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.