Case Studies: Tying Pillar Content to Other Content
case studies: pillar content

Case Studies: Tying Pillar Content to Other Content

Tying your main, pillar content to the rest of your content is one of the best ways to simplify your content marketing and content creation. It’s about repeating your message in different ways and on different platforms and it’s not as difficult as it may seem.

This week on the podcast, I’m sharing how my team and I do this for two of our clients: one has a podcast and the other has a blog.

But it all starts with knowing your goals and what your audience needs and wants. Without this important information, you won’t be able to create content in a way that makes sense or that leads your audience to your content or your paid offers.

Listen in to this dual case study of two of our clients and learn how you can make your own content creation just a little bit less overwhelming.

Mentioned in This Episode

Transcription

Welcome to episode 158 of The Content Experiment Podcast, a podcast that supports the idea that content and marketing are ever-moving targets in any business and it’s okay if you don’t feel like you’re doing it ALL right, ALL of the time. You have permission to experiment with little tweaks and changes in your content to find what works for you, what increases value for your audience and what grows your business. And most importantly, what feels good for you

I’m Abby Herman, content strategist and consultant for online business owners who are ready to make a bigger impact online and CEO and creative director of The Content Experiment, a content marketing agency that offers full service content marketing and podcast management.

I firmly believe that success isn’t about what big marketing brands and so-called gurus think is the right thing; it’s about you and your business. Your lifestyle and, frankly, your values and belief systems.

You get to do business in a way that works for you.

I’ve heard from a lot of business owners that they feel like their content has no flow. Their podcast or blog is about ONE topic and what they’re posting on social media is about something else entirely. And then they struggle with creating an opt-in that aligns with their content…so much so that it feels really random to share it, and so they don’t.

Not having a flow or strategy makes content creation so much more difficult. If this is you, you’re probably sitting in front of a blank computer screen, watching the cursor blink. What a waste, right? And when you do get the motivation to get something published, it’s not aligned with your pillar content so it feels off or weird…for yourself and your audience.

So WHY would you want to have content that all aligns–from your pillar content to your emails to your social media posts? Because…

  • It will be easier to create the content
  • Your audience will see a connection and hear the message multiple times in different ways
  • You’ll be able to talk about the same thing in different ways and potentially in different formats
  • And all of this will lead to more effective content, content that feels better and converts better

Today on the podcast I’m going to share how I work with clients’ content to align all the ideas and ensure that their social media content, emails, and pillar content (like their podcast or the blogs) all work together and complement each other. The whole process makes it easier for my team and me to create content for clients…and it will work for you too!

We’re going to do this kind of case study style, where I walk through exactly how I work with two particular clients, one who has a podcast and one who has a blog. My goal is two-fold: One, that you see how simple it can be to streamline your content and have it all complement each other, and two, that you can see that it IS possible to outsource a good chunk of your content development and implementation. If you’re SO DONE with doing it all yourself, you’ll get to see how The Content Experiment team can help.

Let’s dive into it.

Before you get started with any content development or strategy, you need to…

Know your goals – You have to know what you want to accomplish with your content if before you start planning it so you know what your message is going to be.

  • what do you want to drive traffic to? Do you have an upcoming launch? Is there an area of your business that you want to spotlight? Are there timely topics coming up in your industry that you want to address?
  • Do you want a specific piece of content to help you sell something?

Know what your audience needs and wants – Chances are that your audience thinks they need one thing but you know they need something else. Using your content, give them a win on what they think they need and also deliver what you know they need. This should align with your goals, with what you’re trying to drive traffic to.

Not sure what your audience needs and wants? I recommend you ask them! There’s no ideal client avatar exercise out there that is more powerful than simply asking your audience what they need and want from you. It just doesn’t exist. So I recommend surveying your audience from time to time to see what it is they need. 

I have a free resource to help you with this, the Ask Your Audience challenge. Go to thecontentexperiment.com/ask to get free access now!

You’re going to publish this content as pillar content. What is pillar content?

  • Pillar content, as I’m going to discuss it, is content that you own and that’s designed to educate and inform your audience
  • When I say that you “own” the content, that means that it’s NOT social media content. You don’t know what you publish on social media; Mark Zuckerberg does, or the social media platform.
  • Content you own is your blog, your podcast, and your YouTube videos.
  • You pay for your website hosting so you own that. You pay for a podcast host, so even though it’s being published on multiple podcast players, you own what you upload to your host. And then there’s YouTube. You’re creating videos that you upload to YouTube. YouTube isn’t a social media platform; it’s a search engine. So while you may have limited control over how it’s published, it’s still a form of pillar content in my eyes and for the purposes of this discussion.

