5 Ways to Reuse, Reproduce, and Repurpose Content

recycled_copyMany of today’s most effective marketing strategies are driven heavily by content — the more useful and relevant to your audience, the better. That content requires time and effort to create, so it makes good sense to get the most from your investment. And since it’s unlikely most people are hanging on your every WordPress post, most of your readers won’t notice if you take full advantage of these “sustainable content” strategies:

Feed your blog or newsletter

Blogs and newsletters are notoriously hungry for content, and for falling behind schedule when the topic well runs dry. If you’ve taken the time to create a longer copy project like a white paper or ebook, look for excerpts that could stand alone in these shorter formats.

Feed the social media monster

Social media calls for smaller bits of eloquence, both because of character limits and shorter attention spans. Adapting longer copy for these formats requires a bit more editing than for a blog or newsletter, but it’s almost as easy. If your content is compelling enough, social media can simply be an entry point, teasing the reader with a headline that encourages them to click through to something you’ve posted outside the walled garden of FamousSocialMediaSite.com.

Create a book, eBook, or free download

The same tricks described above also work in reverse: a series of blogs or newsletters that share a common theme can be packaged together to create something bigger you can sell or give away. That’s exactly how I created my eBook The Writer/Designer Dream Team. There’s even a WordPress plug-in called Anthologize specifically designed to capture online content and publish it in print or common eBook formats.

Create a resource library

Even if it’s not the shiniest new thing on your website or blog, content you’ve created remains a valuable asset as long as it’s still beneficial to your clients and prospects. Once it’s had its time in the spotlight, keep it available in an easily-accessible archive. Your website is the best place to keep it around, because the combination of useful information and regular updates is one of the best ways to attract the Internet gremlins that determine search engine rankings.

It’s worthwhile to check in on your archive from time to time. Content that’s technical or tied to current events can become out of date, at which point it may be worthwhile to refresh it (generating new content for your pipeline) or remove it.

Publish on other platforms

A pre-existing “content mine” makes it easy for you to contribute to other websites and publications your buyers read. Some publishers are fine with re-using content in its original form, expanding your audience with a simple cut and paste. Others may ask you to expand or rework your content, either to create something unique or to make it more specific to their readers.

For example, I once wrote a blog for a publisher’s website, something I do at least once a month to build credibility and reach a wider audience. The post caught the attention of a magazine owned by the same company, which paid me to expand it into a longer print article. About six months later I received another check when the article was re-published in two of the company’s anthologies.

Final thoughts

The primary goal of publishing regular content is to increase your visibility, so your options for when and where you reuse it are pretty flexible. Some publishers prefer to let a little time go by before re-publishing content somewhere else, others like to post segments of the same content in multiple channels simultaneously to attract a wider audience. Either strategy is enhanced by an archive that automatically collects older content when it’s replaced by something new.

While all of these strategies offer effective ways to attract new buyers, relevance is still the king. If your content addresses the wants and needs of your readers, any combination of these strategies can be successful. If it doesn’t, none of them will work.

  The language of green

blusunThis Wednesday, April 22, marks the 45th anniversary of Earth Day. It’s a special day for me since I spend a lot of my time writing about alternative energy and other so-called “green” topics.

The term “green marketing” has achieved buzzword status in recent years, but for many people its meaning isn’t clear. Many folks have a vague impression of something clean and organic-looking, featuring stock photos of the earth from space, a child’s hands planting a sapling, possibly with a drop of water or a solar panel thrown in for good measure. (The typeface? Papyrus of course.)

Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find the green market isn’t just one demographic. People who value sustainability run the gamut from post-hippie entrepreneurs to the United States Military. You’ll find them in national parks, evangelical churches, architectural firms, coffee houses, government agencies, construction sites, and a growing number of mega-corporation boardrooms.

As a result, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to writing Green copy. Some of your customers may want a Greener world for the same reasons you do, but these kindred spirits may not be enough to keep you in business. Is their core motivation a love for the environment, self-reliance, healthy living, breaking free from foreign oil (or as some Middle Eastern countries are starting to consider, from an economy dominated by domestic oil)? Are your readers willing to pay more for a “Green” product? Research suggests about 4 out of 5 of them won’t be.

The days when a green focus made a company different are long gone. Today, everyone from small startups to major corporations is trying to talk the talk whether or not they’re sustainably sincere. That means you’ll need to do the same legwork every other smart company does to learn who your best customers really are. Where do they get their news? What causes do they support? What do they do in their spare time? And most importantly, what does Green mean to them?

  Are you a crusader or an ambassador?

Crusader_AmbassadorOn a cold January evening in 1991, I marched through the streets of Athens, Ohio with several hundred student protesters. Operation Desert Storm had been declared a few days earlier and our passions were running high. As a discrete police escort followed us from the shadows, we shouted slogans like “One, two, three, four, we don’t want no oil war!” and “H#ll no, we won’t go! We won’t fight for Amoco!”

