in 2008, I started to figure out, Okay. Well, I've got, I've got to figure out something so that I can generate that kind of revenue. And so the next 2008, 2009, and leading up to what ultimately became Content Marketing Institute, it was all with the thinking of it... and I read that goal, Jesse, every day. Okay, I'm going to sell in 2015 for 15 million. That's almost a joke because I got really depressed sometimes. I'm like, What am I doing? This is like ... I'm making no money here. I'm not doing anything. But as I read that every day, I made decisions to get to that level and to organize a business that could be sellable. And you could have a possible exit. So all along that way. And then if you look at the decisions we made in 2010, 2011, launching the event, Content Marketing World, launching the magazine Chief Content Officer, purchasing other little properties and things like that. We purchased a West Coast event in 2013. All the awards program we purchased in 2013, which became the Content Marketing Awards. All those things were very strategic to get to the point where we could exit for that amount in 2015. And why did we exit in 2016? We started the process in 2015. I didn't have the numbers that I needed to make the 15 million in 2015. So I would have had to start that process in 14. The numbers weren't there yet. We hit those numbers in 2015. End of 2015, I actually went out to a small group of people and said, Okay, I'm for sale now, went through the process, got my lawyers and accountant and everyone involved. And then the deal was done in June of 16 exceeding the price that we were going for. So it's it's and I talk about this in two chapters in Content, Inc. and go through the whole process. But the big part, and what I tell other entrepreneurs and goal setters is, Set the goal, review the goal on a regular basis, figure out what you want to do. And then you, every day, when you get up, you start making decisions that go that way because you're right, it's very easy with this model to get set into a lifestyle business. And there, by the way, there's nothing wrong with that. I have a lot of friends that are very, doing very well and very happy with a lifestyle business. But I just said, I, I wanted to make sure that I had time for my kids when they're, you know, in, in middle school and then in high school and I don't have to go. I'm out. I traveled all the time. I traveled 50% of the time. I traveled to 20 different countries. I was doing, speaking all over the place, trying to spread the word about content marketing. And I said, I don't want to do that the rest of my life. So here we are. So it all worked out very well, but there were a lot of very strategic decisions along the way.

Jesse Butts:

Well, I mean, obviously congratulations on achieving that, that really audacious goal. And just for listeners' perspective, so if they're thinking about something like this, they want to, to build something that they can sell for, you know, financial security or whatever the motivation is. I mean, what they pay you for is that you've built something that has a loyal following, that people are paying every year to attend and the education they're paying for. So, I'm assuming consulting is risky. What you said, like, know, if there is no Joe, then what are they buying? If it's consulting.

Joe Pulizzi:

And that, and by the way, probably a lot of listeners will relate to this. And a lot of content creators that I work with and you know very well, it's their name. It's their blog. It's their podcasts. It's them, it's the, it wouldn't be a show without them. I was very cognizant of moving away from that because the Joe Pulizzi event without Joe Pulizzi it's not... A very hard to, I have to stick with that the rest of my life, right. So we made it purposeful to say, Let's get a lot of other people involved in this thing so it's just not the Joe Show. You have to make that decision as a content creator to do that. And a lot of people... it's a tough, that's a tough decision to make. And it's very purposeful. So you have to make sure you do that early. And it wasn't really, I mean, even if you're late in the process, you can make that decision. Or you might say, I want to keep my blog. I want to keep the podcast, but I'm going to launch this event. This side thing that is not in my name, but I'm going to promote it. Then you can actually create something that's sellable outside of yourself.

Jesse Butts:

Why start a whole other thing, after building something that you sold for the purpose of, you know, giving you that freedom?

