Keep the Purpose in Repurposing

Repurposing content is a complex activity that’s often misunderstood. I’ve written before about how I’ve changed my answer when people ask how much content they should create. I used to say, “As much as you can and still have it be great.” I came to see this as bad advice because it assumed that the only thing we’re doing is creating content.  I’ve since changed my answer to “As little as you can and still have the impact you desire.” 

When I first published my revised answer in this very newsletter, someone sent me a note asking, “How does this square with the need to produce continually?” It’s a great point. Certainly, part of the answer lies in repurposing content. To minimize the amount of new content you need to create, you consider ways to repurpose what you have. You spread great ideas across audiences and platforms for the widest distribution possible. If you’re not careful, though, repurposing can go astray, leading to bad content experiences.

This happened with a client recently. A technology firm I worked with had created a channel (a blog and white-paper program) targeted to CIOs. The content was excellent: high level, strategic, and visionary. Then came pressure from other parts of the organization to repurpose this content for lower-level directors of technology. At first, the team simply added some detailed tips and tricks to the original CIO pieces. Eventually, unfortunately, the team stopped creating content specifically for CIOs. The logic went like this: “Since we’re sending our content to both audiences anyway, let’s just create all our pieces for both.”

By trying to suit everyone, this team suited no one. Their one-size-fits-all content was too low level and not visionary enough for the CIOs. At the same time, the content was too esoteric and unapproachable for the directors.

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.