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Finding A Purpose In Content Repurposing – By Robert Rose

One thing I’m learning is that the topic of repurposing content is complex and often misunderstood. I’ve written before about how I’ve changed my answer when people ask “how much content should we create?” I used to answer “as much as you can – and still have it be great.”

I realized this was bad advice because it assumed that the only thing we have on our plate is the creation of more content. Of course we have much more than that. We have campaigns to launch, sales materials to create, and measurement to, well, measure.

I’ve since changed my answer to the question of how much content should we create to “as little as you can – and still have the impact you desire.”  

But as someone who wrote to me recently asked quite appropriately, “how does that square with your need to continually produce content consistently?”

It’s a great point – and certainly one of the answers to the question is, of course, repurposing content. In order to reduce the amount of content, the goal is to repurpose as much as possible. We want to leverage great ideas across different audience, platforms and the widest distribution possible. However, the downside is that a continual focus on repurposing can lead you to make decisions that lead to bad content. Just recently this happened with a client I was engaged with.

Repurposing Gone Wrong.

A technology firm I worked with had created a channel (a blog and white paper program) targeted to CIO’s. The content was excellent; high level, strategic, and visionary. Then, however came pressure from other parts of the organization. They wanted to “repurpose” this content with some minor tweaks, to serve lower level Directors of Technology as well.  The thought was, that they could simply add in some “granular how-to” types of “tips and tricks” to the pieces and this would solve the issue. However, over time, because of other pressures, they started to shortcut that process and merged the content creation process. Re-purposing gave way to an “averaged purpose”.

Their rationale was “since it’s going to both audiences anyway, why don’t we just create one piece, and re-use it across all of our channels.” Unfortunately, for CIOs this made the pieces too low level, and not terribly visionary (e.g. they were now 5 pages longer than they were before) and too esoteric and unapproachable for the Directors. They ostensibly ruined content for both audiences by averaging out the content’s purpose.

Key Takeaways

The critical thing here is to ask why we are repurposing content destined for a specific audience to be placed on another channel. If we’re approaching content in the right way – we’ve developed both the channel and the content that populates it, specifically for a targeted audience. That means the content is CREATED to be specific to that audience. 

And we should look at it only through the eyes of the audiences we are looking to serve.

It absolutely makes sense to re-use, repackage and repurpose content across channels. But the key is in the verb of all those “re’s”.  The content must have a different use, a different package, and (most importantly) a different purpose – in order to deliver specific value to an audience. And “different” almost always results in creating at least some portion of new. If all we’re doing is taking the same piece and adding it to different channels, then we are just training our audiences that we can get all content everywhere, and there is no reason to depend on any one of them.

The more we lose clarity of our repurposing purpose, the cheaper our jewel of a content becomes.

Audiences can’t be averaged. Neither can purposes.

To approach content in the right way is to develop both the channel and the content for a particular audience and purpose. It may make sense to reuse, repackage, or repurpose that content across channels or audiences – if you honor the verbs that follow all those “re’s.”  The content must have a different use, a different package, and a different purpose each time.

There’s a reason we don’t call it recontenting.

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