The next step in aligning your other content with your pillar content is to know what topics you’ll use in your pillar content.

In episodes 63 and 138, I talk about zones of genius. These are the big ideas that you can talk about over and over again without ever running out of things to say. They’re related to both your goals and what your audience needs and wants.

From those zones of genius come the more detailed topics that your content is about. For example, one of my zones of genius is content strategy. I could talk about it forever. This podcast episode is about aligning your other content (like your emails and social media content) with your pillar content. It’s a much smaller, narrower topic under the content strategy umbrella.

I’ll let you listen to episodes 63 and 138 for more on zones of genius. And use that audience survey that you created at thecontentexperiment.com/ask to help you build out your topics list.

Now that you know what you’re going to create content about, map it out in a way that helps you to lead people to the goal you established at the beginning. What does your audience need to know or be able to do to make a good purchasing decision? That’s what your pillar content is going to be about.

And then…it’s time to map out what your social media content and your emails will look like.

Ask yourself: what’s a different way to talk about that topic, what else does my audience need to know, how can I expand on the conversation, how can I get my audience involved, what’s a personal story I can tell about the topic

That’s where you’re going to get all your other topic ideas from

I’m going to give you two real examples of how we do this with clients, one example is a client with a podcast and the other is a client with a blog.

The first is Maureen O’Shaughnessy, an educational consultant, host of the Education Evolution podcast, and founder of LEADPrep Academy, an innovative school in the Seattle area.

Maureen’s podcast is designed to open the conversation around creating educational change, which she accomplishes by interviewing guests about things like learning abroad, why we need to focus on our neurodiverse children, how to be an educational leader, creating educational equity no matter what type of school you’re in–or where it’s at, how to ensure young adults are ready for the real world, why culture matters, how to teach empathy, and so much more.

You can imagine that we have no shortage of content ideas. But it was important to us to use each week’s podcast topic as a springboard for diving deeper into the topic ideas.

Like I’ve mentioned on previous episodes, hosting an interview-based podcast makes it a little difficult to really theme out your topic ideas. It’s do-able, but you’re at the mercy of your guests and when they schedule their episodes. If you’re going to theme out a podcast, you have to plan months and months in advance and likely batch out your interviews carefully. (In an ideal world, we’d spend a month or two talking about equity, and another month or two about building educational leaders and so on. But Maureen already has a full time role as director of her school, so we don’t have that luxury. And that’s okay! I’ll talk in a bit about how we’ve modified this idea.)

Maureen has been moderately active on all social media platforms, something that’s been possible because we’ve worked together for almost two years. My team and I create the social media content, which she quickly reviews before we post. Being active on all the platforms is fine, but we lacked a real focus. A few months ago, we agreed that a focus on LinkedIn was key to Maureen’s success. That’s where her audience is spending time. Ideally, Maureen reaches educational leaders, corporate executives, and legislative decision makers–the people who are perfect for her consulting packages.
The goal is for every social media post to somehow point to the podcast episode, whether the post comes out before the episode or after. We theme the topics for the week around what Maureen and her guest are talking about that week. And the fact that we can batch create the social media content (and her email for the week) saves us so much time and frustration. We don’t have to think about what the social media posts will be about–they’re all right there in the episode.

The week the episode you’re listening to right now comes out, Maureen actually has a trio of guests on her own podcast. The guests are all part of the organization, Empower the Learner, which creates programs and support systems for families whose children are struggling in school–whether academically or emotionally.

Of course we have social media posts to announce the episode. That’s important. But we also want social media to be SOCIAL. We want to make sure that people are thinking about the topic–how to support children who are struggling–and hopefully engage them in conversations.

The Education Evolution podcast releases on Tuesdays. Here’s what Maureen’s other content looks like:

