Why I don’t repurpose content


engineer content, dont repurpose it

Raise your hand if you are in marketing and have embraced the need to deliver content across multiple media and channels.  It is a virtual certainty you have.  It supports SEM strategies, increases impressions and communicates multiple perspectives.  Content teams are working harder than ever to deliver quality content in a variety of forms.

Now, raise your hand if your budget and resources have increased proportionately.  Note to self – no raised hands are visible.  So without additional resources what options remain? Work harder or work smarter ( or both is a third option of course).

The dynamics of digital content are very different than non-digital. I recognize that this is obvious, but how much have your content creation strategies changed?  Not much… is the response from most organizations.

The business world still has a documents-first mindset.  Oh sure, they are tweeting, some are blogging, a few are socially active, and if my email inbox is a barometer, everyone has a marketing automation tool. But the source, focus and process is typically based on a document, which marketing then repurposes across digital channels.

Repurposing content is reactive, not proactive

“Repurpose your content.” You’ve read it, I’ve read it, it is everywhere. It makes sense – at first glance.  But when you look deep into your goals and digital tactics, it’s backwards.  Repurposing content from high-value documents like whitepapers or eBooks, is inefficient. It’s a reactive retrofit, not a proactive strategy.

I’m not saying that your whitepaper is not valuable, just that how most create them today is inefficient considering additional digital content goals.

Engineer you content, don’t retrofit

The idea of content engineering is based on the need for scale and orchestration of message.  It is an evolution guided by content, communication and promotion strategies designed to articulate value to an audience where they will find it and in a form appropriate for consumption.  Fish where the fish are.  The challenge (as if there is only one…) is that there is no longer a large school of fish, but many ponds and baits.

I embrace the engineering approach because it is rooted in strategy and progressive steps. Strategy is a top-to-bottom approach, defining the core conceptual message, goal and tactics.  Strategy guides the framework – your message pillars that can both stand-alone and support the big idea.  Each pillar has it’s own foundation and unique conversational value.

What is more unique than non-digital approaches is the idea of creating functional components from the bottom up. Developed incrementally and progressively, guided by the broader strategic message, each pillar is functional along the way and does not need to be reverse engineered to become smaller assets later.

This process is efficient and delivers incremental content throughout the process.  It provides a roadmap to inter-connect supporting ideas and will often uncover relationships that were not initially obvious.  Most importantly, you won’t be waiting for the completion of the ‘next big thing’ and then working backwards to extract messages and content to promote it.  Instead, you’ll have time to orchestrate how it is delivered and shared with your target audience.

What is your experience – care to share?

An important lesson learned and leveraged

Image


Bailey-sketchAll of us recall events, activities and mentors that impacted our personal and professional lives.  These are the experiences that shape our behavior, skills and personality, ultimately making us who we are.

One of the most memorable lessons of my education came during a drawing class I was enrolled in.  I loved to draw, but sketches of the human form were not in my portfolio for a reason. So when the instructor declared our assignment of the day to be a portrait to be rendered from a photo, self-doubt was a clear undercurrent as I scanned the resource files for my photographic model.

Soon the model and I were back at our seat, poised and ready with pencil in hand.  In an instant, my doubt turned to curiosity as the instructor told us to turn the photo upside down and draw the image from that perspective. I could see from a glance around the room I was not alone in my surprise.

When the exercise was finished, the results were impressive. The accuracy of my sketch was unprecedented, easily the most accurate portrait I had ever drawn.  But why?

What we learned that day was that shapes and objects familiar to us are influenced by our memory and interpretation of what we see.  Because we are familiar with a shape or image, the brain skips more critical study once memory tells us what it is supposed to be.  By turning the image upside down, preconception of what the object looks like is eliminated and forces critical evaluation of now unfamiliar shapes, relationships and patterns.

I leverage this lesson almost every day in life and in business.  It taught me to turn questions and problems upside down in order to see them more clearly and to eliminate the influence of preconception.  Used in combination with my favorite question – what if, it activates an exploration of opportunities and critical evaluation of environmental factors that are sometimes easily missed. The result is inevitably a more clearly defined goal unrestricted by the sometimes-restrictive framework of familiarity.

Digital First, Documents Last


Throughout the history of marketing, documents have been the cornerstone of B2B content creation and delivery – brochures, white papers, press releases, data sheets, etc.

The digital age antiquates this model.   Documents as the focal point of content development does not support multi-channel, multi-media content creation and distribution. As a process it does not deliver the scale necessary to efficiently support the digital mix, nor does it match digital consumption preferences.

