By Shelly Bowen published April 11, 2012

5 Great Starting Points for a Content Recycling Program

At some point during your marketing meeting, content strategy process, or web redesign process, someone will recommend you create some great content to support your goals.

That’s when things typically come to a fast and uncomfortable stop. Content? Who has time to write all the content? With your accelerated schedule, even a team of dedicated professional web writers may not have enough time to create all the content you need.

Here’s the good news. Not all your content needs to start from scratch. Great content comes from a variety of resources — some of which you may already own! You will need to mix and match, edit and clip, rewrite and reinvent, but it’s a huge jump ahead.

What’s more, cleverly recycling or repurposing content and planning for repurposing through content strategy can save your company money.

Here are some ideas to help you start collecting bits and pieces for your exceptional content:

Offline content

Dip into your own print materials. White papers, media kits, catalogues, books, instructional materials, notebooks, sketch pads, infographics — anything you have already created can be tweaked or reformatted into new content. Consider how you might repurpose these materials you have to make something new.

For example, your sales kit for your sales reps may have statistics and charts they use to back up claims about your offerings. Take these bits of information and imagine how you can repackage them for your online audience. Are they five surprising facts about running shoe wear? Or maybe you have seven great reasons to prepare in advance for an emergency?

You might also take a video your PR department uses and get everyone in the office to provide a “behind-the-scenes” insight on it. Good stuff.

Customer service

Have lunch with the head of your customer service team every quarter. He or she writes responses to and chats with your customers all the time. Use this material to create something useful online.

Whenever I interview customer service reps as part of a content strategy, I always learn of frequently asked questions they respond to with screen grabs and well-loved emails. This information can be

• Edited and published as an FAQ or quick tips
• Used to fix parts of your content that are confusing
• Transformed into blog articles that focus on the aggregate issue at hand. For instance, cupcake customers would be thrilled to know that “Seventy-eight percent of customers are repeatedly asking for the caramel apple cupcakes to come back,” wouldn’t they?


Who is curating those awesome letters, comments, testimonials, quotes, and chats from your own customers? Be proactive about collecting and asking for information from your audience about your product or service, and you’ll soon have a wealth of relevant, real-world, SEO-rich content.

The best way to do this? Build it into your customer experience. Imagine — or better yet, map out — the most well-worn customer paths; for example: They enter at Point A, ask questions at Point B, buy at Point C, then they get an email to confirm (you get the picture). At appropriate moments that don’t interrupt the buying process, ask for an opinion, a vote of approval, or a review.

Social software like Bazaarvoice and Get Satisfaction can certainly help if you have volume; a simple email box for feedback can work if you don’t. Just be sure there’s someone in charge of reviewing the content and transforming it into something useful for your customers.

Online archives

Evaluate your content — articles, blog posts, interviews — that was popular at one time but has now been buried in your archives. Match up a rock star editor with a data analyst to discover and create new from old on a regular basis.

For example, a data analyst might see a spike in site searches for a certain topic — let’s say optimal heart rate recovery times — during June of each year. A content manager or editor could collect heart health and exercise information you’ve already published and use it to create an article on “Eight Ways to Strengthen Your Heart,” and feature it throughout your site and across social media at just the right time.

Or, more broadly, your data analyst might see that any content involving easing neck pain is instantly popular, so your editor might be able to create a whole neck care email campaign based on content you’ve already published over time.

Market research

You do a lot of research for your own company. Take a look at the data with a different point of view: Would any of it be useful or interesting to your audience?

Take personas, for instance. Many companies create elaborate personas, based on research, to help them create their marketing campaigns or organize information on their site. Wouldn’t it be fascinating as a customer to know which personalities often go with which products or suite of services? I haven’t seen this done literally, but I keep waiting for the opportunity!

Keep in mind that repurposing content isn’t about copying and pasting. It’s about reinventing and evolving. Carol S. Valdez said it best in her article Repurposing Content Like a Fashionista, “A few skillfully chosen pieces can create perfect outfits [i.e., content] to suit your style.”

Recycling image via Shutterstock

Author: Shelly Bowen

Shelly Bowen is Principal of Pybop, LLC a boutique content strategy consultancy dedicated to helping companies share their brand stories more effectively. Over the past decade, Shelly has directed and produced web, mobile, and video content and strategy for more than 75 amazing brands, such as Intuit, University of San Diego, Citrix, and AIG Direct. In addition to content strategy and brand story writing, Shelly loves cycling, kayaking, mid-century design, and sinking into a great novel. Shelly is also an instructor for the Content Marketing Institute Online Training and Certification program. Follow Shelly on Twitter @shelbow and Pybop @pybop.

Other posts by Shelly Bowen

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  • JJacobson

    I’m really enjoying these posts! Very helpful!

    • Shelly Bowen

       So glad!

  • http://www.SEO-ST-LOUIS.COM/ Jennifer

    These are great suggestions.  For me half the battle is determining the topic. I use old blog posts to come up with ideas.  Things are frequently changing and evolving so there’s no reason you can’t revisit a topic.

    • Shelly Bowen

      Thanks Jennifer — I totally agree! Revisiting a topic with a new perspective, especially if someone has just asked a question about that topic, works well for generating new content ideas.

  • Carl Friesen

    One way to reposition content is through looking at new, more appropriate ways to format it. Some topics lend themselves more to video, and some can be well expressed in a slide show. It depends on the message, but also on the preferences of the people you want to reach. Some people are more accessible through long-form articles, others through an audio podcast they can listen to during their commute.

    Any thoughts on what factors should go into choosing a platform for the re-imagining of existing content?

    • Shelly Bowen

      Good point, Carl! Reformatting content is a great way to recycle. I usually turn to the audience to figure out what format it should be in. Some people love video; some will never press Play. Infographics may hold someone’s attention for much longer than a spreadsheet; then again, highly analytical people may prefer the spreadsheet. Creating personas for each of your targeted audiences can help figure out which format they will respond to best.

  • LeylaBoulton

    Anybody have any ideas of great titles for people in charge of repackaging and repurposing content?

  • Rita Dawson

    Before writing on a particular content, an extensive research has to be done. It is very important that your content must be meaningful and up-to date. Many readers will never read the content that is filled with links and improper grammatical sentences. So  its very important that you have a sensible content.