How to Create Content Pillars
Everyone talks about the need to produce more content. For business owners, marketers and executives, the content creation game can be a tough one. There are a ton of different types of content, various audiences to cater to and new platforms emerging. Where is the time? How do we even start?
We’ve talked about the importance of brand pillars for your organization, but today let’s get into more specifics about actually creating content.
Here’s how content pillars can help.
What are content pillars?
Content pillars are buckets or categories of topics related to your business goals and marketing strategy. Think of your content pillars as the areas of your business that you either want to promote the most, that highlight your most unique offerings or provide the most value to your customers. This could be questions about your process that your customer base wants answered, insights into a customer’s industry or useful tips for a subsection of your audience.
Why do they matter?
Another of the main reasons people fail at producing enough of the right content is a lack of focus. Even if we value marketing as a critical tool and we know we should be producing content, many of us freeze up because we lack direction. The big questions we always ask are, “Well what should we even talk about?” and “Am I doing this right?” Content pillars allow you to focus your efforts into a set of specific, vetted topics that you can refer to as you sit down to produce content each week.
The best part? You probably already have content pillars for your company. You just need to dig in to uncover and structure them into something consumable and relevant for your audience.
How are they used?
Once you have established your content pillars, you’ll have the outline you need in order to come up with specific topics within each pillar. If one pillar is about industry best practices, you could have a topic like “Here’s what you need to know about _____ in 2019.” If you have a pillar about Leadership in your field, a topic could be “Tips from the Top: How to ____ like a VP in the _____ industry.”
Here are some benefits of creating content pillars for your company:
Have a roadmap of your marketing topics for the next month, quarter or year
Ensure your content is relevant to your audience (reverse-engineering pillars based on audience wants/needs)
Establish built-in accountability with your team (no more ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ from your marketing department)
Create a variety of content that provides value, not simply promotional fodder
An example from the real world
Just to show that we practice what we preach, I’d like to share Toucan’s content pillars and topic areas so that you can see how this all plays out IRL.
Below is a basic outline of our major content pillars. We developed these with our audience in mind: business owners and marketing executives.
As you can see, this is a very high-level approach to how we view our content creation. There is much more detail underneath these basic topics, but you get the idea. Everything stems from who we are as a brand and what we can do for our clients. The goal here isn’t to overwhelm yourself with what is possible. Creating pillars like these in your organization allows you to develop a foundation built on true, authentic tidbits that your company can share with the world.
Here’s how you can create content pillars in your organization
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty.
There are a handful of ways you can extract content pillars from your organization. Whether you are the business owner, head of marketing, a freelancer or just someone in charge of “promotion,” here are some ideas to get the ball rolling:
Host an internal brainstorming session
This is always a great way to begin the process of collectively uncovering what your company is all about, who you should speak to, how you position yourselves and more. Gather all your key stakeholders for a half-day session in your office or at an external location. Give everyone 3 minutes to answer each of these questions (or similar ones):
What do our customers care about?
What are our customers’ pain points?
Why do people choose us over the competition?
How would our customers describe us now?
How do we describe ourselves?
What valuable information can we give away?
What are the most popular topics we get questions about?
What are we passionate about sharing?
Which areas are we the most knowledgeable about?
What would help our customers, both personally and professionally, in their daily lives?
Deploy customer surveys and interviews
An effective way to develop your content pillars is by taking the time to ask your customers what they think. Get the info directly from the source! You can easily pull together a survey using a tool like SurveyMonkey and distribute it through your contact list. However, if you are able to schedule a time to physically sit down with a customer, this can be a gold mine. Here are some example questions you can add in your survey or interview:
How would you describe our company?
Why did you choose us?
What problem do we solve for you?
What do you want to learn more about in our industry?
What services in our industry do you value the most?
How do you prefer to consume content [or learn more about this industry]? (social posts, blogs, podcasts, videos, illustrations, presentations, books, etc.)
At what point did you decide to research companies in this industry to handle your problem?
What words or phrases do you use when doing your research?
What do you value most in a provider of this service/product?
Do a deep dive into your data
Take some time to sift through all the information you have on your customers, sales, web analytics, social engagement, event attendance, etc. Gather metrics that might help tell the story of your users’ values, interests, purchase behavior, sentiment, etc. Do you see more visitors reading a blog post about effective techniques in accounting than any other topic? Double down on that by hosting a webinar or writing an article about it. Reframe the topic and redistribute the content. If it’s valuable, it doesn’t stop being valuable because you posted one piece of content. Keep milking content that works, but shake it up with other topics (a.k.a. other pillars).
So, there you have it — A crash course in creating content pillars for your organization. Once you are armed with a structure of pillars and detailed topics, you can apply them to a content calendar, assign roles to team members and plan for production time. Think about all of these topics as one big, strategic to-do list. Reference it when you have those “Oh sh*t, what do I post today?” moments that we experience from time to time.
If you’ve found value from this post or would like to learn more about creating content for your organization or marketing in general, we’d love to hear from you. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or inquire about a project here.
Toucan Advertising is a New Orleans advertising agency.