7 Ways Content Pillars Make Brands More Effective

Con­tent pil­lars help define thor­ough con­tent that effec­tive­ly solves a prob­lem, then cre­ate rel­e­vant assets for mul­ti­ple plat­forms and chan­nels.

Lisa Williams By Lisa Williams from Sustainable Digital Marketing. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Con­tent pil­lars force us to take what we learn in the con­tent map­ping/discovery process and apply it to the cus­tomer jour­ney and sales fun­nel. In the con­tent map­ping process we iden­ti­fy prob­lems and cus­tomer issues. In the con­tent pil­lar process we define a thor­ough, inten­sive con­tent asset (such as an ebook, video, or pod­cast) that can effec­tive­ly answer and solve the prob­lem, then cre­ate rel­e­vant, deriv­a­tive assets for mul­ti­ple plat­forms and chan­nels.


Here are sev­en ways con­tent pil­lars make brands more effec­tive.

1. Inspires The Planning Phase

The con­tent pil­lar encour­ages cross-team inte­gra­tion because every­one – strate­gists, ana­lysts, sto­ry­tellers, search mar­keters, media, PR, and social – par­tic­i­pates in the plan­ning and out­comes. It pro­vides much need­ed role clar­i­ty and tac­ti­cal own­er­ship nec­es­sary for improv­ing the cus­tomer jour­ney by hav­ing a thought­ful, cohe­sive strat­e­gy in the begin­ning.

2. Forces Marketers To Consider Audience

When we’re devel­op­ing a con­tent asset to help solve a prob­lem, we get clos­er to our audi­ence. Rather than tak­ing the “we need impres­sions” mar­ket­ing approach, we’re putting our­selves in the cus­tomer-cen­tric place of con­sid­er­ing who they are, not just demo­graph­i­cal­ly, but psy­cho­graph­i­cal­ly.

If we’re explor­ing the cus­tomer prob­lem from their point of view, we’re less like­ly to cre­ate a con­tent asset that’s just fluff. We ask our­selves hard and human ques­tions like “if I had this prob­lem, does this con­tent asset tru­ly help my cus­tomer or poten­tial cus­tomer solve it?” If the answer is no it push­es us to dig deep­er.

Though it’s expen­sive, if the con­tent asset is real­ly impor­tant to help­ing the cus­tomer, hav­ing con­tent focus-groups can help us under­stand how we are or aren’t help­ing our audi­ence.

3. Makes The Story The Hero

When we’re forced to think about how one stand­alone, well-thought out, prob­lem-solv­ing con­tent asset is the foun­da­tion of sub­se­quent con­tent assets we make the sto­ry the focus.

It’s near­ly impos­si­ble to do the thing some brands have done poor­ly in the past year, which is write con­tent for content’s sake, write con­tent sole­ly for SEO, write con­tent because some­one said you need­ed more con­tent.

Cre­at­ing a sin­gle great asset helps us stay focused on the real con­tent pur­pose which is to make con­tent that is read, linked to and shared.

4. Helps Us To Choose Channel Second

The con­tent pil­lar also helps us to do that daunt­ing exer­cise of cre­at­ing brand mes­sag­ing first and choos­ing the chan­nel sec­ond.

With new social and com­mu­ni­ca­tion plat­forms con­stant­ly sur­fac­ing, it’s easy to adopt a “me too” atti­tude about chan­nels rather than strate­gi­cal­ly defin­ing if your cus­tomers are there and if the con­tent you’re shar­ing is rel­e­vant to the chan­nel.

The con­tent pil­lar also helps us think about how we take an asset and adopt it for a par­tic­u­lar chan­nel based on what assets per­form best in that chan­nel.

5. Jump-Starts The Conversation

Cre­at­ing a con­tent pil­lar pro­vides the frame­work for the next steps of cre­at­ing the edi­to­r­i­al and con­ver­sa­tion cal­en­dars. Defin­ing the sto­ries we’re going to share to prob­lem-solve and engage our audi­ence makes for mean­ing­ful and thought­ful con­ver­sa­tion.

Con­ver­sa­tion and engage­ment goes two ways. We can’t pre­pare for how our cus­tomers will engage with con­tent in their jour­ney, but cre­ation of a con­tent pil­lar means we’ve tak­en the time to real­ly know our sto­ry. This makes the con­ver­sa­tion not only more engag­ing, but more mean­ing­ful.

6. Impacts The Process And Documentation

The oper­a­tions side of con­tent is often neglect­ed because mar­keters mis­judge that cre­at­ing con­tent is the hard part. It isn’t.

Plan­ning for great con­tent is hard. Pro­mot­ing that con­tent is hard. Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and out­reach to influ­encers is hard. Mea­sur­ing the content’s impact and ROI is hard. Con­sid­er­ing and defin­ing the process and resources for con­tent becomes clear­er when you’re lever­ag­ing the con­tent pil­lar.

We’re cre­at­ing a video as one of the assets in our con­tent pil­lar, who is going to man­age grow­ing our com­mu­ni­ty and sub­scriber base on our YouTube chan­nel? Once we’ve test­ed effec­tive­ness of the con­tent asset with our cur­rent cus­tomers and we are pre­pared for paid ampli­fi­ca­tion of the sto­ry in the right chan­nels to engage poten­tial cus­tomers, who is going to man­age that cross-chan­nel spend and work with the CRM team to get these leads into our fun­nel?”

7. Encourages Measurement At Campaign-Level

Brands are cre­at­ing a lot of con­tent, but strug­gling with how that con­tent impacts the bot­tom line. Mea­sur­ing a cam­paign of all of the assets with­in the con­tent pil­lar helps us mea­sure how we’re impact­ing and engag­ing with our cus­tomers across all of the assets, sto­ries, and chan­nels rather than mea­sur­ing the iso­lat­ed impact of a sin­gle con­tent asset, which usu­al­ly tells us very lit­tle.

Mea­sur­ing against a theme and key­word set also helps us estab­lish the search val­ue of the cam­paign and even uncov­er new needs. Cre­at­ing a dash­board that shows the audi­ence jour­ney across mul­ti­ple assets and chan­nels illu­mi­nates a more nat­ur­al cus­tomer path of aware­ness, con­sid­er­a­tion, engage­ment, pur­chase, and even loy­al­ty.

Lisa Williams

Written by Lisa Williams

President, Sustainable Digital Marketing

Lisa Williams is the President of Sustainable Digital Marketing. She is a 19-year veteran of online marketing and has been featured in Kiplinger Magazine, Glamour Magazine, Boston Globe and The Oregonian. She recently authored her first book, "When Everybody Clicks: Sustainable Digital Marketing". Lisa is on the SEMpdx (Search Engine Marketing Professionals of Portland Oregon) Advisory Board. She speaks at regional, national and international conferences on the topics of digital strategy, marketing integration, team development and leadership. She is available for training and consulting.

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