Poliakov’s Pyramid of Engagement Will Make Your Content Strategy Better

After an intense stretch of marketing conferences this past spring, I felt like I’d been submitted to the Ludovico Technique from A Clockwork Orange. Except instead of being forced to watch violent films, I had to watch endless slides that smashed multiple charts and diagrams together into monstrous balls of gratuitous complexity.

Ever since, I’ve developed an intense love for simple charts that demonstrate an important point. My new favorite is Poliakov’s Pyramid of Engagement, and I’m super excited to show it to our clients. Why? First, because I’m a huge dork, and second, because it demonstrates the most important part of content strategy. You need a strategy that aligns with one of the precious few things your target audience actually cares about.

Poliakov's Pyramid of Engagement

If the guiding light of your content strategy is the message you want to dictate to consumers, you are going to fail. Sure, maybe some people will still click on a piece of content and subsequently buy some stuff. But you won’t build true loyalty and trust.

This chart was made way back in 2010 by Sell! Sell!, a creative shop in the UK that has the greatest agency blog I’ve ever read. I love the site because it communicates a simple message: content marketing should either help people enjoy their lives more or do their jobs better. If your content doesn’t do one of those things, it probably sucks.

Some marketers may feel disheartened, but it’s a liberating message once you embrace it.

If you work in B2B, this should makes your job easy. You just need to help your target buyer do their job better. What challenges do they face? What do they need to know to take their careers to the next level? Your job is to answer those questions honestly (which means you can’t just cram your product down their throats). Provide lessons and publish research that’ll teach them something new.

If you’re B2C, you need to focus on topics people love, which can span everything from travel and adventure to cooking and sleeping. (I’m into all of those things, depending on my mood.) If you have a viable consumer product, chances are that it relates to at least one area like that. The challenge then, is figuring out how to tell a story or offer a new piece of information that’s different than what everyone else does.

For this reason—despite popular belief—I think that B2B content marketing is easier than B2C, especially if you’re in an emerging industry or serving a specific group of people who don’t always get the attention they deserve. You have a much better chance of standing out if you’re trying to reach operations directors at large healthcare companies than if you’re trying to reach travelers or fitness buffs.

Work and personal interests don’t have to be mutually exclusive, either. Your industry may be one of your passions. (Case in point, I am writing this at 1:30 a.m. on a Friday night after sitting by the lake with some friends and debating the most promising revenue model for media companies.)

No matter what industry you’re in, though, your content strategy needs to be able to pass the Poliakov Pyramid test. Does your content truly help people live their lives better or do their jobs better? If the answer is no, you need to stop and reevaluate. Or else, your content focus groups just might feel a bit like Clockwork Orange.

Image by iStockPhoto

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