Joe Pulizzi:

Well, this is all a surprise to me right now. This was not, this was that's supposed to happen. I left in 2017, left CMI. And 2018, I took a full sabbatical year. It was wonderful. I spent so much time with my family. I went to Sicily with my father. He got to see all of his cousins he never got to see. It was one of those years I'll never forget. It was tremendous. And then 2019 was all about writing my first novel. Cause I was struggling, I was tricking out. What am I going to do? And I decided I'm going to write a novel. I'd always wanted to do something like that. It's much different than writing a business book. And the motivation behind that was the fact that I just got into conversation with my wife one day about my business books. And I said, why have you never read any of my business books? Cause she'd only read the acknowledgements page of any one of the five business books I wrote up to that point just to see what I said about her. And I said, Well, why, why didn't you read any of these? And she said, Well, if you write something interesting, I'll read it. So, I mean, but it's truthful. So what does she like? She likes mystery and thriller novels. So I said, I'm going to write you a mystery and thriller novel. And I wrote and wrote and wrote until I found my groove and it took me probably six to nine months to really find that, but then The Will to Die was born. And I finished that at the end of 2019. I was really proud of it. And then came out with the launch party for The Will to Die on May, I'm sorry, March 8th, 2020. The next week, the world shut down, as we all know. So I was actually working on the second version, the sequel to The Will to Die at the time because I'm like, I'm going to be a novelist now. That's what I want to do. It's all Good. And then in the middle of the year, I started getting pings from a lot of your friends and my friends who were in the industry, who were like, Joe, is this, this Content, Inc. book you wrote in 2015, is it still right? Basically, Content, Inc. is about how entrepreneurs can use the model we use to create and sell CMI. So for some reason there was interest around this content entrepreneurship model that was going on. And I'm like, Oh well, maybe I should, help some people, I want to help some people. Maybe this, I should focus a little bit on this area. Not a full-time thing. Just go and focus on it. So I talked to the folks at McGraw-Hill. They saw the same thing. They saw the, the book was doing pretty well, even though it was 2015, I said, Okay, let's do a deal. I'll rewrite... we'll rewrite this thing. So I started working on Content, Inc. At the same point I found out about this thing called web three and social tokens and possibly a whole new business model for content creators. That, so that was the end of 2020. I started getting involved in that, talking to some people. I said, Well, maybe I should look at launching a social token. And so I basically went down the whole rabbit hole again, except on, except on the content marketing side, I was focusing on small content creators. And thus, I said, Well, if I'm going to do all this stuff, I might as well just package it into a whole business and like really go all in with this thing. In April of 2020, you know, versus celebrating actually, as we record this, probably the exact one year anniversary of the tilt.com, which is a, you know, education site for, for content creators. And here we are, talking in 2022. So it's just, it's crazy how things happen. It was just a surprise. And, and really rose out of the, what I thought was a need in the community for something that a lot of people weren't talking about it. And it's that business side of content from people who've been there.

Jesse Butts:

So, Joe, kind of looking back at things, , you know, you mentioned earlier in the show, how valuable that master's in communications, rhetoric was to teaching you persuasion, ethical persuasion, learning the role of sales. I'm curious, you know, especially since you've done employer versus employee, what did you have to learn about yourself to decide what was right for you?

Joe Pulizzi:

To be honest, confidence in my abilities, more than anything else, I think. . When you're undecided, when you go to college and you're undecided, as long as I, I was starting to think that I wouldn't be able to decide where I wanted to go at all. And now I have two kids in university now, and I can see a lot of that. Again, it's very difficult. You feel like you have to decide your path at that point, at that moment. And I got nervous my junior year and I'm like, Oh my God, I'm going to be like one of those people that are in school for seven years, like, uh, like Animal House. Or something like that, right. I'm just never going to get anywhere. I'm going to have to go home and live in my parents' basement. This is depressing. And what do I, what do I do with this whole thing? I think, I mean, I read a lot of books. I listened to a lot of Brian Tracy. I was really trying to figure this whole thing out. And I just started to list things like, What, what do I love? What am I passionate about? And what am I good at? And I think that that's all I would recommend anybody do. Just write that, like, What do I love? What am I passionate about? And what am I good at? And write those things down. And if you review those on a regular basis, you'll start to look for those opportunities. And I think that's exactly what happened. I mean, all, I think all the things that happened to me in the last 20 years were just me looking up. I don't have my head in the sand, and I know I can add value somewhere to somebody, to some organization. If anything, that journey throughout undergrad and into my master's gave me the time to do that. I didn't even know if I'd be a good teacher. I mean, I, so I ended up teaching four semesters of public speaking. And I listened to my fair share of legalized marijuana speeches up to a point where I actually had to tell them they couldn't do that anymore because the majority of the topics were legalizing marijuana, which wouldn't be an issue today. But at the time that was a big thing. So I learned that, Oh I think I can do this teaching. I, I have a certain way of communicating. I actually like people. I like talking to people. So you kind of figure out where that journey takes you. And it gave me the time to do that. And especially with communications. Liberal arts degree... I love liberal arts degrees. Because, as you know, you can do so many different things with it. At the same time, hard to be a doctor, hard to be a lawyer. Those things are out. But basically 90% of the jobs out there, a liberal arts degree is fantastic. So I would just say whatever, whatever you are, whatever you're doing, spend some time and figure out what you love, what you like to do, what you're good at, and that will make the difference. And it gave me time to, to figure those things out.

Jesse Butts:

Would you say that you love what you're doing? Do you have a deep passion or are you more of a person who, I'm good at what I do. I like what I do. But I don't need to love it. Like where do you fall on that spectrum?

Joe Pulizzi:

Yeah, it's funny because people will ask me, Joe, you're so passionate about content marketing. I'm not passionate about content marketing. I think it's great. I love it. I think people should do it, if it makes sense, and you invest it and commit to it, but I don't have to be doing content marketing. I don't have to be doing content creation. I'm just trying to help people. So how do you help people and build a business at the same time? That's really what I'm trying to look at doing. Like all of our subscribers that we have, our 13, 14,000 subscribers, I'm like, How do we help those people today? And if we help those people in some significant ways, the business will take care of itself. There is a business model that we can do. So does it matter? I mean, um, you know, with Orange Effect Foundation, I mean, everything right there is always speech therapy. We're trying to get kids speech therapy funds. We're like the last resort for people who can't find funds to support their speech therapy services, and mostly kids with autism. So we focus on that. Am I passionate about understanding speech therapy services? No. Do I cry every time I see , a kid say his, say his or her or their first word because of something that we helped to do? Yes, absolutely. Every time. So honestly, it could be anything. I think I could be in any industry doing anything. This seems to just fit my expertise area and what I'm passionate about.

Jesse Butts:

How much emphasis do you put on work in your life? I mean, it sounds like it's a very large portion of your work. I mean, and you did take a sabbatical, but like what role does, does work play in your life?

Joe Pulizzi:

I have weird thoughts when you say work. Cause I don't think about it as work. I have lots of projects going on and lots of what I think are very important projects for me and for other people. I don't get up thinking I have to work. And I guess that's where, where I think everyone would want to be, right? I mean, I remember the day when I had to go in to the job. You know, I've done my, done a lot of jobs. I worked at Convenient Food Mart. I've been, I was selling glasses and lenses frames at a company for a long time and doing that job. I've done a lot of jobs where I've gotten up and said, I have to go to work. And so I guess that's the whole thing, right? How do you get up every day and not have to think that you have to go to work? So I don't think about it as work. I have a, I have a life. I have many different parts of that life. My family comes first with all that. So for what, for whatever reason, if something with The Tilt project or some other things got in the way of that family, I would have to make a change if that became work. If that became something that I didn't want to do. And when it does... and it happens, right? When I get into something or I take on a project that feels like work, I know immediately that I have to make a change. So I'll sit down and talk with my wife. I said, we've got to do some things cause, cause this is not working.

