From pillar to post

While content definitely exists to please your reader it also needs to serve your brand.

The right content helps to build your brand’s authority, elevating it to a position of trust with your target audience.

Content needs to be interesting, engaging, informative and entertaining. It also happens to be competing with, literally, millions of other pieces of content that are likely to be equally interesting, engaging, informative and entertaining. And then on top of all of this you also need to ensure that your brand’s content isn’t always self-referential.

Broadening your brand’s horizons 

The best way around this is to extend your content universe by appropriating content pillars to your efforts.

Content pillars are the broad categories or themes into which your brand’s content efforts can be divided. Pillars are useful in helping a brand establish and define its niche, while also helping to concentrate the marketing efforts around topics that are meaningful and of strategic value to the brand, without constantly espousing a cringeworthy grocery list of brand benefits.

It’s about setting the parameters of relevance for your brand, while ensuring it doesn’t go too far past the mark. Flippantly, it is a way to make sure there are no random cat photos on your homemade, organic granola brand’s Instagram feed!

Test the appropriateness of a specific topic by asking which of the content pillars it falls under. If it doesn’t fit anywhere, it’s not something that your brand should be promoting.

Pillars in practice 

Content pillars are best understood by assigning them to a hypothetical brand. The Bottom Drawer is a bespoke linen brand that sells only the finest bed linen, curtains, napery and handmade quilts. The Bottom Drawer has several small boutique retail outlets in major centres around the country and also has a thriving online shop. Content marketing is an important part of the brand’s marketing strategy.

The brand’s content efforts are centred around the following content pillars:

Gifting: The brand sells desirable products that often make for a special and thoughtful gift. The content is about the art of gifting, including tips, ideas, rituals and traditions, and doesn’t necessarily feature one of the brand’s products in this kind of content.

Materials: Quality materials are a key feature of the brand’s products. It’s one of their unique selling points and they feel passionate about understanding and appreciating materials, which includes educating people about it. This often ties in to environmental concerns and best practices.

Craft: Making is important to the brand and it loves to share stories about processes. This includes tips and tutorials for doing it yourself. It’s often about the craft traditions of yesteryear and its revival in modern life.

Home decor: The brand’s products essentially help to make a home more beautiful so the brand is passionate about home decor, but this interest is not restricted to the application and use of its own products.

Examples of the brand’s content topics include the following, each of which relate to one of the four content pillars:
* How to best care for your pure cotton sheets (material)
* Gorgeous curtain tiebacks that you can make in an hour (craft)
* Elevate your dining room from drab to dazzling with these easy tips (home decor)
* The best – personalised! – gift ideas for the friend that has everything (gifting)

These topics all serve the brand by expanding its universe without constantly focussing on the products. The content creates a world for the brand, its own place where the brand feels comfortable.

Pillars about passion and personality 

Establish your brand’s content pillars by interrogating what the brand stands for, what it feels passionate about and what it wants to talk about.

A fun and easy way to do this is to imagine your brand as a person. Draw her on a big piece of paper, give her personality traits, make a list of the things she likes to do, who her friends are and where she hangs out (for more on this, read my blog about branding). And develop the content pillars from there.

For a wine brand it might be wine, food, lifestyle and geographic area. All the content that relates to the wine – the making, the drinking etc. – belongs to the wine pillar, while under the food pillar the brand produces content that complements the wine. And so it goes on.

Shifting the (goal) posts 

Content pillars are not set in stone and may be shifted as the brand’s goal posts do. But it is important to always have them in sight as they help to ground, orientate and focus your content efforts.

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