  • On Sundays, we publish an article on LinkedIn. Depending on the week or Maureen’s workload, sometimes that article talks about the topic for the coming week’s episode. Other times it dives in deeper to the previous week’s episode.
  • On Mondays, we post a graphic quote that relates to the podcast topic. For example, this week uses the quote “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” – Kofi Annan. Then the caption circles back to the podcast topic. For this quote, the caption mentions that we have to make sure we’re giving our children the tools and support they need so their education is equitable. And we mention that tomorrow’s podcast episode will dive into this further so be sure to tune in. So even though the episode hasn’t gone live yet, we’re still teasing it. The goal here is to spark a reaction from readers and encourage them to share their thoughts in the comments.
  • On Tuesdays, we promote the podcast.
  • On Wednesdays, Maureen does a LinkedIn Live with the podcast guest, when at all possible. Sometimes there are scheduling conflicts and we want to make sure that the lives are at the same time every week. When that happens, she finds another guest who can talk about a similar topic. For example, one week she had a podcast talk about masterminds for teachers. Her guest couldn’t make Maureen’s regular time work, so she asked me to fill in–as a former teacher and someone who has been in multiple masterminds, I was a really great fit.
  • On Thursdays, we’ll kind of mix it up. Sometimes we’ll post an audiogram, pulling a good quote out of the episode and creating a caption around it. Other times we’ll pull a resource that someone mentioned on the episode or even re-share a related article that’s on the Education Evolution (or guest’s) website.
  • On Fridays, we post a poll related to the episode topic. For this week, the poll question will ask about the most urgent problem we need to solve in education. The answer choices are all valid answers and we want respondents to choose one…and the goal is to get them to talk more about their choice in the comments.

Now this is just what we share on LinkedIn. There’s also the other platforms to think about, and Maureen has another business, Micro-School Coalition, that we create limited posts for. 

Sometimes the content on the other platforms is the same as what we post to Maureen’s LinkedIn profile, but we change up the captions to fit the other platforms. That is key. And sometimes we create completely original posts for the other platforms, also tying in the podcast topics.

For this week, we’re posting a link to an Empower the Learner article on Facebook, since they’re the feature of the podcast. And on Instagram, we pulled a quote from the Empower the Learner website and riffed on it a bit.

I know this sounds like a lot, but honestly it’s incredibly easy to create this content when you’re batching it with the show notes (which my team and I do for Maureen too).

I haven’t talked about the email yet, which is an incredibly important part of the process.

A regular nurturing email is essential to your success. Your audience wants to hear from you, and even if they don’t always open your emails, seeing your name in their inbox will spark a memory for them.

Your email is designed to tell a story, to pique the interest of your subscribers so they’ll go listen to your podcast episode. It can be something a little personal too, especially if you have a 1:1 service offering.

For this week’s email for Maureen, we pulled some thoughts that Maureen mentioned in the episode and expanded on it a bit. The idea was around the tools and resources that we have as adults–Siri, calculators, Google–but that generally aren’t allowed in classrooms. Maureen talked about this in the episode and we ran with it.

Other times, we’ve included personal stories of Maureen’s and even timely news stories. The longer we work with clients, the easier it is for us to do something like that.

In the end, we’re regularly able to tie all the content together, from the podcast to the social media posts to the email. It all naturally flows, making the message more powerful and memorable for Maureen’s following and easier for the content creator (my team) to create. It’s truly a win-win-win for everyone.

Something that’s important to note here: This process isn’t perfect. As I mentioned before, sometimes a LinkedIn Live guest doesn’t work out, sometimes we don’t have a personal connection or story for the email, and sometimes something comes up in the news that throws off our carefully curated social media posts. And that’s okay! Because we plan ahead, it’s really easy to roll with changes without feeling like we’re playing catch-up.

Before I move on to the next client example, I want to share with you that we can help you with this too–either by taking on the role of content marketing team for you and creating both the strategy and the content so you can get back to doing what you love (which probably isn’t worrying about the logistics of your content)–or by creating the strategy and ideas for you and letting you take it from there.

Either way, you can book a quick chat with me to discuss next steps at thecontentexperiment.com/chat. You can also find out more about what’s involved and included in a VIP intensive with me, where I create the strategy for you and then you take it from there. Go to thecontentexperiment.com/vip for the pricing sheet and to book your session. 

Okay, moving on from a long-time podcast client to a long-time blogging client. Shannon Simmons is owner of Fit For Profit, a Profit First bookkeeping company that works with health and wellness business owners.

As a bookkeeping company, Fit For Profit’s content is a bit cyclical. There are certain topics that work well at specific times of the year. We have quarterly distributions to think about, summer slow-downs (when people think they don’t have time for health and wellness because they’re busy trying to take time off), January rushes (when everyone is signing up for the gym and therapy to make this year a better year), and taxes. And there’s a host of other topics that aren’t quite as time-sensitive.

When we work on Fit For Profit’s content, we consider the timing of the content first. For example, we’re in December 2021 right now and this month’s content is all about preparing for the end of the year–raising prices for next year, how to increase profits, reducing your tax bill the right way. So we’re able to essentially theme our months most of the time. (And sometimes we don’t–it just depends on the month.) But we DO always theme our weeks, just like we do with the Education Evolution podcast.

The flow of work is a bit different for blogging clients than it is for podcast clients, since our team is creating 100% of the content with blogs. And with podcasts, obviously we can’t record for our clients. We create our end of the content based on what’s in the podcast episode.

