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What are the three pillars of content marketing?

April 14, 2021.
Pillars and arches in the portico of a modern building

When planning your content marketing, strategy is key in order to get the most out of the time you invest in writing, reworking and sharing content. There are three fundamental questions to ask at the outset of any content marketing strategy:

  1. What content do I need to create?
  2. Who will need to write it?
  3. Where will my target audiences find it?

Follow this simple checklist every time you plan a piece of content to maximise your efficiency and enable your customers to derive the most value from the content they are consuming. These are known in the Chartered Institute of Marketing as the 'three pillars' of content marketing.

Pillar 1 - What?

All good content is written with an objective in mind. Start off the first of the three pillars of content marketing by defining your key audiences and working out a content plan for each segment. What characteristics and behaviours do they display at the moment, and how can you influence those with your content? One method of organising this is through a visual matrix of current actions and thoughts versus desired actions and thoughts. Using this structure, determine why customers might not behave in these ways - are there any pain points or factors preventing them from acting or thinking in the way that you want them to?

The issues that they are encountering may be practical, or driven by emotions. For example, you may have written a social media post encouraging users to sign up to your mailing list for special offers, but an existing customer may have received a lot of spam from signing up to other mailing lists in the past, and therefore has a barrier that limits their engagement with your content. To resolve this situation, the messaging in your social media copy could reassure customers that the emails will be infrequent and/or valuable to them, and therefore it is worth their while to sign up.

What does effective content look like?

There are several elements that make up what marketers would term 'good content'. These are:

  • Grounding your content firmly in audience insight
  • Integrating your content with social media
  • Ensuring your content is aligned with your brand's values
  • Keeping content concise and engaging throughout
  • Establishing that you are a trustworthy and authoritative source
  • Finishing with a clear call to action

Linking the product or service you offer with a story can be a highly engaging form of content. Storytelling in marketing is on the rise, as consumers are more likely to remember facts when they are wrapped in a narrative. Has your product had a significant impact on somebody's life, or does your brand have an interesting history? Making your offering relevant to customers and avoid unnecessary technical language.

Key questions to consider

  1. What tone of voice is consistent with your brand and connects with your audience? Will you win them over with forthright thought leadership in the style of Instagram, or irreverent humour in the style of Ben & Jerry's?
  2. Do you need an external input to craft the content that fits with your brand's objectives and messaging? For example, at Mackman, we offer copywriting as part of our extensive portfolio of services.

Pillar 2: Who?

When you have established the first step on this checklist, the next of the three pillars of content marketing you must consider is who will be generating and sharing your business's content. This is a role that is often occupied by a Content Manager or a Communications Team depending on the size of your business. The most important part of a Content Manager's role is to coordinate and manage the output of content, particularly if multiple subject matter experts within your organisation are creating content. This is key to ensure consistency of tone and to keep any content that is created in line with your brand at all times.

Decide where you want to pitch your content - is it highly technical, or more broad for general consumption? If your audience will engage with copy written by a subject matter expert who is not accustomed to writing in perhaps the way that a Communications Team may, ensure that you are keeping the process as straightforward as possible for them. Here is an example of a method to collaboratively write a blog article for a website.

Creating a simple content process

  1. Approach your subject matter expert with a proposed article length. Start out small, such as 300-500 words, and offer a suggested length of time that they should spend on it.
  2. Provide them with 3 or 4 questions to think about relating to the content of the article, and talk through them with your subject matter expert in a telephone or video call. Record the call with their permission, or take thorough notes.
  3. Either listen to the recording or refer to your notes, then write the content using the information you have been provided with.
  4. Send the article to the subject matter expert for their approval, and offer them the opportunity to comment or suggest amends if needed.

Pillar 3: Where?

Once you have your content, you then need to establish how you will disseminate it to your audience and beyond. These different channels can roughly be split into three types - acquisition, publishing, and sharing channels.

Acquisition channels

These are the sources through which people will find your content who don't know you. Acquisition channels could include search engine results, adverts on social media, or through influencers promoting a product or service.

Publishing channels

These are the platforms on which content is hosted and consumed by a target audience. These could be places such as websites, blogs, YouTube, etc.

Sharing channels

These are the places where your audience shares your content online. They may choose to do this if they find it helpful, or if it corroborates their own knowledge. These areas could include LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, or any other social network. People who share your content then become acquisition channels for others.

Summary

Make sure that you consider these three pillars of content marketing - what, who, and where - every time you are planning a piece of content. This process will encourage you to check that the content you are creating is fit for purpose and is targeted at the audiences who need it.

Still struggling with your content strategy? Get in touch with our friendly customer service team if you have any content requirements by emailing customerservice@mackmangroup.co.uk or calling 01787 388038.

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