What Is a Content Pillar? The Foundation for Efficient Content Marketing

6 minute read

Upland Admin

Creating content isn’t easy.

In fact, Content Marketing Institute reports that producing enough content is the biggest challenge for B2B marketers. This isn’t exactly surprising when you consider marketers need to create content to fuel social media, marketing automation campaigns, syndication, paid campaigns, blogs, eBooks, and more.

It doesn’t have to be this hard to create high-quality content for all of your go-to distribution channels.

Bigger isn’t always better

Recently, the CMO Council put out an excellent white paper on content marketing and how organizations are using content to drive traffic, leads and revenue. One part in particular caught our eye:

“While large reports still have a place, the ideas they generate need to be offered in a wider variety of easily consumable media types. A recent study by Deloitte on the future of productivity in Canada included a major report of some 60 pages, [Colleen Albiston, CMO of Deloitte in Canada] says. But her marketing team also generated infographics, motion graphics, social media communications and other content that reached a wider audience of decision makers and key influencers. The result, she says, was a dramatic increase in full report downloads and a two-fold increase in media impressions and news coverage.”

At Deloitte, they provided a bite-size piece of content that covered the concepts in their longer and more detailed report. By giving small, consumable tidbits, they saw an increase in downloads, site traffic, and earned media. That’s more people sharing your content, providing contact information in exchange for the report, and converting from site visitor into known contact or lead.

That 60-page report is the perfect example of a large piece of content being broken down into smaller, more consumable pieces of content to reach a wider audience and attract new eyes. But even the above example can be taken a step further. With careful planning, these large pieces of content can become the foundations of your marketing campaigns. We call them content pillars.

What Is a content pillar?

A content pillar is a substantive and informative piece of content on a specific topic or theme that can be broken into many derivative sections, pieces, and materials. Examples of content pillars include eBooks, reports, and guides.

Basically, it’s a large piece of content that you can turn into many smaller pieces of content to fuel all those channels you’re currently struggling to fill. By focusing your attention on creating a single content pillar, it’s easy to break that finished piece into blog posts, infographics, videos, emails, social media updates, and more, to attract different kinds of buyers through different channels.

This method is an efficient and process-driven way to cover all of your content bases—and deliver the right content to the right buyer at the right time.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Planning for efficiency

The first step in planning your content pillar is figuring out how you’re going to create that larger piece of content, and strategizing how to get the most out of every section.

Let’s use an eBook as an example. Usually, you’d want to conduct interviews with thought leaders to get their feedback on the topics you’re covering. You’ll also write text that expands upon specific ideas and includes best practices and how-tos. Maybe you’ll collect data to back up those claims and create an infographic to be featured in the eBook.

Whew! That’s already a lot of work, isn’t it? Well, before you dive in, let’s think about how you could turn each of the tasks into content gold mines.

When you conduct interviews, why not hire a videographer to capture interviewees answers on tape? Then, not only can you use their answers to inform the text portion of your eBook, but you can create videos around specific themes covered in the eBook to further promote your content and present your organization as a thought leader. You can also write a blog post on each video produced, which you can then share on social media. The relevant blog posts and videos can also be incorporated into your marketing automation campaigns.

From just one piece of an eBook, you have tons of derivative items filling up your blog, social, and marketing automation channels. You’re also reaching buyers with different formats and can test which work best for your audience to further improve outreach in the future. The same goes for text in an infographic. Splice the text into different sections and turn them into blog posts and emails. Pitch the infographic for syndication or write a guest post about it on an influential site that caters to your target audience. Let’s list out the potential elements from that one eBook:

  • 1 eBook
  • 1 infographic
  • 2 whitepapers
  • 1 video
  • 1 guest blog post
  • 15 blog posts
  • 1 LinkedIn presentation
  • 3 unique landing pages
  • 3 outbound email campaigns (at least)
  • 4 original photos

The above assets were the basis for an additional 90 (at least!) social promotions.

That adds up to over 100 content assets from 1 content pillar.

How can you do this, too?

It’s easy to make a lot of content out of a content pillar. If you are writing an eBook, for example, just follow these steps:

  1. Schedule interviews with thought leaders or experts on your topic. Make each of these an independent blog post, and then create social language that promotes each blog. (1 blog post + 3 social promos)
  2. Summarize the main points of your eBook in a video interview. You can promote the video on YouTube (the second largest search engine), Vimeo, or Vidyard, and the video can be embedded on your blog. Again, create social language to drive traffic to the blog. (1 video + 3 social + 1 blog)
  3. Do original research. Original research is a great way to gain traction for your asset, have other blogs cite your work, and create a meaningful evergreen piece of content. Put your research results in an infographic or break up the stats into a SlideShare presentation. Host the infographic on your blog and create social language to drive users to your SlideShare presentation. (1 SlideShare preso + 1 infographic + loads of organic inbound links + 2 blog posts + at least 3 social promos)
  4. Develop gated landing pages. For each “main asset” in your content pillar, develop a quick and easy landing page. This builds out your site’s total site map (improving Google Search Rank status) and also gives your company multiple opportunities to capture the contact information of your web visitors. (3 landing pages)
  5. Create email nurture campaigns around the eBook topic. If you did your research and are dedicating resources to building out an entire eBook, the subject matters should interest your target audience. Develop an email nurture campaign around the topic that uses pieces of the campaign to engage user’s mid-funnel. Marketing automation software makes this easy and provides unique data and insights about each of your customers as they engage with various pieces of content. (3 emails)

Voila! You’ve done it.

Making a content pillar campaign isn’t hard. It’s strategic and rewarding. Follow these simple steps, and soon you’ll be showing off your recent campaigns.

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