Each month I meet with Shannon Simmons to talk about upcoming blog topics. Prior to the call, I’ve looked at her Google Analytics to see what’s resonating with people right now, and I’ve looked inside her private Facebook group to see what questions anyone has asked. I’ll usually send Shannon a list of potential blog topics ahead of our call so she can think on them before we meet.

During our call, we review the topics and we choose which ones she’ll “write” (which means my team will write) and which one she’ll have Eric, one of her team members who is a tax pro, will write. And then we dive in!

Now we’ve been working with Fit For Profit for over a year now and I’ve been using Profit First in my own business for several years. I feel like my team and I have a really good handle on the system, but I also know that not every Profit First Certified Professional is created equal. Everyone has their own personalities and their own ways of working the system–and even breaking the rules sometimes.

So during our call I gather all the information my team and I need to create the content…the blog posts for the month, the social media posts, and the emails.

Let’s talk about how we align all the content for the blogs, which we publish on Tuesdays, using this week’s blog post as an example. 

This week’s blog post, is about raising prices and why it doesn’t guarantee profitability for wellness businesses. The social media content that we post to promote the blog, which we post on Facebook and Instagram as well as the Profit First for Wellness Business Owners Facebook group, usually pulls out a pain point from the blog–in this case the realization that I raised my prices…why haven’t my profits increased. That’s the FB post for this week. For Instagram, we gave a possible scenario when it comes to raising prices. And in the Facebook group, we assume that members have more knowledge about Profit First and usually try to wrap in some of the language and vocabulary around the system.

One of the goals for Fit For Profit is to get people on their email list. They have some pretty cool funnels and sequences set up to lead people into a call with Shannon’s team. So when we talk about Profit First (which is often…um, probably every week), we like to use social media to promote both the Facebook group and a free Profit First Overview downloadable. We don’t do this every week, but we do do it regularly…and we try to tie the caption to whatever the blog topic is. Because, again, the more people hear/see/read the message, the more likely it is to stick.

This week, however, we curated content from other creators. Audiences like to know that you pay attention to other people’s content. I mean, who doesn’t want to work with a lifelong learner? Again, the blog topic is about raising prices so we reshared an article of ours about a client’s success and found another article from Inc Magazine on how to increase profitability. Both of these will publish on Facebook.

For Instagram, we took a different approach. (Sharing other people’s links on Instagram is possible with Linktree or a dedicated Instagram landing page, but it can be a pain to keep track of all the buttons…and disable them once they get stale. We used to do this a lot but we’re taking a simpler approach these days.) One of our Instagram posts leads directly back to the blog post–we just shared the information and idea in a different way, spotlighting the difference between profit and profitability (which aren’t really the same thing, by the way). In our second Instagram post for the week, we’re showcasing one way to make raising prices feel a little better for everyone–by adding more value to your service.

And then we come to the weekly Fit For Profit email. Like any email, the goal is to land in your subscribers’ inboxes and pique their interest enough that they click on the link to the blog.

Like I mentioned in episode 156, you don’t want to stuff your emails with a ton of links. That just leads to decision fatigue and waters down your message. 

Remember, the topic of the blog for this week is all about raising rates and increasing profits. So the email hits on the fear side of raising rates. It’s scary to raise rates…what if clients decide they don’t want to pay the higher rates? What if you don’t raise rates and your own tools and services increase (meaning your profit is going to be lower)?

We focused on that and included a link to the blog. One link.

Laid out plans don’t have to happen exactly as they’re laid out. With something like Profit First bookkeeping, there’s not a lot that will throw off the plans. We’re not coordinating with a guest’s schedule, and there aren’t big accounting and bookkeeping emergencies generally. But if something were to come up and we needed to push content or move it around, it’s really easy to do that because of how we plan and create.

And again, you don’t have to do all this alone. My team and I can completely take over the development and management of your content OR we can create your strategy and plan for you and let you take it from there. You have a business to run and clients to work with. Let go of some of that day to day so you can grow your business. 

Either way, you can book a quick chat with me to discuss next steps at thecontentexperiment.com/chat. You can also find out more about what’s involved and included in a VIP intensive with me, where I create the strategy for you and then you take it from there. Go to thecontentexperiment.com/vip for the pricing sheet and to book your session.

If you found value in what you learned here today, be sure to share it on social media. Take a screenshot of the episode on your phone and share it over on Instagram stories. Tag me at thecontentexperiment. The more you share, the more we can get the podcast into the hands of more business owners, just like you, who need to hear the message that they are not alone.

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