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McLellan: What is cornerstone content?


To wrap up this series of columns on the power and potential of authority-based marketing, I give you a little more context around the concept of cornerstone content.

This is where many organizations miss the mark when it comes to their content strategy. We get overwhelmed at the concept of having to create content consistently, so we err on the side of deciding to make a lot of little pieces of content as opposed to starting with something substantial. For some reason, 50 blog posts seem less daunting than one research project or writing a book.

Creating cornerstone content is the key to having the capacity to step into your rightful position of authority. Cornerstone content is:

Meaty enough to produce lots of smaller pieces of content.
Significant enough to serve as the epicenter of your promotion, activity and eventual fame. (In your circle of influence, of course; I’m not suggesting you will become the next Beyoncé!)
Consistent in both how often you create content and how you stay on the one topic or area of subject matter.
Sales-free. This is about you teaching and helping. Stop. Period. End of story..
All about building the audience. That’s your primary goal with this.
A long-term play. No one is going to recognize you as an authority after three months.

Your audience is a precious and skittish lot. They expect you to try to sell them something right off the bat. They expect to be underwhelmed. They expect you to sell their name and email address. They expect you to only trickle out good content every once in a while. Your task is to rise above every one of those expectations, every time. It sounds easy, given the low bar, but it’s not. With your crazy calendar, the other demands for your time, your hunger to sell, and about a million different reasons – this is hard stuff. If this were easy, it wouldn’t be so effective because everyone would do it. It requires discipline in every sense of the word.

But when you act as the guardian of your audience, and you genuinely care about them and their success, the relationship is nothing short of amazing. They will think of you as someone they can count on to keep them on the right path. They will talk about you in a way that draws more people to you. They will support you financially by buying from you with confidence because you have proved to them, time and time again, that they can trust you.

The bigger the audience (within that narrow niche of focus), the better. Your audience is the gateway to all the gooey goodness that comes from being an authority. Bigger sales, repeat business and raving fans. 

But that audience can also pull the rug out from under you if they stop believing. Which means you need to be authentic. You need to come at this from a genuine desire to help, share and teach. You need to re-earn their trust at every turn.

Once you’ve invested the time and resources to create cornerstone content, you can simply slice and dice that content into enough cobblestones to share throughout the year. The whole goal is to reduce the amount of time you invest without lowering the quality or quality of content assets. 

But, suffice it to say, this is not a get-rich-quick scheme. At a minimum, you should count on it being six months to a year before you reap any significant benefit from your efforts. By year two, you should be dancing a jig at how well it’s working, and by year three, you should be well- established as the authority that you are.

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