It’s not that documents no longer have a place in the content mix, but digital content strategies need to think beyond the PDF.  This means digital first. Workflows need to evolve to produce content that is modular and scales to support all media forms and distribution channels.

Documents will remain relevant as a format, but they are only a part of a much broader mix. They can no longer be the foundation of the content development process.

Multiplying Content to Accelerate Inbound Traffic


Content marketing is all the rage.  It should be. Its influence is well documented and as a result, it has spawned a new industry of marketing experts and professionals.

But how does a resource strapped enterprise capitalize on the need for more search optimized content and growing consumption habits? By capitalizing on existing, effective content, and converting it into many other forms.  Repurposing original content is a common recommendation. The result?

  1. Consistency of message for audience
  2. Content that conforms to multiple user consumption preferences and learning styles
  3. Creation of social media content kits
  4. Improved analytic reporting and consumption assessment
  5. Improved editorial coordination
  6. Ease of management
  7. More scalable content development projects
  8. Increase in content back-links, and URLs to related content
  9. Reduced cost of creation;
  10. Exponential volume of search optimized, quality content across the web
  11. Greater awareness across the marketing & communications group of content and messaging
  12. Increased qualified inbound prospects

If your website is well optimized for lead generation, increased traffic and engagement translates into more qualified leads, a percentage of which convert into sales.

Content Magnification

How many content items can be created from a single source? A LOT.

Take for example a your white paper.  The primary information source is the SME, who provides the key customer value propositions to a writer or your marcom team, who are then tasked with the project of creating a compelling, consumable information source describing why your prospect should consider buying from you.  In years past, it was a print document, today it is digital – probably a PDF.

This is a historical and well defined exercise that has been practiced for decades.  This was well suited for brick and mortar business, but falls short in today’s digital economy.  But the question before us is not about creating the source content (which is another important process to be considered), but how many ways can it be leveraged for digital consumption.  Content marketing is a beast, and it is hungry.

Why do we feed it? Because your prospects are hungry for information and your content is marketing currency. Currency that has an exchange rate that converts into qualified web traffic and web traffic into leads for sales. It is an ecosystem.

What does the content marketing beast consume? Can we feed it?  Repurposing existing material is a beginning to reach prospects beyond the document. Here a starter list of what can be generated directly from the initial collateral:

  1. Web content
  2. Landing pages
  3. Webinars
  4. Online presentations
  5. Video
  6. Audio Podcasts
  7. Social media (tweets, blogs, commentary)
  8. Promotions and campaigns
  9. Direct mail & newsletters
  10. PPT speaker notes
  11. Press & analyst resources
  12. Translated content resources for regional teams and audiences

Repurposing your best material can certainly generate all this, but it can also be done concurrently and by design, which is the idea behind “content engineering”.  It’s easier than you might imagine.  Is it necessary? After all, the collateral is produced and available, but it’s not enough, not today.  A single document with your well-conceived and developed value proposition is not enough. A new approach to magnifying content is beyond important.  It’s essential.

Content Engineering


I’d like to be able to claim that I coined the phrase “Content Engineering.”   I can’t.  I do find myself using it a lot lately though.  I don’t know where I first saw it or I would give credit where it is due.

Curious by nature, I googled it the other day and was surprised by the number of results.  Wikipedia defines content engineering as “a term applied to an engineering specialty dealing with the issues around the use of content in computer-facilitated environments.”  Not exactly consistent with how I’m using the term.  Another listing (Brockmann & Company) defines it as the discipline of developing content that greatly improves the rankings of the target site and thereby returns a higher result.  Still a fairly technical, application based definition.  The best one I found was from Content Marketing Institute which defined the term in an article titled “A New Breed? 7 Roles of the Content Marketing “Engineer”  which defines the content engineer as “a marketer who creates and optimizes the many forms of content required to engage social customers, based on the data presented by available analysis tools.” Since the query returned a result of about 1,020,000,000, I stopped there.  I’m not that curious, but none of what I did review matched my current interpretation.

So how do I define it? Content Engineering is a strategic collaborative approach to marketing content creation that considers the goals of the message, the channels and media options available for publishing and distribution.  Content is designed to fulfill a varied set of communication requirements and objectives, audience targets, media choices, scope, calls to action, scalability and potential delivery mechanisms.  It is an orchestrated process that occurs over time.  Minimal waste, no duplication of effort, not one and done but a content opera which is measured for effectiveness and refinement.

Content marketing is relatively new and evolving.  I’ll probably be curious enough to return to my definition soon to see if it still fits.  I’m sure it will likewise evolve.