By Michele Linn published May 28, 2015

Content Reuse: A Super-Simple Way to Get Started


This is a story of content reuse in action. At Content Marketing Institute, we collect content marketing examples to share with our audience. We used to collect content marketing examples in an ad hoc way, but we have recently started to collect these in a systematic way that lends itself to reuse – and time savings for our team.

Maybe you can relate to how we used to do things?

Someone would see a great example, and they would email it to me – or someone else on the editorial team. “Great example,” I’d reply and, if feeling organized, I’d store this example in my personal email folder. I’m not sure what others did, as I never bothered to ask.

Or, one of our blog posts would have a great example in it, and I’d think, “We should include that in a roundup” (a future article pointing our readers to our favorite examples).

Not so scalable or efficient, right?

Things got a bit better when we started collecting all examples in a Google spreadsheet, but everyone recorded different kinds of information and did it in inconsistent ways. That first spreadsheet was a good starting place, because we all had access to a single source of the content, but we lacked standards for what to record and how. It took work to get the examples ready to share.

For instance, every Wednesday, our community manager, Mo, would email me and ask, “Do you happen to have an example ready for this week’s Facebook post?” (We publish one example per week.) I would go to the spreadsheet, search through ideas and format something for her to use. It might not seem like a big deal, but from week to week, the two of us spent time emailing each other, and I spent time hunting around for an example and then preparing it.

I knew there had to be a better approach. Enter intelligent content.

A more intelligent way to organize content

I started learning about the concepts of intelligent content in late 2014. While I am far from an expert, there were many things about the concepts that made sense to me. I decided to use these concepts – especially the central concept of designing content for reuse – to make sense of the content marketing examples we were collecting.

As with any business process, we needed to begin with the end in mind. I knew we needed a better way to have examples ready for our weekly Facebook post, and, at the same time, I wanted to update our e-book on content marketing examples. I also have other ideas of how we might reuse this content once it’s organized.

Knowing our goals helped me decide what kinds of information to collect about each content marketing example in our Google spreadsheet. I began to record these things every time:

  • Effort: A description of the content marketing example
  • Company: The brand leading this effort
  • Content type: Video, e-book, podcast, etc. (We have a standard list of content types – we call them tactics – that we use to categorize the examples. Since we often like to create editorial content based on our annual research, we use the same content types here that we include there. For instance, this data will make it much easier for us to update the Content Marketing Playbook.)
  • Why we love it: The submitter’s reason for wanting to add this example
  • CMI source: A link to the relevant blog post on CMI or a note identifying the CMI person who submitted this example
  • Industry: The relevant industry (picked from our standard list)
  • Person to cite: The person who wrote about this or provided this example
  • Direct link for an image: Where we go to get an image when we share the example
intelligent-content-marketing- reuse-spreadsheet

Click to enlarge

A snippet from the spreadsheet CMI uses to keep track of content marketing examples that may make good candidates for reuse across all our channels and deliverables

How we manage the spreadsheet

We have tried to manage this spreadsheet in several ways. What has worked best for us is to have Jodi Harris, our director of curation, “own” this list. While several of us can add examples, Jodi is the person who reviews everything to make sure it’s a good fit. (Or, even better, I can shoot Jodi an email of an idea, and she’ll add it.) Additionally, she reviews and revises all of the examples so that they appear in a consistent and accurate way.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but the only technology we use is Google spreadsheets. It’s not fancy or technical. It’s not automated. All our reuse requires manual copying and pasting. Each instance of reuse involves some tweaking. Still, it’s been a great place to start preparing ourselves for more consistent reuse.

How we are reusing our content

Now that we have our content marketing examples organized and located in a single source, we can use them much more easily. While we are in the early stages with this, we used these content marketing examples to create the e-book we just launched: 75 Examples to Spark Your Content Marketing Creativity. Here, you can see how the Airbnb row from our spreadsheet translated into a page of the e-book.

intelligent-content-marketing- reuse-ebook

The Airbnb info captured in our spreadsheet turned into this in our e-book.

Here’s that same Airbnb example from the spreadsheet as it translated to one of our weekly Facebook posts.


The Airbnb info captured in our spreadsheet turned into this in our Facebook post.

A few notes about this approach:

  • The example from Airbnb (above) was something we had published on Facebook a few months ago. While we repurpose some of the examples in multiple channels, not every example is used in every place.
  • There are times when the text used on Facebook is different from what is in the e-book – and that is OK for our purposes. Of course, if you are using intelligent content to keep things consistent, you would need to handle things differently.
  • As you can also see, not all of the information from our spreadsheet gets used every time. Here, Mo does tag the specific person who provided the example while leaving out other details.

Another benefit: Fewer emails

In addition to enabling us to create content more quickly, this way of storing our content marketing examples has cut down on emails. Gone are the days when Mo is emailing me for something to post. Once an example has been approved for use, it is marked “Ready for Facebook,” right in the spreadsheet, so Mo can grab any example she wants. Then, after she posts an example, Mo records the date. That data comes in handy for the whole team. For instance, it took me only 60 seconds to request the Facebook screenshot because Mo had recorded that publication date.


Of course, this is just the start of how we can use – and infinitely reuse – our content marketing examples. We have many other ideas.

And this is just simple, manual reuse. We’re talking a few people copying and pasting. Think how much more powerful a reuse strategy becomes as you scale reuse across a larger group and automate that reuse. But no one starts there. Your intelligent content journey has to start where you are.

Chances are, you have some kind of content you can use for your editorial purposes that would benefit from a systematic approach and a reuse strategy. I hope this story inspires you to think of your own ways to organize content in chunks for reuse.

Or are you already using a similar approach? We are looking for your stories and examples! Let me know in the comments or connect with me on Twitter: @michelelinn.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Michele Linn

Michele is the Vice President of Content at the Content Marketing Institute. She is one of those people who truly loves what she does and who she works with. You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

Other posts by Michele Linn

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