Season 01, Episode 03
Breaking Down Content Pillars: The Essential Elements of an Aligned Marketing Strategy
In this episode, I discuss the importance content pillars and their crucial role in creating an effective Aligned Marketing Strategy. By the end of the episode, you’ll know how to choose your content pillars to ensure you are reaching your ideal audience and presenting your true self to the online world.
Jade: Hi again everyone! Welcome to the third episode of the Aligned Marketing Podcast, where we discuss an alternative to mainstream marketing and introduce you to resources, tips, and guests to guide you through your own aligned marketing journey where you will go from discouraged with your marketing to happy and satisfied so that you can finally connect with your ideal audience as your authentic self.
I’m your host, Jade Francesca, and if you’re like me and you need subtitles to understand what people are saying, you can get the transcript in the show notes.
So now let’s dive into today’s episode: content pillars.
Ever since I started my business, I’ve been asked multiple times:
- What are content pillars to begin with?
- How do I even choose them?
- What do I do with them once I have chosen them?
So first of all, content pillars are really the foundation of your marketing, hence the word “pillar”. It’s what your content will rest on. It’s really as simple as that.
So to start with, you wanna maybe choose between four to six different pillars, and then within those pillars, you will want to have sub-pillars for each.
So for my business for instance, my main pillars are marketing, alignment, authenticity, and strategy. Some of my sub-pillars in my “marketing” pillar would be “social media marketing, email marketing, blogging”, etc. And for my “strategy” pillar, my sub-pillars would be “engagement strategy, content strategy, branding strategy”, and so on and so forth.
Whenever you want to choose your content pillars, my number one advice is to go ahead and write down everything that you like talking about in your business and what you feel is important for your audience to know.
Then, you’re gonna be able to see clusters, which will be your pillars, and different topics that fall under each of those pillars. In the end, you want to be able to pick between four to six main pillars.
The reason why you want to choose not so many pillars is because you can then organize your content and make sure you’re not forgetting a foundation pillar in your marketing strategy.
Another reason why having content pillars is helpful is when you get a case of the blank page, aka not knowing what to write about in your marketing. With a list of main pillars, sub-pillars and then specific topics under each, you can look through your list and see what inspires you that day, and get to creating.
Now, there’s really no right or wrong when it comes to choosing your content pillars: it really is more of a tool for you or for the person who creates your content.
But if after writing down all the topics you want to talk about, you’re still at a loss about what your content pillars are, ask yourself the following questions:
Question #1 is: What do you wanna be known for? What kind of topics do you want to show up as an authority for?
So let’s say you’re a life coach. Life coach is super broad; there’s like a million things you can do as a life coach. Do you want to be known as a life coach who works specifically with mindset? Whatever the answer is, that should be one of your pillars.
Question #2 is: What do you like talking about the most? What is the most comfortable for you?
Even though we know a lot of things in our business, there are things we’re more comfortable talking about or find more enjoyable.
If I use myself as an example again, what I like talking the most about is alignment. Although I am knowledgeable about most types of digital marketing out there and I could talk extensively about each and every one of them, what I like talking about most is aligning your marketing to who you are. So, alignment is a big content pillar for me.
Whatever you like talking most about should definitely be a content pillar. If it is the same answer as your answer to question #1, then you can ask yourself: what else do you really enjoy talking about?
The main reason why you want to make this a content pillar is because the more passionate and comfortable you are with a subject, the easier it will be to create content about it, and the better that content will be.
When it comes to marketing and content creation, or really anything in life, you don’t wanna make your life hard on purpose. As we’ve discussed in Episode 1, doing aligned marketing means less procrastination, and this is why. If you don’t like what you’re doing in terms of content, you’re probably gonna procrastinate, or you’re just not gonna wanna show up, or you’re going to burn yourself out.
Or all three!
I’ve gone through all of this myself, trying to talk about things that I thought would sell, but it wasn’t what I wanted to talk about. It wasn’t aligned.
For instance, a big selling point in marketing is telling your audience that your method will save them time. Time is precious and we don’t have enough of it, so saving time sells. And although I do know that the way I do marketing does help you save time, I’m more interested in talking about how aligned marketing helps you achieve happiness with your business, instead of dreading the marketing aspect of it. I used to only talk about saving time, but I wasn’t as passionate about it, so I ironically wasted a lot of time procrastinating my content!
