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 following the Doctor Spin 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 also important to structure your messaging one level beneath the overall core message as well. For instance, during the course of a year, while focusing on your core message, you could decide to focus on, say, four content themes. Each content theme should still emphasize the core message, however, this allows you to cycle to various topics related to your business.

Using content themes comes with a few bonuses:

  • Message planning. Using content themes makes it easier to plan your messaging for the year.
  • Search visibility. Search engines loves it when you produce and publish interconnected content.
  • Accumulative growth. You’re providing an array of useful and evergreen content on a niche topic.

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.

I’ve since helped several clients to structure their content marketing into content themes — and I’ve been very proud of the results. The challenge is, of course, to stay true to your chosen content theme for the duration of the period; if you talk about several different content themes at once, the whole idea sort of diminishes1.

What, then, would an example of a content theme look like?

A content theme could be pretty much anything. 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 IT on our environment.
  • Q2 content theme: We make people understand the impact of automation and neural networks.
  • Q3 content theme: We make people understand the impact of cloud computing in the workplace.
  • Q4 content theme: We make people understand the impact of managed services.Line 2

In the beginning, many brands thinks that it’s difficult to speak about “only one thing” for a whole quarter. Can a medium-sized IT company really speak about IT and the environment for a whole quarter? Most companies are used to running campaigns that are considerably shorter than four months. And while this might seem counter-intuitive to some, driving messaging online is a slow process. 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.

To remedy the fear of not being able to come up with good ideas, it’s helpful to brainstorm. Starting from the premise of the central idea for the quarterly 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?

So, don’t be alarmed. Coming up with content ideas is a whole 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 and too little time to execute them all.

Photo by Brandable Box on Unsplash.

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  1. To learn more about the power of sticking to one message for a longer period of time, see The surround strategy.
  2. 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.