Exact Content Pillar Framework: Step-by-step with real life examples - Grace De Bruin The Agency - Business and Marketing Strategy

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Access my exclusive, actionable framework to create the best content pillars that will attract, nurture and convert on repeat.

Content pillars. No. They’re not a buzzword. And no. I’m not here to recycle some generic framework that still leaves you scratching your head. 

Content pillars are a crucial part of your content strategy that cannot be half-assed. As a revolutionary content and business strategist, I know first hand the potential nailing your content marketing strategy has to transform your business. And it all starts with a strong strategy and even stronger foundation – the pillars. 

Today I’m dropping my EXACT, in-detail, step-by-step framework I follow to create those powerful content pillars for myself. The same framework I use with my 6 and 7 figure clients to take their socials from directionless to in-demand. My framework is totally unlike ANY other that I’ve seen, which is because I’ve literally immersed myself in the process, ripped apart every ounce of knowledge and expertise I have, and then pieced it all together in a revolutionary way – just for you! 

And once you’re done reading? You’ll be certain you can replicate that process in your own business. You’ll be completely, undeniably, powerfully equipped to create your own content pillars and implement them into your inbound content marketing strategy! And I promise you’ll know this is the only resource you’ll ever need to nail your pillar strategy. 

Whether you’re a VA, SMM, OBM or Content Marketer, this is YOUR go-to. Save it. Bookmark it. Print it. It’s yours to keep and return to for good. 

But first, let’s get back to basics. 

What is a content pillar?

Let’s cut through the confusion because it seems every content marketer has a different definition for content pillars. Cornerstone content, flagship content, pillar content oh my! So many types, so which should type should you be following? Well, real talk? They’re all virtually the same. 

In this piece, I’m talking about content pillars as themes used to organise your content to strategically achieve your goals while saving you time. And given my approach is one that heavily focuses on content repurposing, these pillars are used to guide content that can be infinitely reinvented and reused across a variety of mediums and platforms. 

Ultimately, these content pillars are a means of structuring your content marketing in a way that strategically aligns and achieves your brand goals, but gives you evergreen content ideas you can continue to bring to life. It’s a way to cut down on the brainstorming and eliminate the ‘content block’ so you’ll always know what you’re posting, where and why.

They can be educational, personal, entertaining, interactive, united by a strong tone of voice, overarching message and call to action. But ultimately, it all begins with understanding your content goals and what your audience wants to see

So why do you need content pillars? 

Why you should use content pillars in your strategy

Business before and after content pillars is drastically different. Because before? It lacks direction.  Think: posting about random topics that come to mind, or regurgitating your expertise. It fills your feed, but it’s sporadic and lacks intention. This misguided content creation is completely transparent to your audience, and continuing down this path means you could potentially lose out on many leads. 

And after? It’s intention-infused. Synergy. Strategy. Lead-generation for days! A clear, organised, structured approach: one with undeniable goal and audience-alignment. A powerful mixture of content themes that keeps your audience on their toes and hovering over the ‘book now’ button. 

And another benefit? As a small business owner, you have a million and one thoughts and questions racing through your mind. And content pillars help to eliminate one of the biggest: “What do I post today?”. Content pillars save energy wasted creating content no one wants to see, time wasted thinking of sub-par content to create, and potential wasted leaving your audience in the lurch with no content at all. 

Benefits of content pillars

  • Support a strong content marketing system in your business from the beginning
  • Guide your strategy
  • Align content with business goals
  • Satisfy and engage your audience with content they want to see
  • Make your content easier to create
  • Boost your SEO strategy and ranking
  • Ensure you’re providing value while connecting and engaging your audience
  • Keep you consistent, scheduled and organised

So now you’re clear on why you need content pillars, here’s how to bring them to life…

My EXACT step-by-step content pillar framework with three real life examples:

I told you I’d be dropping my foolproof formula for content pillar creation, and right now, I’m delivering. Oh, and I also said I’d give you real-life examples, and I’m doing just that. As you work through this framework, you’ll see three real-life examples of how you can apply the content pillar to your business as a:

  • Marketing strategist
  • Business coach for course creators, and 
  • A virtual assistant

Of course, if you’re not one of the above and would still like help to better understand how these content pillars apply to your unique business, you can apply to work with me! Click here to do just that.

1 – The CORE Pillar

The core content pillar centers on your primary area of expertise. The topic you want to be most known for in your industry, to establish expert-status and become the voice of authority in your industry. It is the chance to showcase all you do and all you know to build trust and a strong reputation. 

The Content Marketing Strategist: Content marketing, naturally!

The Business Coach: This could be where you help your clients truly thrive in. Perhaps it’s leadership, sales or funnels for course creators. 

The Virtual Assistant: Pick one of your key, in-demand services. Maybe it’s Pinterest, automation, social media management. Or it’s the specific industry you do it for. Again, pick your speciality. 

Your turn!

Ask yourself what you want to be known for and why. This is your chance to establish a name for yourself, so dig deep and find yourself first. 

  • What work do I absolutely love to do? 
  • What can I do better than anyone else? 
  • How can I find a niche to position myself in, then showcase and dominate?

Establishing a strong core pillar is crucial as you’ll continue to draw on this across all content pillars. 

Now we get into the big stuff –  but potentially not in the way you’re thinking. Other blogs will say to use your core pillar to ideate topics in a similar vein, but that’s not always the best approach. Instead, these pillars and content themes should be whatever is most strategically aligned to your audience, your goals and key marketing psychology practise. Let me show you how. 

2 – The BELIEF Pillar

The Belief Pillar centers on making your audience care! What is the buy-in, the switch-flick, the ‘ah-ha’ moment you need from your audience? What must they absolutely believe in their soul to connect and buy into you? What do they need to know to be true before even considering working with you? 

Without the Belief Pillar, your messaging falls on deaf ears. You need your audience to understand why what you do feeds into their bigger picture, and present yourself as the bridge between where they are now, and where they want to be. They need to believe that what you do is important to their success and have mastered the mindset associated with this. This pillar plants the seed for what your audience needs to think and feel to begin converting.  

The Marketing Strategist: This audience needs to know thatinbound content marketing is the most effective way to market their business. It’s all about building authority. This is because the more authority they build, the stronger they can position themselves, and the more prolific they can become. You need them to know this, become advocates for this and want to position themselves like this. Then view your offering as the solution to achieving this. 

The Business Coach: This could be facilitating openness to bringing a coach into their life, breaking down misconceptions, or alerting them to the signs they’re ready to begin coaching. 

The Virtual Assistant: This would strongly align with shifting your audience’s mindset from solopreneur to CEO, instilling a steadfast belief that growing their team with a VA is the secret to untapped earning potential. Challenging stigmas about what VA’s do, their quality of work and ability to use initiative is the perfect place to start. 

Your turn!

Consider what mindset or philosophy your audience must wholeheartedly adopt to be receptive to your content, your value and your services. Think:

  • What objections, misconceptions and myths commonly plague my industry?
  • How can I create content that challenges these? 
  • What do I need my audience to think and feel before they can be open to working with me and absorbing my content?

3 – The PRIOR Pillar

The Belief Pillar is all about what your audience must think and feel before working with you, which means the Prior Pillar centers on what they must do before they convert. As the tangible next step, this content theme is all about getting clear on what your audience must have to be ready to work with you – a prerequisite. This includes the systems, structures and income in place to qualify them to work with you. 

The Content Marketing Strategist: To work with a Content Marketing Strategist, the audience needs a marketable offering. A cause, product, service, even a personal brand. No matter what, they need to be clear on what they offer before we can work together, otherwise the marketing services would be redundant!  The Prior Pillar could therefore center on getting clear on their offering and building out a product suite. 

The Business Coach: As a coach for course creators, obviously, your audience will need a course or at least, clarity on what they want to create. This is where you step in with Prior Pillar content that supports their ideation. You could draw on your experience working with clients who’ve already launched and work backwards, recalling what stage they were at before you began working together. Draw on content that speaks to these pain points, challenges, stages and needs at that stage of their journey to prepare them for their next step with you.

The Virtual Assistant: You’re likely targeting over-worked entrepreneurs who need more time and less on their plate. You could paint a picture of what their current situation looks like and why it’s inefficient. If you specialise in social media management, while your core pillar would likely relate to social tips, your Prior Pillar could be all about hiring a VA, how to know they’re ready, what systems they need before outsourcing and what to delegate first. 

Your turn!

Maybe you think you already know your Prior Pillar, but remember when you’re talking about the steps your audience need to take before working with you, it can be easy to fall into a rabbit hole of providing tips on topics you’re not as knowledgeable or passionate about. That’s why I want you to ask yourself the following three questions before you dive in:

  • Do I have expertise on the subject?
  • Is this something I truly want to be seen as an authority on?
  • Will creating this content truly benefit my business? 

Think back to the process I took myself through, and do the same. Consider the logical flow between your Prior Pillar and working with you. How can you prepare your audience and meet them at the step prior in their journey? Striking that balance here is crucial, particularly for the next step. 

4 – The NEXT-LEVEL Pillar

The next-level Pillar is all about the logical next step after your Core Pillar. This requires levelling with your audience and tapping into where they’ve been, where they are, and where they’re headed. The Advancement Pillar then helps you facilitate their journey, showing them the next steps planting the seed and helping them imagine the possibilities of continual growth with you by their side.

The Content Marketing Strategist: For this strategist, the next-level pillar could be all about the natural progression for business owners wanting to scale their business through advanced marketing. Broadly, this extends to optimisation, funnels, paid ads, advanced analytics, and other structures needed to achieve those next-level goals. This pillar helps embed that long-term vision into your audience’s minds, showing them that once they’ve worked through all the marketing offerings, this is where they could be, and that you are the perfect person to continue their journey with. 

The Business Coach: For the business coach, it’s about the transformation they could experience. If they complete a Mastermind or 12-week program with you, what difference will they see, and where will they go next? What’s the next step, the end goal, what’s in store for their future? Show them the possibilities, and support them to reach them with content that aligns to this. 

The Virtual Assistant: As a VA you’re likely aiming to work with your clients on a retainer, so the Advancement Pillar could show you how you grow with them. As they expand, you’re right by their side, supporting new systems, automation and up levelling in their business. Ultimately, you need to showcase why signing a contract with you isn’t where it ends, and that you can lead them on unlimited journeys of advancement, continuation and growth in your area of expertise. 

Your turn!

Consider what stage your previous clients were at when they left you. How did they feel and what was their next step in their journey? How did you support them on their continual journey? Consider how your audience will feel when they reach this point. Ask yourself:

  • How can I prepare my audience for their next chapter?
  • What resources did previous clients need to help them continue their scaling?
  • How can I show the logic behind working with me, and where I fall into my audience’s bigger picture? 
  • How can I plant the seed of their future, and set myself as the guide that will lead them there? 

5 – The BTS Pillar

The Behind The Scenes Pillar is all about being human and vulnerable in business! Being relatable, honest and personable is the secret to generating warm leads and a booked out status. Why? Because humans like to work with humans. They also want to know what works, what doesn’t, and that you’re open enough to share the losses just as often as the wins. 

How did you perform last quarter? What are you launching next quarter? What’s going on in your business and team? This pillar may not be a substantial part of your content strategy, but it’s certainly an integral one! Be unafraid to embrace who you are, and showcase the messiness of entrepreneurship, as this is when people truly begin to invest in you. 

The Content Marketing Strategist: This could be as simple as sharing stories of your life, and how I balance family, health and business as the sole income earner. Jump on your stories, write blogs about it (like this one) and post about it to show your transparent and down to earth, that your human and when people work with you, they have your true, authentic self. 

The Business Coach: Share your wins! Maybe this could be a story filmed coming off a coaching call with a client or preparing for your next year in business. Show the experience your clients will have when they work with you. 

The Virtual Assistant: People are always curious about what it looks like to be working with a VA. Sharing a day in the life, your processes and routine can shed light on your audience’s potential experience with you, getting you in demand. Show your client’s who their contractor really is, as opposed to just a name that shows up on their screen. This also opens you up to answer questions or invite DM’s to chat more about your services, moving the needle in your business’s lead generation. 

Your turn!

I often preach the importance of focusing on the front end of your business, serving your clients and generating income, but take time to reflect on what the backend of your business looks like, which is just as important too. Consider:

  • What aspects of this would my audience want to see?
  • How do these processes shed light on what it’s like to work with me?
  • What elements of my day to day can I share to showcase more of me? 

 Ideas for this could be sharing seemingly everyday tasks for you that are fascinating for your audience, sharing how you overcame a personal challenge or a story of trial and error that ultimately saw you grow your business. 

Remember: Just because it’s common knowledge or the-done-thing for you, it doesn’t mean your audience knows about it too. 

6 – The COMPLIMENTARY Pillar

The Complimentary Pillar is optional, particularly if your pillars already span a diversity of topics. However, if your business is niched down and your pillars somewhat overlap, intertwining complimentary topics can help you further attract, engage and support your audience. For example, my previous e-commerce business had a very niche following. Two of our content pillars revolved around spirituality and plant-based living, which were key interests of our audience and in turn help not only to attract customers, but truly align with them too.

Your turn!

Consider what topics could elevate your existing suite of content pillars. Ask yourself:

  • What are your audience’s main interests outside your current realm of expertise? 
  • If your core pillar was a magazine, what other topics would your audience want to read?
  • Is there a particular topic you have a strong passion for outside your immediate area of expertise?

This could be health and wellness, spirituality or industry news. But however you decide to intertwine your complimentary pillar, ensure it aligns with your current offering, knowledge and business goals. 

The Final Step: EVALUATE!

Remember: Your content pillars are not set and forget

Agile. Dynamic. Embraced. This is how your pillars should be. 

As with anything in life and business, being flexible and agile is the key to your success. Your pillars will evolve as you and your business do. Keeping your pillars high level and broad will therefore help you focus and expand on particular ideas as necessary, whether it’s in the lead up to a launch, a sale, or a pivot. The best content marketing strategies are always in motion, constant optimisation and growth.

Where to next? 

Now you’ve got the strategy, it’s time to create. We’ll matrix your content pillars with topic starters to truly build out your content strategy and put these oh-so-good pillars to use.

Be the first to know by downloading my FREE content repurposing strategy, which will also send you an email every time a piping hot blog like this one drops!

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Exact Content Pillar Framework: Step-by-step with real life examples

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Get to know me

I have an applied business and digital marketing degree

Personality-type tests are my healthy addiction. I'm a fire sign, INFP and true Manifesting Generator.   

I was employed since age 12, supervisory roles since age 16 and managing entire businesses by age 18 

I have founded, run and sold a successful e-commerce business 

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