Windmill Content: A Strategic Content Marketing Model
The term “windmill content” didn’t emerge as a content marketing model at all. It was more like a compass that guided me through every blog post, white paper, and e-book I wrote for my clients.
But enough with the mixed metaphors.
Over the last decade, I’ve honed my content marketing theories and approaches, learning from feedback and metrics and good ol’ fashioned intuition.
Somehow, though, each new discovery or insight tied back to the damn windmill—the one I envisioned in my mind as I churned out copy and endeavored to make an emotional connection with my clients’ readers.
Why a Windmill?
Let’s get this out of the way first: I love windmills. They’re the perfect marriage between simplicity and complexity, form and function, history and modernity, motion and repose.
But more than that, they create the perfect analogy for content marketing.
- Windmills convert one type of energy into another. Content marketing transforms words and sentences and paragraphs into ideas.
- A windmill takes advantage of wind, a natural phenomenon. The best content capitalizes on subjects that have captured the desired audience’s attention.
- Windmills rely on the right time and conditions to generate energy as well as to measure the wind’s speed and direction. Content marketing, when executed skillfully, proves both timely and measurable.
- The humble windmill repeats its familiar cycle and relies on basic physics to perform its function. When you create content, the resulting copy should tie to the rest of your content marketing campaign if you want to maintain momentum and a sense of brand consistency.
There you have it: Four shared principles that unite windmills and content marketing.
How did I arrive at these connections? Let me share a quick story.
How the Windmill Content Model Was Born
During my early days as a freelancer, I made little money. Translation: I learned to eat on ten bucks a week.
Then something shifted. I realized that I’d approached copywriting from a misbegotten perspective.
How did I turn it around?
I changed how I viewed each new assignment in two distinct ways:
- Service: Before I started a project, I asked myself a fundamental question: How can I, with words alone, help my client achieve his or her goals?
- Value: It became my mission to make myself indispensable to my clients—by any means necessary (short of bank robbery and murder, of course).
That’s when the Windmill Content Model began to coalesce. My approach, rooted in service and value, created the framework, but the Windmill Content Model gave me a vehicle with which to delight my clients’ readers.
The Windmill Content Model
Let’s get right to the delectable center of this particular Tootsie Roll Pop, shall we?
The Windmill Content Model consists of four blades that spin in harmony. Each describes a quality of the ideal content marketing strategy.
Human beings communicate for a reason. We want to express ourselves, sure, but we also want to wield our influence.
That’s what transformative content does. It forces the consumer to re-evaluate his or her perspective on the topic at hand.
A couple days ago, I mentioned Delilah Dawson (pseudonym Lila Bowen) and her piece for John Scalzi’s Whatever blog. She used skillful content marketing to plug her then-new book, WAKE OF VULTURES, by describing how she shifted her approach to fiction writing.
It’s a prime example of transformative content. If you read that piece, you start to rethink your approach to creativity, whether you’re a novelist or not.
If your content doesn’t change the reader in some profound way, why create it at all?
This blade of the Windmill Content Model can transform an audience in several ways:
It might change or challenge your reader’s convictions on a particular topic or tap into emotions the reader thought long buried.
“If your content doesn’t change the reader in some profound way, why create it at all?” —Laura Jane College
A windmill spins. To paraphrase a recent slew of Geico commercials, that’s what it does.
Content should spin too — though not in that spammy, immoral way. I mean that it should circle around on itself, forming a cycle with your other content.
You might have noticed above that I linked to a previous article that talked about transformative content. That’s not a coincidence. I want my content to build on itself so I present a consistent message and give readers ways to find more information.
Every piece of content an organization creates should tie to at least one other piece of content—and preferably several. Otherwise, how can it fit with the brand’s message, voice, goals, and USP?
Content marketing can become cyclical by:
- Exhibiting internal or external links that build on your ideas
- Resurfacing after several months or years as fresh, spruced-up content
- Telling a complete story that ties back to the main point of the piece
Most importantly, cyclical content never stops spinning. If you quit creating or reposting content, your audience shrivels up like last night’s kale.
“Every piece of content an organization creates should tie to at least one other piece of content—and preferably several. Otherwise, how can it fit with the brand’s message, voice, goals, and USP?” —Laura Jane College
The word opportunistic gives some people indigestion. I’m one of them.
However, I can choke it down when I view it in the context of the Windmill Content Model.
Opportunism isn’t always malevolent. It’s the intention behind your actions that determine its position on the moral compass.
For instance, if someone calls to tell you about an amazing job opportunity, do you forget about it just because your friend heard about the job through her network and let you know before the employer could advertise it?
Hell, no. You make that call. You set up that interview. You take that job.
What’s wrong with opportunism when it helps people see a fresh perspective or relate more strongly to the content
In content marketing, opportunism means grabbing hold of topics that have already captured the public’s attention. It could be a funny television commercial, a celebrity scandal, a new blockbuster movie.
If you can create content around that topic, you’ll attract a larger audience and make a bigger splash with your message. Guaranteed.
“What’s wrong with opportunism when it helps people see a fresh perspective or relate more strongly to the content?” —Laura Jane College
Merriam-Webster defines momentous “important, consequential.” Not to rag on the most-cited dictionary in the world, but I think this word should have a longer, more detailed definition.
In my Windmill Content Model, I use the word momentous to refer to the content’s far-reaching effects. How will it influence the topic in the future? Why does it matter now? And how can it resonate with the reader in a fresh way?
I’m particularly passionate about momentous content because it’s the type of content that shapes and changes lives. Like a good story, it wends its way into the reader’s very core and refuses to let go.
I want to read content that aligns with more core values and beliefs, and that resonates with my needs right now. Don’t you?
If you want to write momentous content, you have to do some soul searching first. What makes you tick? What bothers you? What infuriates you? And how can you make a difference?
“I want to read content that aligns with more core values and beliefs, and that resonates with my needs right now. Don’t you?” —Laura Jane College
Putting It All Together
Transformative…cyclical…opportunistic…momentous—that’s my Windmill Content Model in a nutshell.
Over the next few months, I’ll publish more in-depth explorations of each blade of the windmill and point out some examples of content that truly shines. In the meantime, do you use these qualities for your own content marketing? Do they work? I’m excited to hear your input.