By Michele Linn published October 22, 2015

Content Reuse: Behind the Scenes With CMI

content-reuse-cover

While I am far from an expert in intelligent content, many things about its concepts make sense to me, and I was looking for a project where I could apply its principles.  Enter our content marketing examples, which was something we used to collect in a very ad hoc way. Now we are much more systematic with how we collect and reuse our examples. Not only does this save time on our end, but we can provide better output for our audience as well.

But let me take a step back and first share what prompted us to move to an intelligent content process.

Our non-intelligent way

We collect examples of content marketing for multiple content purposes. Under the old “system,” someone would see a great example, and email it to me or someone else on the editorial team. “Great example,” I’d reply, and, if feeling organized, store the email with the example in an inbox folder. I’m not sure what others on the editorial team 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 piece (a future article pointing our readers to our favorite examples).”

We had ideas of how we’d use these examples, but we were not doing anything formal.

We then decided to start publishing a weekly content marketing example on Facebook. When our community manager needed an example, she would email me, then I would have to find one and we have to spend time to figure out how to get a screenshot or image, etc.

Not so scalable or efficient, right?

Things got a bit better when we started collecting all examples in a Google spreadsheet, as it was a centralized repository, but it was still jumbled and inefficient. Everyone recorded different kinds of information, and the level of detail for each example was inconsistent. 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.

Our more intelligent way

As I learned about intelligent content, I knew there should be a better way. As with any business process, we began with the end in mind. We needed a better way to have examples ready for our weekly Facebook post, and, at the same time, we wanted to update our examples e-book. In addition, we have other ideas of how we might reuse this newly organized content.

Knowing our goals helped me decide what kinds of information to collect about each content marketing example listed on our Google spreadsheet:

  • Effort: Description of the example
  • Company: Brand leading creation or distribution of the example
  • Content type: Video, e-book, podcast, etc. (We have a standard list of content types – 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 in our categorizing that we include there. For instance, this data will make it much easier for us to update the e-book, Content Marketing Playbook.
  • Why we love it: Submitter’s reason for adding this example
  • CMI source: Link to the relevant blog post on CMI or a note identifying the CMI person who submitted this example
  • Industry: Industry relevant to example (picked from our standard list)
  • Person to cite: Person who wrote about this or provided this example
  • Direct link for an image: Place where image of example is stored

intelligent-content-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

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How we manage the spreadsheet

We have tried to manage this spreadsheet in several ways. What has worked best for us is to have our director of curation, Jodi Harris, “own” this spreadsheet. 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.) 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.

Let’s follow the example of Airbnb’s Pineapple magazine:

pnr-podcast-blog-post

­­­­

  • Logged on “Examples” tracking sheet by the curation director who reviews it for fit, and edits/adds to the description for consistency and accuracy (abbreviated version is above in example to show categories).
  • Selected by the community manager who tweaks copy for social, adds a screenshot, and posts to Facebook. Then adds Facebook URL to tracking sheet for future reference/use. Below you’ll see an example of what the example looked like in Facebook.

facebook-content-marketing-examples-airbnb

As more examples were added and we had a large enough collection of great examples, we used the data from the tracking sheet to pull copy and images into an e-book with minimal additional assets needed (other than the e-book design). The e-book, 75 Examples to Spark Your Content Marketing Creativity, includes the Airbnb example:

 

airbnb-ebook-example

A few notes about this approach:

  • While we repurpose some examples in multiple channels, not every example is used in every tactic or platform.
  • In this case, we use the sample example but different text describing it for Facebook and the e-book – that is OK for our purposes. If you are using intelligent content to keep text 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. This Facebook post tags the specific person who provided the example while leaving out other details.

Summary

This is just the start of how we can use – and infinitely reuse – our content marketing examples.

And we recognize that this is just simple, manual reuse – a few people copying and pasting easily available information. Think how much more powerful a reuse strategy becomes as you scale and automate it across a larger group. But few (if any) start that big. Your intelligent content journey has to start where you are.

Chances are that you have some kind of content you 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.

Want to expand your content strategy skills? Subscribe to Content Strategy for Marketers, our weekly email newsletter for forward-thinking marketers

Note: The original version of this post appeared on this site May. 28, 2015.

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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  • David Butler

    Fantastic topic Michele. We need more like this focused on efficiency and scale. We create a portfolio of ideas and content for use, reuse, and creativity sharing. Everyone has access to the same creative strategy, ideas, and related content for each main story theme and purpose. The cloud makes it super easy to share internally and externally. The goal is a continuous flow of creativity sharing for every story and reusing.

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      Thanks for the comment, David. Reuse and efficiency are such interesting topics — and I remember looking at your solution months ago. It’s a great way to get everyone on the same page.

      • David Butler

        Thanks Michele!

  • Brian Newsome

    Michelle, this is great. We are using a similar content calendar in Google Spreadsheets. What I’ve found, though, is that it can become an unwieldy list. Do you retire the content after it’s been used? If so, when? Do you delete it outright or push it to a “published tab?”

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