I had never done anything like this before, and had never felt so compelled to speak out about anything. I thought I would feel empowered, righteous, and proud to take a stand for a good cause. But there was a problem.

The entire experience felt completely, totally, and utterly wrong.

As strongly as I felt about the cause that night, I couldn’t make the “Crusader” persona work for me. At the time I felt guilty and ashamed, and wondered if I was just doing it to score points with my left-leaning girlfriend. Today I cut myself more slack because I know there’s more than one way to make positive change happen. I’ve dubbed the two poles of the spectrum “the Crusader” and “the Ambassador.”

The Crusader is the stereotype many people think of when they hear the word “green.” They want big change, and they want it NOW. They’re not afraid to get in your face, marching with megaphones, arranging sit-ins downtown, chaining themselves to endangered trees, and doing other things to jolt you out of complacency with the status quo. They’re blunt, loud, agressive, and eager to shine spotlights on corruption and injustice. The truth is very clear to Crusaders, and many of them think compromise isn’t an option because they hold the moral high ground. Protestors, advocacy groups like the Vote Solar initiative, investigative journalists, and some entrepreneurs are good examples of the Crusader archetype.

While Ambassadors are no less committed to their cause, their methods are poles apart from the Crusader. Ambassadors offer the carrot rather than the stick, winning people over gradually by encouraging them to see the benefits of doing things a better way. Sometimes they simply lead by example, providing models that demonstrate ideas previously thought to be “impossible.” More active Ambassadors get their foot in the door with a small idea, then work for incremental change. They’re more likely to negotiate and compromise, reassuring business interests that it’s okay to make a profit while they’re fixing the world. The growing influence of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building standards are a classic example of Ambassadors at work. Changing trends in consumer products such as energy-efficient detergents, greener packaging, and supply-chain changes to reduce energy use, are also driven by gradual shifts in consumer, retailer, and even manufacturer demand.

So which approach is best? The answer, as it so often is when values evolve, is “it depends.”

The Crusader shines when public awareness is low or fast action is needed. They excel at giving a voice to the unheard, exposing entrenched interests, and lobbying for government regulation. They’ve also become more sophisticated: today’s Crusaders don’t just march in the streets, they use advertising, e-mail, and social media to rally support when key issues are on the line. Just ask the Susan G. Komen Foundation how effective that can be.

While these methods can get the quickest action, they come with a price. Crusaders can turn people off, especially when they use more disruptive techniques. Responses are often designed to do as little as possible to “shut those crazy people up.” The Crusader tendency to get impatient with non-Crusaders also discourages participation and support from more moderate people who might otherwise aid a good cause.

Ambassadors typically don’t get results as quickly as Crusaders, but they’re more likely to achieve sustainable long-term change. They’re better at getting moderate and even reluctant people to buy in by introducing new ideas gradually, identifying economic benefits, and advocating for consensus-based practices. They look for ways to educate and inspire, favoring a “look how great this could be” approach rather than highlighting doom and gloom. They patiently adapt to changing times and conditions, taking advantage of opportunities as they come, but never forgetting the goals they’re working toward.

The Ambassador’s natural desire for everyone to get along is a noble one, but it can turn them into people pleasers if they lack authority or confidence. Their approach is also less effective against an entrenched or corrupt opposition that isn’t willing to negotiate. When you hit that wall, it’s time to call in the Crusaders.

There are very few “pure” Crusaders or Ambassadors. Most of us are somewhere in between, and where you are on the spectrum may change over time. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. It’s like the difference between breaking up a stone with a pickaxe or wearing it away with erosion. Both get the job done in different ways, and which you use depends on the results you want.

While we need both types in the final analysis, there’s a good chance the target audience for any green marketing initiative leans one way or the other. If your readers are hard-core greens hot for revolution, unleash the Crusader. If you’re trying to persuade an industry reluctant to change or a consumer on a limited budget, you’ll need an Ambassador who understands their culture and speaks the native tongue. Either way, identifying the right approach will be critical to your success.

  “Seeds for Change” promo

seeds-for-change-iconAnother whimsical promotion for Cause Farm Creative, featuring a slingshot and a pair of “seed bombs.” The fine print reads: “Please don’t shoot anyone’s eye out—and use the slingshot only for good.” (Click the image to see the full copy block.)

  “Little Bag of Do-Goodness”

Bag-thumbThis fun little Earth Day promo for Cause Farm Creative is one of those reusable shopping bags that can be rolled up into a ball small enough to fit into a pocket or purse. My role was to write the tag copy and help brainstorm a name for the promo. Click the image at right to see larger images, including both sides of the tag.