At Contently, we spend a lot of time helping our prospects and customers figure out the “pillars” of their content strategy.
Pillars are the big, overarching topics you want to own. For us, those are things like content strategy, content creation, content distribution, and content marketing ROI.
It sounds easy enough, but identifying your pillars can actually be quite tricky. Many marketers I’ve worked with struggle to come up with the right answer, and I’ve developed a dozen different exercises to help them figure it out. Of all the methods I’ve tried, however, this simple Venn diagram has proven the most helpful of the bunch.
It’s simple: Your content strategy pillars lie in the intersection between what your audience cares about and what your brand cares about.
These are the things you geek out over—the industry topics you debate at happy hour after that second whiskey, the things that get you excited to go to work on Wednesday mornings. These are the reasons your brand exists.
For Patagonia, it’s the thrill of adventure and the outdoors. For Marriott, it’s the wonder of travel. For Moz, it’s SEO. For GE, it’s the future of energy and the industrial world.
For us, it’s the big, hairy questions about content marketing. How can brands tell stories that help people? What content works best? Which distribution channels are most effective? How do you prove content marketing ROI and grow your program?
These are the things your audience is most passionate about. At Contently, we advocate a quantitative-plus-qualitative approach to figuring this out.
First, we use our StoryBook content strategy technology to identify the websites, social networks, content topics, formats, and channels most likely to engage our target audience. This gives us a quantitative perspective on what content they love the most.
We supplement those with empathetic interviews to understand our audience at a deeper level. (Find our 10-step guide here.) This puts our quantitative data into context, and helps us see it in a whole new light.
This is your sweet spot. Your audience is going to be interested in a lot of things that have nothing to do with your company. The NBA! Pod Save America! The Bachelor! That does not mean you should start your own Bachelor podcast. (There are already too many Bachelor podcasts.)
Instead, focus on the things that you’re passionate about and that your audience also cares about. For us, that’s creating high-performing content that builds relationships with people. For you and your audience, it might be demystifying cybersecurity, or revealing how 5G will change the retail industry, or creating a roadmap to a carbon-neutral world.
As an exercise, draw this Venn diagram on the whiteboard in your next marketing meeting. Have everyone do a silent brainstorm on each section for five minutes. And if the results surprise you, drop us a line @contently to let us know.
And to go even deeper and learn how to build a full content strategy framework, sign up for our free content strategy course. It includes 3 modules of 4 lessons each, plus tons of free resources, like our content calendar and pillar framework templates.