Building Your Content Reuse Strategy

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Create Objects, Not Documents

Another change to make in the way you approach your content is to treat it as an object, not a document.

Abel's advice on this seems simple enough: Stop writing documents. "We are taught to start at the beginning and we write in a narrative," says Abel. "But now we have multiple devices that are training us to ask a question, not to ask for a story. You don't say ‘tell me a story about a sushi restaurant.' You say ‘where is a big sushi restaurant?' Because it's a small unit of content, the computer knows what it is and brings the phone number and all the information because it's written as a content object, not a document."

Doug Heise, product marketing director at CoreMedia, suggests transitioning from a document management approach to a content management approach. "That means you start to look at the individual content as elements that can be separated and reused," he says. "Treat content as data objects, not as documents. Separate the content from layout presentation, navigation; all those things that are platform or device-specific. Then you can treat those design elements as objects, as well."

CoreMedia Studio (a versatile, knowledge-based editorial interface) supports content reuse by enabling users to create and deliver content across a variety of channels. Heise says that many companies don't use software that treats content as objects. "We consume content as documents or as experiences," he says. "But in order to deliver it effectively across multiple platforms in a digital world, you need to treat content not as documents, but as objects."

Understand Channel Opportunities and Constraints

Repurposing your content so it can be disseminated across a variety of platforms and channels just makes sense when you consider how content is consumed these days.

While you may prefer to get your information via Twitter, your colleague might prefer to receive updates on Facebook. As such, a key component of a content strategy is determining where and how you are going to reuse your content. Some companies just choose to have the same content available everywhere, while others want to make different slices of it available in multiple channels on multiple devices.

"This is so incredibly powerful for organizations where their content is their product, where they can mix and match and create products, be they new books, apps, reports, journal articles-you name it, they can do a tremendous amount with that content," says Rockley.

It certainly allows for a lot of creativity and versatility. Large amounts of information can be re-created as new, smaller segments of information. "Where it used to be stuck in chapters, we're making it much more modular," says Rockley. "We're chunking it down so you can reuse smaller pieces of information. And you can still push it out to all of those different devices."

"Think about what real estate is available," says Pawan Deshpande, founder and CEO of Curata, a content curation and aggregation platform. "If it's a tweet, you have to condense your text. Based on the destination you're sharing to, you can decide what form the content will [take]."

Understanding each device's opportunities and limitations is crucial. It's important to know how design constraints of different devices (and channels) can impact a content strategy. For instance, content creators have to figure out how their content will be displayed on a smartphone, which has a much smaller screen than the traditional desktop computer.

"You need to identify what is core or critical to show on first access; what can be layered, what is linked, what is scrollable," adds Rockley. "Understand your device requirements, best practices, user experience and how that all impacts your content because you can take your content, modularize it enough and structure it enough so it can be automatically manipulated to be displayed effectively based on those constraints and user experience."

What is usually the best type of content for reuse? According to Deshpande, best practices and tips are among the forms of content that can be reused multiple times. As long as that content retains its value over time, it can serve you well for many years. "Last month, I took a blog post I wrote two years ago. I just re-titled it, edited it, and posted it on our blog and it was more popular than the first time I had run it," says Deshpande.

More general content is apt to be evergreen and has the best chance of being reused time and again. Still, it's a good idea to remind users where the original piece of content is from. "Regardless of the channel you're sharing it on, link back to the mother ship-your properties," advises Deshpande. This way, readers will always connect that content back to you if they want to see the full version.

Noelle Schuck, editor-in-chief of iAcquire, agrees with that strategy. "What a good publishing organization does is they use that repurposed content to push their readers through their different products," says Schuck. "The website might have part of a story, but would say ‘for more of this, pick up our latest [print] issue.' [The print might say] ‘if you want to see more stories like this, go to our website.'" 

Providing the Right Content to the Right Users

Effective reuse also means that your content-no matter how it is displayed-is resonating with audiences, regardless of where it is being presented.

Over time, it's important to evaluate your content and how it's being received throughout the different delivery channels. "If a piece of content isn't doing well, you may be delivering it in the wrong channel or at the wrong time," says Lindy Roux, principal content strategist for digital agency Siteworx.

Roux notes that it's important to understand users in order to know what kind of content to reuse and on what channels to reuse it. "This is where contextualization comes in," she says. "Understanding what their needs are in each touchpoint across the user journey is important in terms of creating once, publishing everywhere, but in a relevant way so you're not overwhelming folks with content." Overloading users with digital content is something content producers must be sure to avoid as they choose what content to deliver via what channel.

Roux suggests creating personas of users to understand what kind of content each type of user is looking for. She says companies can have up to 20 different personas that they serve. They can use focus groups, research, and analytics to gain insight into this.

The next step is to attack content mapping, says Roux, which is used for every piece of content and helps you determine where a particular piece of content can and should be used, such as on the web, on a mobile device, on a tablet computer, on Twitter, or in an email message.

Larry Kim, founder and chief technology officer at WordStream, says his company's writers have a content strategy for marketing content in which they come up with one main theme that can be used as the foundation for different angles of a story that are presented to different audiences. The company is then able to reuse the core content in a variety of different ways just by slightly changing the focus for each distinct audience.

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