Artwork for podcast Confessions of a Pink-Haired Marketer
To Craft Content Marketing that Works: Avoid Silly Fads … and Do this Instead
14th December 2015 • Confessions of a Pink-Haired Marketer • Sonia Simone
00:00:00 00:15:58

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Ever wonder why some people think content marketing is the greatest thing since sliced bananas, and others find they never get any real return on time and energy they’re putting in?

The difference tends to be a question of strategy. Just because it’s “content” (what does that even mean, anyway?) doesn’t make it “content marketing.”

In this 16-minute episode, I talk about the bedrock of a sound content marketing strategy: your cornerstone content. I cover:

  • The “cocktail party” technique for finding topics
  • The power question for virtually any kind of site or organization
  • The role personality plays in good cornerstone content
  • The kind of content that makes a site “sticky” and authoritative
  • Our January Cornerstone Content Challenge! (Free stuff to make you more awesome)

Listen to Confessions of a Pink-Haired Marketer below ...

The Show Notes

The Transcript

Sonia: Greetings, superfriends! My name is Sonia Simone and these are the Confessions of a Pink-Haired Marketer. For those who don’t know me, I’m a co-founder and the chief content officer for Rainmaker Digital.

I’m also a champion of running your business and your life according to your own rules. As long as you don’t lie and you don’t hurt people, this podcast is your official pink permission slip to run your business or your career exactly the way you think you should.

This time of year we tend to gravitate toward wrapping up any loose end projects, doing that final push for whatever our main projects are, and getting ready for the next year.

Today I’m going to get very tactical and talk about the one thing that will really make the difference between having a website that’s authoritative, that meets your content strategy goals, and that becomes an asset for the long term for your organization … versus content that’s fluffy, silly, faddish, and will tend to work only in the short term if it works at all.

The difference is what we and others have called cornerstone content. It’s what makes your site solid. It’s what makes you a real player.

Let’s talk about it.

The heavyweight at the cocktail party

Pamela Wilson recently wrote about this on Copyblogger, and she reminded us that actually, the cornerstone content on our site answers the kinds of questions people ask at cocktail parties.

  • How does [your business/topic] apply to me?
  • Why did you get into [your business/topic]? What motivates you?
  • How can I get started with [your business/topic]?
  • What do I need to know to be smart about [your business/topic]?
  • How can [your product or service] help me?
  • If I m just learning about [your field of expertise], what do I need to know first?

The first place to look for ideas for cornerstone topic are those newbie questions that people ask all the time. What kinds of questions are people asking when they start thinking about your type of organization?

For example:

  • In fitness, “How does strength training apply to people like me?”
  • For finance, “Why did you get into wealth management? What motivates you?”
  • For marketing, “How can I get started creating better marketing communication?”
  • For tech education, “What do I need to know to be a smart Python coder?”
  • For hobbies, “How can your site help me have more fun and make cooler things as a knitter?”

And the last one is the power question for almost every organization:

If I’m just learning about [what you do], what do I need to know first?

The power question for your content marketing

For example, “If I’m just learning about assisted living options for my dad, what do I need to know first?”

“If I’m just learning about programming Java for Minecraft, what do I need to know first?”

“If I’m just learning about bringing on a copywriter for my website, what do I need to know first?”

You’ll probably be able to craft a lot more content than you might think at first glance to answer this question.

Some topics are somewhat easier to get started with. If you’re a knitting site, you’ll want to teach people to cast on. There are a few options, but the beginning is pretty easy to spot.

But of course, no one wants to stop there, because it isn’t any fun. From that, you’ll naturally segue in to things like, “Knitting your first scarf,” or into any one of nearly infinite possibilities for interesting beginner projects.

Some topics have more points of entry. Content marketing is one of those that we could start all kinds of places. We could talk blogging, or email, or social media management, or SEO, or white papers, or video tutorials — etc. etc.

For a site like Copyblogger, we’ve worked steadily over the years to create cornerstones for each of those possible points of entry, and then each of those leads to a more advanced and cohesive set of strategies. That naturally leads to things like our email library, as well as more advanced posts on those topics.

Cornerstone doesn’t mean boring!

Sometimes people think that “cornerstone” means you’re competing with Wikipedia for “most dry and boring content award.”

What makes your cornerstone uniquely valuable is knowing what you’re talking about and being interesting. Your voice, your unique angle, your point of view, your personality (or your organization’s personality), perhaps the unique audience you serve.

That’s why we don’t just have one universally recognized set of cornerstone content for really any topic on the web. There are different options to suit different kinds of people. And of course, lots of people, once they find one solid cornerstone piece, will look for a lot more.

The greater volume of genuinely useful and interesting content you have on your site, the longer you can keep that person there, clicking through and bingeing on all your great material.

We have free stuff!

I do want to let you know that we have a free mini-course coming up for you on exactly how to do this.

We’re calling it the Cornerstone Content Challenge, and we’re going to walk you through exactly how to create cornerstone content pages that help your site’s authority with your audience and with search engines.

Maybe even more important, we’ll show you how to make sure your cornerstone content serves a valid business purpose and moves your organization toward its goals. It’s not enough to rank in search or earn that social media click if the visitor doesn’t move forward with your business.

The mini course includes:

  • A free email course that walks you through how to create your cornerstone content.
  • A private forum where you can ask questions about the content challenge, and share links to content you ve created.
  • An educational webinar about cornerstone content exclusively for content challenge participants.

This is a fun new project that Pamela Wilson and I are creating, and it kicks off in early January. You can find it on the Copyblogger blog, swing by for the link, or just come on over to and you’ll find it under the headline “A Practical Approach to Using Powerful Cornerstone Content on Your Site.”

Holiday schedule

Next week we’re going to run another encore session on Pink Haired Marketer — How Not to Get Sucker-Punched by Internet Facts.

The web is going crazy right now, maybe even a bit more than usual, with pseudo-facts and failures in critical thinking. Arm yourself! That episode airs December 21.

Then the entire network is taking the week between Christmas and New Year’s off. You may not realize that we have a small but insanely effective production team that keeps the podcast network running smoothly — and they are taking a very well-deserved week off.

I’ll be back the first Monday of the new year to talk about goals and vision, but if you want to do the complete cornerstone challenge, you’ll want to already be on the list when that post comes out.

Don’t forget to join the challenge!

The work of a cornerstone content creator is never done! At Copyblogger, we’re constantly strengthening what we have, as well as adding new cornerstone channels in to capture new kinds of searchers and learners.

We’ll show you exactly how we do it, and I would love to see your awesome work, as well as hang out with you in the private forum and on the exclusive webinar.

Swing by the Copyblogger blog to get signed up, or you can come by and I’ll have a link for you.

See you with a new episode in 2016!