Content Marketing

The 5 Elements Every Piece of Content Must Have

Brad Smith
September 22, 2011

Creating content online involves much more than sitting down and typing.

There needs to be some thought and strategy behind it.

You’ll waste hours of work because without a strategy, there were no goals to fulfill and targets to hit.

Old media companies are very good at creating specific kinds of content. We need to watch and learn “how” and “why” they publish. It’s the same reasons why we create content.

But if it doesn’t have these 5 elements, then it’s worthless.

1. Thesis

The first element is your thesis. Every person should believe in specific themes of their business.

This content should be the backbone of your content strategy. It says who you are, and what you believe in.

Some have also referred to this as cornerstone or flagship content.

What makes you or your business unique, and what do you stand for?

Think about your purpose in business. What’s your unique selling proposition? Why do you think the world needs you?

Please also remember that your content can (and should) live in many different forms. You should repurpose your information from blog posts into webinars, podcasts or videos.

2. Educational

Educational or informational content is another major element of any content strategy.

These are like “How-To” posts and webinars designed to teach or instruct.

Think about your audience’s pain points and how you solve them. Write about the “what, how, and why” of your solutions.

My favorite metaphor is from software company 37signals.

They talk about how famous Chefs aren’t afraid to give away recipies. They have shows and create cookbooks where they talk openly about how they do something.

They’re not worried that someone’s going to steal their information and put them out of business. This openness builds trust with people, and creates a sense of reciprocity.

3. Involve Others

People and communities are an integral part of online marketing.

It’s important (and smart) that you reach out and connect with them. You should always look for ways to incorporate other people and give them some support or acknowledgement.

A simple way to start is by referencing others as good examples or highlighting something you’ve learned from them.

Interviews are another effective way to bring others into the conversation. Find interesting people in your industry that help solve your audience’s problems in a different way.

Finally, you should also incorporate User Generated Content (UGC). This can be in the form of guest posts, survey results, testimonials or case studies.

4. Nurture Leads

Once you have their attention, you need to develop trust.

There are a number of different things that go into this. For example, publishing regularly and consistently increases trust. It’s clear that you “show up” every day for work and can be counted on.

Even the professionalism and format of your website can build or erode trust.

But you should also use content to help bridge the gap. A good example is to get people to sign up for your email newsletter or subscribe to your blog. You can even offer an incentive or helpful guide to encourage sign-ups.

This gives you a permission-based asset and lets you communicate directly with them over time.

You can strengthen the bond and further the relationship from stranger to prospect.

5. Close

Finally, it’s time to close.

Once you’ve gotten their attention and created trust, it’s time to convince them that your solution is whay they need.

You need to (ethically) persuade them.

This is where copywriting comes in. Historically, copywriting was used primarily in advertising as a way to identify and establish rapport with an audience, then persuade them that you can help.

Today, copywriting is pervasive online. It’s an essential element of any content strategy. Examples include catchy Headlines and engaging body copy.

Your goal is to identify your audience, establish rapport, build trust and sell them your solutions.

Good copywriting isn’t just for a sales or landing page. You should have good copywriting on every page of your website and each blog post you publish.

If your logo and color scheme were removed, could people tell the difference between your business and competitors? Could they get a sense of who you are? Or does your copy read like every other stuffy, faceless corporation?

People want to connect and do business with other people. Use simple words that relate to your audience. Avoid jargon and cryptic corporate buzz words. They don’t inspire trust. And they don’t sell.