5 Steps to Creating a Killer Pillar Content Strategy ( + Free Workbook!)
Let’s make something clear: I’m a terrible salesperson. As much as I love talking to people about what we do and how we can help build their brands, I dread the “selling” part of this whole business thing. Just thinking about networking events makes me sweat, and cold calling? My personal nightmare.
Content has been my saving grace. Though it isn’t inherently promotional, content marketing has allowed me to provide value to my audience without stumbling through a sales pitch or handing out product spec sheets. The best part? It works. No matter your chosen medium (written longform posts, videos, podcasts, or shortform posts), content is proven to drive sales, build brand trust, and increase audience engagement and long-term loyalty. If you’re new to content marketing, I think the experts at Content Marketing Institute offer the best explanation:
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
When it comes to actually putting it into practice, though, it can feel a little overwhelming. It may seem that you have to devote every minute of the day creating, editing, and publishing unique content to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Medium, LinkedIn, YouTube, IGTV, iTunes Podcasts, and whatever new platform comes knocking next week. But, what if I told you that you don’t have to fall victim to the tidal wave of social distribution channels? You can have a successful, results-driven content strategy by creating consistent, quality pillar content.
Centered around a specific theme, pillar content is top-level, information-rich content that puts your brand’s best foot forward. It’s a topic that you want to your brand to be known for and provides real value to your audience. Not only does pillar content secure your unique identity and help your brand stand out in a crowded marketplace, it makes the daunting task of content creation doable when you’re short on time and resources. In this guide, I will show you how to create a pillar content strategy that makes sense for your brand and one that you can put into practice today. Let’s get started!
Step 1: Identify your audience and their needs.
Effective content identifies and addresses your audience’s pain points. By helping your audience, you gain their trust and foster the type of positive brand experiences that lead to a long-term buying relationship. Your audience is the person you want to buy your product or book your service (also known as your ideal client). In order to develop a successful content strategy, you must first understand who your ideal client is and what makes them tick. To do this, define your ideal client’s demographic and psychological profiles.
- Income Level
- Education Level
- Ethnic Background
The better you understand your audience and their pain points, the better your brand can serve them. Use the profiles you created to identify your audience and their needs. The following questions will help get the gears turning!
- Who is your audience?
- What problems does your product or service solve?
- What is important to your audience?
- What obstacles does your audience face?
- What does your audience need to know about your industry?
- Define your audience’s demographic and psychological profiles.
- Use the profiles to identify your audience and their needs.
Step 2: Determine how your brand is uniquely positioned to address your audience’s needs.
Now that you’ve discovered your audience’s needs, it’s time to determine how your brand story–your brand’s purpose, history, values, promises, and/or vision–intersects with those needs. No two brand stories are the same. The deeper you dive into who you are and who your audience is, the easier it will be to develop content that’s both relevant to your brand and useful to your audience. Maybe a better way to put it is this: how do your offerings, experiences, principles, expectations, and/or goals solve your audience’s problems?
- Define your brand’s purpose, history, values, promises, and vision.
- Identify areas where your brand story intersects with your audience’s needs.
Step 3: Select a specific pillar content topic and content category.
After you outline a few areas of crossover, choose a theme that will anchor your pillar content. Choose the subject matter that (1) most closely aligns with your product/service and guiding principles, (2) best fulfills your brand’s stated purpose, and (3) excites you the most to talk or write about. The more specific your topic, the easier it will be for you to develop quality content pieces, establish your brand as an industry thought leader, and target your intended audience. Your topic should fit into one of four content categories:
- Educate: to teach your audience industry-specific skills
- Entertain: to engage your audience in a fun and amusing way
- Inform: to provide industry-specific news and information
- Inspire: to motivate your audience to take action
- Choose your pillar content topic.
- Decide which content category best fits your topic.
Step 4: Choose your primary content medium and distribution channels.
Content is primarily delivered in four different ways: written longform posts, video, audio podcasts, or shortform posts. At this stage of your content strategy journey, determine what method you’re going to use to communicate. Again, the purpose of this guide is to help you develop a strategy that you can put into practice today, so naturally, I’d suggest choosing the medium you’re most comfortable with and/or have the most experience in.
- Decide what type of content you will post.
Step 5: Establish a consistent posting schedule.
As is for a lot of things in the branding world, consistency is key. Not only does consistent content encourage audience engagement, setting (and sticking to!) a consistent posting schedule fosters audience trust and loyalty. When your audience expects a new post every Tuesday morning, they’ll show up. If you’re inconsistent with your posts, your audience will lose interest–and eventually, trust–in you.
Be honest with yourself and your workload. How often can you realistically publish a new content piece? Whether it’s several times a day, weekly, or just once a month, commit to a posting schedule that you’re able to stick to.
- Define your posting schedule.
Your One-Sentence Content Strategy
Phew! I know it was a long exercise; but, once you complete the action steps, use the formula below to create a simple, one-sentence strategy statement that you can reference when you’re developing ideas for your content pieces. Not only is it a helpful reminder, a strategy statement ensures your content is “on brand” and in keeping with your content goals.
I (create/produce/write) [frequency] [content category] [content type] for [ideal client/audience] [pillar content topic].
Need some help or want to bounce ideas off someone? Please feel free to drop a comment below or reach out on Instagram–I’d love to support you and make this content strategy guide work for you and your brand!
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