Think bigger! How to make the most of your content marketing ‘universe’

universe of content marketing

When it comes to content marketing for PR, there’s a lot you can do. Hence the importance of having a strategy.

But let’s put that aside for the moment. Let’s assume you’ve thought about your goals and your audience and the challenges, pain-points and informational gaps your customers might have around the products and services you sell, or the cause or issue championed by your organisation.

Let’s assume you understand what your ‘flag in the ground’ is and the positioning in the marketplace you want to reinforce for your brand.

Let’s assume you’ve thought about how publishing original content will benefit your brand, and have developed an understanding of the various mediums open to you and prioritised which ones to focus on in the short to medium term.

Your content universe

At some point you’re going to have to chew over the types of content you want to create.

This is where the following diagram comes in handy. I’ve used it for years in countless presentations and workshops, and feedback has always been very positive. People tell me it really helps them think more strategically about their content efforts.

Let me take you through the various elements of the universe!

trevor young - content universe


  • This is the area that most content marketing folks concentrate on, and for good reason. If you consistently provide timely and relevant content that’s also useful and helpful for your audience, it’s going to put your business in good stead with existing and potential customers.
  • Answers people’s questions around your business, your products and services, and/or the industry in which you operate.
  • Focuses on customers’ challenges, needs and pain-points; it could be educative how-to content or simple self-serve information that addresses an informational gap your audience might have.
  • When people activate content marketing in their organisation, often the content they produce will be utility-based.

CLASSIC EXAMPLE – Goulet Pen Company’s ‘Goulet Q&A – You ask, I answer’ video series


  • This content is substantive and insightful; it tends to be more thought provoking and is often bigger picture in nature than utility-based content.
  • Designed to spark conversation and potentially ignite debate.
  • Doesn’t always address a customer need or pain-point, indeed, it might even challenge people, metaphorically ‘poke them in the eye’ by changing the way they think about a particular topic or issue.
  • THINK: Commentary on industry issues and trends, insights based on research, informed perspectives on big picture topics; the audience doesn’t know what it doesn’t know – often this content is interesting and worth coming back to but doesn’t necessarily answer a question or pain-point a customer might have.
  • While thought leadership content is generally more associated with social organisations and professional services firms, lifestyle-oriented brands can also tap into this ‘bigger picture’ publishing trend by providing content that inspires and takes the reader (or viewer or listener) deeper into a topic that’s broader than just your brand. Paint and paper company Farrow & Ball’s The Chromologist online publication is a good example of this.

CLASSIC EXAMPLES – Seth Godin – Grant Thornton – Farrow & Ball – Mark Masters/The ID Group


  • This is where old school PR meets new school PR!
  • Old school PR practitioners have long created content on behalf of the organisation they represent (whether they’re in-house or agency) – it’s just that in days gone by, and to a large degree today still unfortunately, this content has been so narrow-minded and brand-focused that it hit the mark in the boardroom but rarely anywhere else.
  • Companies and organisations need to create content that ‘pumps their tyres’, we get it, it’s difficult to get away from that fact. But it doesn’t mean this content can’t still be interesting. New school PR practitioners attempt to take corporate content and transform it from something that is nauseating chest-beating crap and turn it into some that is at least somewhat engaging (well, as much as possible).
  • You could put corporate press releases into this category – but why stop there? Why not support it with content that brings the press release to life? A video of the CEO extrapolating on the news contained within said release (there is genuine news, isn’t there?). Or a blog post that fleshes out a company’s annual results but does it in such a way that is conversational and  jargon-free (and therefore more readable).
  • Corporate content provides the ideal opportunity to take people ‘behind the velvet rope’ of your organisation – this is a powerful thing to do as it can build help engagement and trust with an organisation’s constituents.

CLASSIC EXAMPLE – GE – Tourism Whistler


  • I always like to make sure I mention promotional content. While many businesses succumb to the temptation of over-doing the sales pitch (old habits die hard), there are ways to include promotional content that not only respects the audience but also adds value (i.e. this Content Marketing Institute blog post).
  • I reiterate, it’s okay to promote your company and your products and services; it’s just if that’s all you do, you will be wasting your time because people simply aren’t interested. However, if you limit it to say, 10-20 per cent of your total content output, that’s eminently fine because you’ve earned the right to interrupt with a more overt sales message every now and then.

CLASSIC EXAMPLE – Jay Baer/Convince & Convert


  • By my reckoning, human content should overlay all the other types of content.
  • Human content includes people – their stories, their insights, their advice, their ideas and opinions. It could be an interview with someone – a staff member, a shareholder, a partner, a community leader, a third-party academic.
  • I acknowledge this is difficult to do all the time, but I think there’s value in understanding the power of humanity in the content you create, and to over-index on it wherever possible. This is regardless of whether your content is utility-based, thought or knowledge leadership, corporate or promotional; upping the human quotient is never a bad thing!

CLASSIC EXAMPLE – Black Hops Brewing – The Happy Family Lawyer (Clarissa Rayward)

Worth noting: These content categories can be quite fluid and inevitably there will be overlap, for example, a blog post or video might be both utility-based and promotional, with a strong human element attached.

I recommend businesses, organisations and professional individuals think about the options available to them across the full spectrum of their content universe; get the mix right on a consistent basis and it just might help differentiate your brand in today’s overly crowded marketplace.

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