So you really want to make sure you love talking about your content pillars, otherwise, it won’t be as easy as it could be.
Question #3 is: What makes you stand out in your niche?
The main reason why this question is crucial is because let’s face it, there are thousands of other people in our niche that our audience could choose to buy from. But, we are all unique, and so are all our businesses. Which means that we need to highlight our uniqueness in our marketing so we can attract the right people.
So let’s take a life coach as an example again. Let’s say our life coach picks the topic of self-sabotage as their main pillar as this is what they want to be known for and this is also what they like talking about the most. There are many approaches to this, but maybe what is unique about this coach is that they are neurodiverse, and they like to game-ify things. Turning hard tasks into games to make it easier for their clients to not self-sabotage could be their unique selling point. So, the concept of gamification could be one of their pillars.
Question #4 is: What type of content is easier for you to create?
This one is a bit less intuitive, but follow me with this.
I want you to think about the format of your content. Is it easier for you to create videos, audios, or written content? And is it easier for you to create short-form content or long-form content? What about storytelling?
Although all content can be shared in any of these formats, some content will be easier to share in one versus another. An example of this is automation. Showing a video of an automation is much easier to help your audience understand what it is about, than, say, a storytelling written post. Seeing the automation in real time and then seeing how much time is being saved will have a much stronger impact than writing a story about it.
Another example of this is design: if I want to talk about how to do a certain design, whether it be a graphic or on a website, it would be far more efficient for me to do a video about it than trying to explain it in written format.
So, because I much prefer doing written format when it comes to marketing, I chose against including design as one of my main content pillars, because I didn’t want to create a ton of videos. Again, I can definitely write about it or do the occasional video if I feel inspired, but designs fall as a specific topic of my marketing pillar rather than a pillar of its own.
So if one of your topics is a specific concept that not a lot of people know about, and it’s a bit more complicated for those who don’t know anything about it, then maybe talking [in video or audio] about it makes more sense because you can go deeper into a long video or during a podcast or something like that, which means you would need to be comfortable with either video or audio content.
On the other end, maybe you are someone who prefers to do quick tips and show up more often, so that you can get to talk to people, engage with conversations in Facebook Groups for instance. So if you have that in mind, maybe it’s gonna change the way your content pillars look like. Your pillar will need to be a topic that people know enough about, so that if you share quick tips or a short reel, there’s no confusion about what it is [about].
Lastly, one thing that you wanna be asking yourself when you choose your content pillars is:
Question #5: Are your content pillars aligned with what you intend to do in your marketing?
No matter what subject you are an expert in, someone is gonna want to hear about it, that’s for sure, because there’s at least one person that wants to hear about the thing you’re talking about. There is a niche for virtually anything.
That being said, there isn’t a niche for everything on every social media platform or every digital marketing asset that you may have. Put simply, the audience that would benefit from your content pillar might be hanging out on Instagram, but you’re planning to market on Facebook. Of course there are people on Facebook who will be interested, but, do they have the problem awareness that you are targeting?
Let me explain what I mean by that.
When you are in business, there are three different levels of awareness for your audience.
Level 1: Unaware.
Those are people who are completely unaware that they have a problem. Therefore, you have to convince them that they have a problem and that they should solve it. I would say this audience is the most difficult to convert into clients and sales, because you have to convince them that they have a problem and THEN you have to convince them that they should solve the problem and THEN you have to convince them that you can help them solve that problem.
An example of this could be an audience who feels tired, but they don’t know it might be because they’re not eating the right foods. So, as a health coach or nutritionist, you would have to first make your audience realize that the fatigue is due to poor nutrition, then you have to convince them that they need to invest in their nutrition so that they stop this fatigue, and then you would have to convince them that you have the solution to that specific problem.
Then you have:
Level 2: Problem Aware.
An audience who is problem aware knows that they have a problem they want to solve, but they don’t know how to solve it. With this level of awareness, you are showing up as the expert who can solve their problem. It is easier to market to this type of audience, because you don’t need to convince them they have a problem to solve, they already are aware of it.
An example of this could be someone who knows they don’t have enough time to do all of their admin tasks. They are aware of the problem, but they need a solution, and they don’t know yet what it could be. The solution could be hiring out a VA, or hiring a productivity coach to see if some of those tasks could be eliminated or done more efficiently.
