How strategic pillars help create a winning content strategy

In today's competitive content marketing landscape it's easy to forget that the most effective content for business outcomes is driven by business goals.

The tactics of how to get there may include more engagement-driving mechanics, but time and time again I have seen that the most successful content strategies are driven by strategic pillars.

What are strategic pillars?

Strategic pillars are the backbone of your content strategy; top level priorities driven by the core business strategy and objectives your business wants to achieve. They are not the goal, but the method of achieving the goal. The 'how we get there;' the execution of the strategy. They are an aim captured in an actionable format that should lead not only your marketing function, but be translated across the whole business. Keeping them to around 3-5 key pillars will help ensure they are concise and achievable.

Pinterest has four strategic priorities; 1) deliver more inspiring content, 2) deepen the Pinner experience, 3) make Pinterest more shoppable, and 4) help advertisers succeed. Therefore, Pinterest's content strategy and planning needs to align with these as desired outcomes from everything published and the brand experience as a whole.

Why are they important?

In two words; efficiency and profit. Unplanned content which doesn't align with business goals is unlikely to be effective at helping to meet those goals. What I call 'content for content's sake,' isn't relevant, and could actually be counter-productive and work against the brand in terms of algorithms if it is not aligned with goals and target audiences. Best use of resources, especially when they are limited, also supports the strategic pillars model.

How does this help improve my content and results?

Content should meet one of your strategic pillars to be included in your planning. Content which isn't aligned to your strategic pillars depends on what the pillars are, but could include content such as;

  • Copycat content (taking ideas from competitors)
  • Content aimed purely at improving vanity metrics
  • Content with personal objectives or interest (e.g. from another staff member)
  • Any content that doesn't put your customers at the centre of it

Any content which isn't aligned with one of your strategic pillars shouldn't be part of your content marketing.

How do strategic pillars fit into content planning process?

Ideally you'll start off with your overall business objectives which will filter down to 3-5 key strategic pillars or priorities to be used within your marketing. Quite often we find that a company's strategy isn't quite aligned with customer demands or how prospects are engaging with the brand, which is where a good digital marketing audit, customer service audit or messaging / communications audit comes in and will often translate perfectly into your strategic pillars.

Your finalised 3-5 strategic pillars set the direction for your content strategy and planning, together with your digital marketing strategy, audience profiling and keyword research. Your strategic pillars will then allow you to create your content pillars, which will feed into your content calendar, where each area of content ties into each overarching pillar, audience and call to action. This, together with high quality content production and implementation, will help ensure your content marketing stands the best chance at meeting your business objectives.

How to create your strategic pillars

If you're working with us, this is something we can help you with, but otherwise, as above you'll begin with your business objectives, findings from any audits or other areas and translate to your strategic pillars.

So, in the Pinterest example;

Strategic priorities

  1. Deliver more inspiring content
  2. Deepen the Pinner experience
  3. Make Pinterest more shoppable
  4. Help advertisers succeed

the business goals may have been something like:

  • Achieving £ profit within 5 years
  • Become the number one social media advertising channel for B2C within 3 years

and the insights (internally or externally) may have included:

  • Customer insights that indicate that some improvement is needed in the user experience side
  • Analysis that reveals that customers engage better with competitor social media channels such as Instagram which now provides a richer content experience through Stories and Reels, and which is also shoppable
  • Some consumers feel that competitor social media channels are now where they go to first for inspiration
  • Advertisers are looking for clearer ROI and to improve effectiveness
  • Conversions from Pinterest are down in comparison to competitors

The strategic pillars are created when considering the business goals, findings from any audits and research and planning how to get from A to B. Each strategic goal may overlap and address more than one area. For example, 'Helping advertisers succeed' helps address both business goals as well as some of the insights found such as advertiser feedback and conversions being down.

These examples are entirely made up, but provide an idea how to formulate your strategic priorities based on your current business overview.

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Bonus: Content planning for business goals

The guide below helps summarise the process from business goals to production of an effective content plan more likely to meet your objectives.

Content planning for business goals  - process summary | Realise Marketing