What are ‘content themes’ and why should you use this technique?

The other day, this question came from a reader:

How should I prioritize where to put my time and energy between all various opportunities and social channels in digital marketing? — Camilla, Sweden.

It’s sort of becoming my modus operandi to recommend a shift in perspective:

Instead of thinking about where exactly to put energy and resources, I suggest a focus on what your most important message is — and then focus everything you got on that single message.

Like this:

My DIY Content Experiment

A while back, I performed a little experiment:

For a few months, I focused solely on the topic blogger outreach (you can read about my experiment here). I published some blog posts, gave a few keynote talks, compiled a lead magnet and some landing pages, sent out some emails, published some tweets and Facebook updates, those sorts of things.

The most interesting aspect of this was what I didn’t do during this period: I didn’t talk about anything other than just blogger outreach. And the effects were powerful:

It almost got my business into trouble, because I was looking for strategic assignments, but suddenly, I found myself being contacted solely to do blogger outreach for various brands.

Focusing all of your content for an extended period of time seems to greatly affect not only your community but the online algorithms (search and social) as well.

How to Use Content Themes

Since a ‘follow’ is nothing but a free subscription, you shouldn’t waste energy on how to divide your efforts between various social network accounts or properties. Because that’s a surefire way to turn them into silos.

Focus instead on what you have to say.


Example: Maybe you a very happy client who would agree to do a case study?

But is a basic case study (some text, some quotes, and a few pictures) all that’s needed to tell the story?

Well, we could do so incredibly much more with just a single case study:

  • Case video (for Instagram, for Facebook, for a blog post, for Youtube, etc.).
  • Case study infographic (for Pinterest, for a blog post, for your newsroom, etc.).
  • Podcast with a client interview (for iTunes, for Youtube, etc.).
  • Blog post(s) with insights and learnings from the project.
  • Press release + PR pitch.
  • Social media copy for various social networks.
  • Lead magnet(s) and content upgrade(s).
  • Landing page(s) and/or resource page(s).

And so on.

This is basically a “content package” centered around a single story (a case study, for example). This approach to creating content in batches, and then posted over a period of time while not talking about anything else, is what I refer to as content themes.

The Surround Effect

Organizing your stories into content themes have several positive side-effects:

Streamlined content process. When you’re in the process of creating one piece of online content, you create all aligned content at the same time. This makes the content more focused, creative and coherent.

Easier publishing schedule. If you can oversee all your content belonging to one theme, it’s easier for you to divide it over time and cross-promote it per channel.

Clearer user experience. People are drenched in corporate messages, so you want to make sure they’re faced with a coherent story wherever they meet your brand.

All-in-all, content themes create a “surround effect”.

For a concrete example, also read An Experiment That Shows How Content Marketing Works where you’ll find a real-life example of the surround effect.

The Pareto Principle for Content Promotion

Back to Camilla’s original question:

How to divide your time and resources?

Choose a core message strategically and craft content themes around this message. And then put some of your energy into promoting your content theme in any online channel where it makes sense. The key, of course, is to not talk about anything else during this period.

If you want to increase your inbound engagement, apply the Pareto Principle:

80% = content theme creation
20% = content theme promotion

Or, if you want to aggressively push your content theme to outbound audiences:

20% = content theme creation
80% = content theme promotion

Or simply find a great balance that works for your business.

Using content themes will focus your growth, increase your results, and make your content creation process more efficient. And it will clarify your online brand perception in this noisy world of ours.