Last week I was appointed Marketing & Communications Lead of WordPress. I think WordPress is one of the most essential platforms on the web and I’m really proud to be able to do my part for it. I have been in the WordPress community for well over a decade now. In that time I’ve done a lot of different things but I think this will be my biggest challenge yet.

WordPress currently powers 32.9% of websites on the web, which, especially in absolute number of sites, is an incomprehensible number. It is also a wonderful project with a great community around it. Many people outside of WordPress don’t know much about the community, something I think we should change. Very often, people don’t even know about the great steps WordPress is making in re-defining content editing. We have to get that knowledge out there. The next phases of Gutenberg will even redefine website building. I hope to be instrumental in spreading this message. Let’s show the 67,1% that’s not using WordPress that maybe they should be.

With the announcement this week has already been tumultuous, but let me describe my next steps below. I’ve also got a couple of questions people have asked a lot, so I’m adding answers to those below.

Next steps

There a few things I’ve already done: I’ve spoken to a lot of members of the marketing team. I had already seen a lot of the things they’re busy with. As I was talking to them I was surprised to find some really high quality work that hardly anybody knew about, that just need a small push. I’m very happy to be able to provide that push. I’m dividing stuff I encounter into two different buckets right now: quick wins and longer term.

I’ve started writing a marketing and communications strategy. This will be based on my own ideas plus all the input I’ve had from people so far. From that strategy we should be able to extract campaigns. Within those campaigns there will be individual tasks that people can pick up.

At the same time I’m looking to update some of the core pages on WordPress.org. These pages describe who we are and what we do. For example: we’ve already updated the Roadmap page, it now reflects our plans for 2019 much better. The Testimonials page that was broken has been fixed, and the Marketing team has a new task to update the History page.

Frequently asked questions

Let me answer the questions I’ve had a couple of times so far:

What does this mean for your day to day?

Obviously this comes with a bit of work. Several people asked me how this combines with my role at Yoast and at home. It’s clear: this is going to have to come out of “Yoast time”. I’m simply not willing to spend less time with my family. Now, I’ll admit: I do work a slight bit more than the average Yoast employee. But saying that, this is still going to impact what I do at Yoast. Most importantly it will probably impact my ability to code as much myself.

What did you think about the discussion around your appointment?

There was some discussion around my appointment, due to the fact that Bridget, the marketing team’s leading representative, had not been informed. This was, oh the irony, a communications issue between Matt, Josepha and myself. We’ve all apologized to Bridget, and I think we’re good now. Of course, I hope I’ll be able to prevent these kinds of communication issues in the future.

Let’s be clear: I’m not replacing her. She was a rep for the marketing team (she has stepped down since) and had done a good job as such. I’ve been given a wider task. I want us to do much more than just write content.

What if there’s a conflict of interest between Yoast and WordPress?

These do come up. And let’s be fair: I’m not exactly the first in WordPress’ leadership who might have a conflict of interest sometimes. Not so long ago I urged people to wait with upgrading to WordPress 5.0. (Btw: you’re fine to update now). While I hope that my deeper involvement in the project will allow me to avoid these situations, when they happen, they happen. I’ll deal with them as transparently as I can. It could mean that I, with my WordPress hat on, have a different opinion than Yoast, the company.

Are you being paid for this?

No. This is a volunteer position. I do benefit indirectly from WordPress’ growth, as that’ll probably mean Yoast will grow too, but I don’t think you can really call that payment. The fact that my position is unpaid does not mean there won’t be any paid positions within my team. I think marketing for WordPress as a whole would definitely benefit from having a few people that are able to consistently spend more than a few hours a week on it.

Are you going to fix the ambiguity between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

No. There are limits to what I’m allowed to change and this falls outside of those limits. Not that I’d even want to: I don’t feel like it’s that much of a problem, it’s definitely an ambiguity but both sides benefit from it too.

I do think that we’re not always doing a good job of making the distinction between the two. Just pointing it out to f.i. journalists when they make the mistake might clear some things up and make the distinction more widely understood.

Does this mean Automattic is acquiring you?

It’s surprising how many people have asked me this or similar questions in the past few days. The answer is simple: No. Automattic is not acquiring us. The reason for that is simple: we’re not for sale. We’re having fun, and we’re not looking to be acquired.

More questions? Just ask!

If you have more questions for me: go ahead and ask. In the comments below, on Twitter, or on WordPress Slack, where I am @joostdevalk.

Published by Joost de Valk

Joost de Valk, Founder & Chief Product Officer at Yoast and Lead Marketing & Communications for WordPress.org.

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15 Comments

  1. Congrats on the appointment!
    Just a quick question though, regarding the ambiguity between .com and .org and your position on the matter. Would you please explain how both sides benefit from this ambiguity? How exactly does .org benefit from people confusing .com with it?
    Thanks!

    1. As I said on Twitter as well; both sides benefit from each other’s marketing. The overall brand awareness for “WordPress is something you build sites with” is more important than the ambiguity.

  2. > Automattic is not acquiring us. The reason for that is simple: we’re not for sale.

    It would be a huge pity if all bigger contributors of the WordPress project become part of the Automattic family. So happy to read this.

    1. If all bigger contributors would be, yes. I’m not sure whether them buying us would be so bad, but we’re also not going to try, because, why would we?

  3. Great post and good news. It’s funny how the same issues effect companies at every level. And while I too thought this might be an early announcement to acquisition I’m glad it’s not. Though I have always been surprised at their limited advancements im seo related functionality in core WordPress features. Congratulations again 👍🏼

  4. I am delighted to hear about your new role, congratulations.

    Does this role come with a marketing and communications budget? Is there defined portfolio/scope for this role, broad goals? Specifically wondering if it’s inward (Community) focused and/or outward (users/site owners)?

    Finally are you excited to direct the next WordPress Super Bowl ad?

    1. Let me answer what I can:

      Does this role come with a marketing and communications budget?

      No.

      Specifically wondering if it’s inward (Community) focused and/or outward (users/site owners)?

      Both.

  5. Wow, WordPress have lucked out 🙂 Love the clarity on your priorities, how you’re going to make it work and how you plan to approach it. Wish you luck with the new challenge.

  6. Congrats Joost! It’s definitely fantastic news.

    I’m clearly less familiar around the marketing but I did read about the issue with Bridget and it’s good about the way you’ve clarified it openly in the blog post.

    Looking forward to cleaner and open communication across the WP Universe

  7. Thank you for volunteering! You are perfect for this. I think this is a critical time for WordPress. I like the direction of Gutenberg and the pace. But with this change we’re definitely leaving users behind. The kind of user who’s just focused on what they want to say (understandable) and may not even know that they are using WordPress, much less what editor.

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