Jesse Butts:

Joe, I think an interesting note to end on for this conversation is, What is that missing link between so many of us, you know, writing down this easy, semi- audacious, audacious goal, whatever it is. Writing it out on paper, versus, actually achieving it, versus shelving it three weeks later when we get frustrated. What is, what is that, that missing connection that so many people have with, with goal setting versus goal achievement?

Joe Pulizzi:

As you know, I've done a lot of work in this area. I've read a lot of books in this area. You know, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill. Stephen Covey's books, were very, for me, important in building out my goal setting strategy. When you look at the research also that tells you how do you form a habit, it takes generally 66 days in a row for you to do something, to create a habit so that you get used to it every day. So it's very, so let's say, so I'll give you a really good example right now that I was working on. I started at the beginning of the year, I wanted to, I wanted to do a thousand pushups in 20 22. I don't enjoy doing pushups, but I'm like, I gotta do something. I want to keep in shape. I'm not going to go to the gym. I'm making that decision. But if I got up every day and did so what's that I got to do X number of pushups. So I have an app that I have to check off every day that I do my pushups every day. And I've only missed a couple of days so far for weird, weird reasons. But so far, you know, we're into, you know, first, first three months of the year, I'm good. I'm doing well. I'm up to like 35 pushups a day. I'm feeling good. I'm trying to, I think I can get to 100 at some point, but it's got a long way to go. I just got to do them every day. So it takes, it takes 66 days to do that. So if you're going to set a goal of any kind, you also need to set the habit to review that goal, to make sure that you're going to do that goal. So that's what I learned really early. That's the process when I've talked to a lot of entrepreneurs that I try to really push and say, You need to do these things. And so I have different goal areas. So one would be my career, financial goal. One would be a spiritual goal. One would be a physical goal. So pushups go under a physical goal. I also like to, I have a thing where I run two half marathons a year. That's under my, my physical goal. I have a mental goal. I, I want to read 24 non-business books this year. That's a mental goal for me. I review that on a regular basis to make sure that I'm doing that. Because if you don't review it on a regular basis, it doesn't happen. So my recommendation is pick one or two. One's probably a good start. So you have five or six goals that you can look at during the year and review those on a regular basis, and then do the things associated with getting to that goal. So reading the books is easy, right? Doing the half marathon is, Okay, if I'm going to do two marathons, what's that? What are the habits that I need to do to reach that goal for 2022? I gotta run every other day. And I got to run at least three to five, or I'm not going to make that half marathon. I'm gonna to kill myself. So we got to make sure that we've figured out those things. So if I have a big goal, like I want to sell a company or I wanted to make X amount of money, then you break that down into what are those small things that I have to do every day to get there. So get up in the morning. Look at that. I like writing it down, using a pen and paper. Read those goals. And then before you go to sleep at night, read those goals again. The mind, subconscious mind does crazy things at night. Gets you feeling in a different... gets you on a different path in the morning if you review it the night before. So that would be my recommendation. That's probably the one thing that I've done that's made the biggest impact in achieving the goals is actually setting and reviewing the goals first.

Jesse Butts:

So Joe, if people are interested in learning more about what you're doing and things like that, I mean, we've mentioned thetilt.com. Is there anywhere else people should go?

Joe Pulizzi:

I'm @JoePulizzi, P U L I Z Z I, on just about every social media platform. Twitter and LinkedIn are my two favorites that I use most of the time. Anybody's welcome to hit me up on those. And then, I guess the whole thing is, if people are interested in the whole Web3 thing is, you know, you and I we've gone down that hole a little bit here and there. If you sign up for thetilt.com, we try to get people onboarded into our social tokens so they can start learning about whole Web3 and the process. So, so that's, where you can get ahold of me.

Jesse Butts:

All right. Thank you so much, Joe. This was a wonderful conversation.

Joe Pulizzi:

Anytime, my friend