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Content Strategy

Tactics for Content Re-Use

You might have realised how resource intensive content creation is. There is no hope for economies of scale, unfortunately. However, there are a few things you can do to reduce the costs of content. First, you can use your attention and research time to create more content. Second, you can make your content live longer. Third, you can plan on reusing content in various places.

Get More Out of Your Research

You can get more content for the same amount of research. For example, when composing a document, there are always notes and links that don’t find their place or get edited out. Maybe you could use them as a tweet or a blog post. Even research that does get used for one piece can be used in others. With a publication calendar and a solid multi-channel content strategy, you can find ways to reuse research and, often, also content up to five different ways, according to Ardath Albee. She gives the example of a white paper which might help you create blog posts, slide decks and a webinar. Of course, what you create should depend on a strong strategic foundation defined by your goals and your means.

Be Aware of the Cycles and Use Them to Your Advantage

You can also, when appropriate, re-use content that has been published long ago. If you were to compare this spring’s advice about weight-loss and exercise with last spring’s, you wouldn’t notice such a big difference. Just like magazines, you can use tactics to promote, or even re-edit and re-publish old content.

When you can’t re-use content like this, having a list of content triggers and corresponding templates can save you time and worries. When quarterly results hit or new product lines are announced, lots of content is published on multiple channels. The content is often similar. Write a template (a recipe) which will guide the writing and use it every time.

Modules and Meta-Data

Unfortunately, we often let our content management systems decide how granular our content can be. Out of the box, we often get text-areas for a title, an excerpt, the body of your post, categories and tags. Whatever you publish, you can benefit from getting more granularity — especially in the giant blob that is called “body”. Breaking down content in smaller chunks opens the gate to content re-use across different contexts and different channels.

Product descriptions and biographies of staff, for example, need only be written once and — ideally — stored in only one place. Tweets linking to the same article, even if you publish them numerous times can all have the same text. Pamela Kostur explains How to Rewrite Content for Reuse in a two-part series. Every step you take towards content re-use can have tremendous benefits.

With a little more in-depth work, you can prepare your content to last longer and be reusable on various channels most effectively by summoning technical expertise. To attain this degree might take a lot of work and you might need the assistance of a content strategist to help you decide on the purpose of your content by giving it SMART goals, break it into appropriate modules, mark it up well, and add copious amounts of accurate meta-data. Sara Wachter-Boettcher details how to do just that in Future-Ready Content. If you work on a big enough project with many stakeholders, the benefits will make the whole endeavor worth it. Promise.

Which Content On Which Channel

Preparing content for re-use isn’t a license to send all your content on all your channels, however. “Create Once, Publish Everywhere” is a catchy phrase for content strategists. Yet if you and other people in your organisation take it literally, you might get into trouble. Clinton Forry explains that it is best to “publish selectively”. It all comes back to your strong strategic foundation and your goals. Each channel and platform should have their own set of guidelines because every one of them has their own constraints. Keep that in mind.

Content re-use is a hot topic right now and there certainly is more to learn. If this quick survey sparks ideas around content creation and distribution work flows, I would love to hear about them in the comments.

I wrote “Tactics for Content Re-Use” on the Paper.li blog, it was originally published on April 4, 2012. Reproduced here with permission.