And then lastly, there’s:
Level 3: Solution Aware.
So that’s an audience who knows they have a problem, they know what the solution is, but they need help either implementing it or they want someone else implementing the solution for them.
An example of this would be someone who knows they are wasting too much time scheduling clients, knows they want it automated, but doesn’t know how to, so they hire someone else to do it for them.
You want to be clear about what level you are targeting with your audience, because this will be crucial when you create your content.
Otherwise, here is what can happen:
You might show up as your most authentic self, talk about topics you are passionate about, offer a fantastic solution… but then no one buys it. Why? Because you weren’t talking to the right audience. If you have a problem-aware approach, but you are trying to sell to an audience who are unaware they have the problem to begin with, it’ll be much harder to sell.
Similarly, if you have a solution-aware approach, so you want to help people implement something, but the people don’t even know yet what solution could be helpful for them, it’s going to be much harder to sell.
So I want to do a quick recap about what we’ve just talked about:
For your content pillars, the most important thing is: you want them to be aligned, and the best way to do that is to write down all the things that you really like talking about in your business, the things you wanna educate other people on, or start conversations about…
Then, look at all of the different subjects and ask yourself what can you put into clusters so that they can become four to six different main content pillars with sub-pillars underneath each of them.
To validate your pillars, ask yourself:
- Who do you wanna show up as?
- What type of expert do you want to be?
- What makes you unique in your niche?
Afterwards, you’re going to want to be asking yourself:
- What type of content do you want to create?
- What feels comfortable for you? Is it video content? Is it short form video content? Is it long form video content, so like podcasts, YouTube, summits or interviews, and so on and so forth?
- Or is it more like reels, tiktoks, short lives, short videos that you can post in groups or your Instagram or any other platform that you have?
- Or do you prefer to write?
- Is it easier to show up in Facebook groups or in LinkedIn with longer posts?
So think about what type of content feels more comfortable for you and that you really enjoy doing, and what topic in your list aligns the most with that type of content.
Forget about the “I need to”s or the “should’s” like “I need to do video content”, because that is not true. It is true that if you do like video content, you definitely should do video content, because it has become the most popular across platforms, but it is not true that the written word is dead because otherwise Facebook groups would not be this popular because the majority of people in Facebook groups are not posting videos, they’re still writing. And if you look at LinkedIn, I mean LinkedIn is majorly written content, and it is growing every day.
So if written content is what you’re most comfortable with, you will get much more traction if you do something that you like, rather than forcing yourself to do something that you don’t like just because people have said you need to do a reel, or you need to do a TikTok, or you need to do a podcast, and so on and so forth. You do not need to do anything specifically. You really need to really think about yourself, think about your business, and think about what aligns. Showing up in a way that is aligned is so much more important in a way that x,y,z people has said you need to show up as.
And lastly, you wanna think about what type of audience you want, because this will influence your pillars and your content.
Do you want an audience that is unaware, because what you like doing is educating people about problem awareness? Okay, then you need to position yourself so that you attract those people, and there’s going to be a lot of education in your content pillars.
But if you’re someone who offers specific solutions about specific topics, then you might want an audience that is problem aware and searching for solutions, and you’re the one offering it.
If you’re offering something that is about implementation, you will go even deeper in the subject that you’re talking about. You’re not educating people about a problem here, rather, you’re telling people who are already educated about your subject, how to do it, how to implement the solution, how to solve x, y, z.
So I hope this answers a lot of questions when it comes to what are content pillars and how to choose them, but if you’re interested in knowing what you can do with those content pillars once you’ve chosen them, then I invite you to go check out the blog post that complements this episode where we will be diving deeper into this, and hopefully it will answer any other questions you may have.
See you next time!
Click HERE to read the blog post accompanying this episode:
3 ways to use content pillars for social media to best benefit you, your business & your marketing
About your host, Jade Francesca
Jade Francesca, Aligned Marketing Strategist, is the Founder of Strategize with Creativity. She helps heart-centered entrepreneurs market their business from a place of authenticity, integrity and alignment. Jade’s mission is to guide her audience towards falling back in love with their business by learning how to attract the right audience and sell with passion.
How to connect with Jade: