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The Content Marketing Pyramid: Create More With Less

cco magazine-pyramid imageThese days, content marketing teams are expected to create content in all shapes and sizes. Following the advice of content marketing sages, we’re posting tweets every few hours, blogging every day, podcasting every week, publishing an eBook every month… and the list goes on. Trying to keep up with the seemingly insatiable demand, content teams often feel overwhelmed and stretched too thin. Even worse, all this frenetic activity often lacks an underlying strategy or focus.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Back in 2010, I proposed the Content Marketing Pyramid — a strategy that allows you to get more out the door with the same effort. It’s done by combining infrequent, time-intensive content with low-effort, recurring content.

Here’s how it works 

The foundation of the pyramid consists of curated content, social media tweets and off-site blog comments. These snackable pieces of content are spontaneous, frequent, and low-effort as compared to other content forms. Such content is not planned on an editorial calendar, as it’s often spawned in reaction to a third-party blog post, tweet, or comment. While low in effort, it makes up the largest part of your content marketing program.

The middle of the pyramid is forged by consolidating content from the foundation. For example, a series of insightful blog comments and commentary on curated articles can serve as the basis for a short-form blog post on a specific topic. Content in the pyramid does not have to be relegated to owned properties; it can extend to off-site, earned media as well — such as contributed articles on other publications in your ecosystem.

Moving a step higher in the pyramid, several short-form blog posts can be consolidated into eBooks and webinars. Finally, at the pinnacle of the pyramid, for the ambitious, you may choose to produce a print book by aggregating a series of eBooks, speaking notes from webinars, or long-form blog posts.

Conversely, you may start your pyramid at the top with a heavy-duty piece, such as a cornerstone research study, which can then serve as fodder for eBooks, white papers, webinars, and blog posts in the middle of the pyramid and, ultimately, tweets at the bottom. 


Building your pyramid

Building a content marketing pyramid does require some heavy lifting up front. Here are a few key pieces to put in place: 

  • Have an owner: Though many people may be involved in the process, it’s crucial to make a single individual responsible for the timely implementation of the pyramid. “Having a content marketing lead — someone who oversees all the pieces of a strategy, development, and management of content — is paramount,” says Christine Elliott, Associate Director at Crowe Horwath. “Without such an orchestrator, a content marketing initiative could collapse, or even worse, never get off the ground.” Curata research shows that only 43 percent of companies have a content marketing executive. 
  • Plan ahead, but not too much: Your content pyramid is a strategic tool and requires planning to gather sufficient resources to sustain a campaign or theme. “Strategic editorial topics need to be very broad and planned out on a yearly or monthly basis,” says Pam Didner, Global Integrated Marketing Strategist at Intel. At the same time, you should allow for agility and flexibility when it comes to tactical execution. She advises, “For tactical planning, you should review and plan out your calendar on a weekly or monthly basis.” 
  • Gate content selectively: To muster support for a pyramid strategy, you may need to support lead-generation efforts by gating premium content with landing pages. “Gate based on value,” recommends Jason Miller, Senior Manager of Content Marketing at LinkedIn. As a rule of thumb, the higher in the pyramid, the more you should consider gating since the content is of higher value. He also suggests, “Leave smaller derivative content ungated to drive consumption. Have those content pieces link back to your high-value content through calls-to-action.” 

Why the pyramid is so effective

The content marketing pyramid is effective because it inherently incorporates several content marketing best practices such as:

  • Repetition: It’s a well-known rule that a marketing campaign is most effective when a buyer sees the same marketing message in several places at different times. The content marketing pyramid abides by this rule by reinforcing the same message through multiple content formats.
  • Consumability: Some may prefer to sit through an interactive webinar, while others may prefer the leisurely feel of a print book. The pyramid model ensures you offer the same marketing message in multiple shapes and sizes that cater to all audiences — regardless of content consumption preferences.
  • Content saturation: The most effective content marketing campaigns extend far beyond owned properties by distributing and promoting content to earned and paid media channels. Using social media, sponsored content and contributed postings, your content broadly reaches multiple audiences across multiple channels without you having to reinvent your core message for each respective audience.

Repurposing content is nothing new. But rather than doing it haphazardly and sporadically, use a pyramid-based approach to make your content marketing operation efficient, effective and sustainable for the long term. 

This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Chief Content Officer. Sign up to receive your free subscription to our bi-monthly magazine. 

Editor’s note: Curata is a Content Marketing Institute benefactor, which is a paid supporter of our website and content creation activities.