What are content themes — and how should you use them?
Simply put, a content theme is a content package. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s take it from the beginning.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, chances are that you might have noticed that I talk about centering your PR work around a basic core message. For instance, Red Bull’s core message is that they focus on action sports where people are sent flying through the air in some shape or form. That is their core message — and they are centering all their communications and marketing around it.
However, it’s important to structure your messaging one level beneath your core message as well. You should divide your core message into a number of content themes. This will allow you to cycle to various sub-topics related to your business — without losing focus1.
Then, what would an example of a content theme look like? A content theme could be pretty much anything — as long as they are coherent with the core message.
Here’s a fictitious example of a B2B IT company:
Core message: We make complex matters easy to understand.
Q1 content theme: We make people understand the impact of internet of things.
Q2 content theme: We make people understand the impact of automation.
Q3 content theme: We make people understand the impact of cloud computing.
Q4 content theme: We make people understand the impact of managed services.
Using content themes does come with several upsides:
Planning — Using content themes makes it easier to plan your messaging for the year.
Visibility — Search engines loves it when you produce and publish interconnected content.
Growth — You’re providing an array of useful and evergreen content on a niche topic.
Getting started, many brands expect it to be difficult to speak about “only one thing” at the time. Can a medium-sized IT company really speak about IT automation for a whole quarter? Most companies are used to running campaigns that are considerably shorter than four months. While posting a tweet is easy, you need to stick to your messaging to give your online community as a whole a chance to pick up on it.
How do you talk about “one thing” for a longer period of time? To come up with good ideas, it’s helpful to brainstorm. Based on your content theme, are there any suggestions on how to inspire the brand’s community? Is there something they must be convinced of? Is there an information gap that needs to bridged? is the community experiencing actual problems that needs to be supported? Would a free educational content series be appreciated? Or, would it even make sense to entertain the community?
Coming up with content ideas is actually a lot easier than most might think2. Once you get started as a team, the ideas will start to flow and you’ll soon find yourself in a situation where you have too many great ideas instead.
I’ve helped several clients to structure their content marketing into content themes — and I’ve been very proud of the results. The challenge with using content themes isn’t to come up with content theme ideas, but rather to be persistent and stay true to your chosen theme3.
- Some years ago now, I actually tested this myself.
For a period of four month or so, I only published blog posts about “blogger outreach”. I also gave a few seminars on the topic, I created some visuals, sent out a few emails, and I made sure I never published about anything else during this period. I’ve described this in My DIY content marketing experiment (that got me into trouble) and the result we’re staggering. The problem was that I became the “blogger outreach guy” — when I’m actually a strategist. Yeah, I should’ve picked the topic for my content theme more wisely. it was a valuable lesson for me, surely.
- In a manner of speaking, I’ve been blogging around a core message for nearly two decades — public relations is a powerful business tool. And I’ve stuck with one content theme for more than a decade now — digital first. It’s all about being creative and passionate about your chosen subject while making sure that it supports your business objectives at the same time.
- To learn more about the power of sticking to one message for a longer period of time, see The surround strategy.