“Your great content is not a tasty snack, it’s a full-on feast — if you know how to ‘COPE.’ From articles to videos to photo galleries, it’s easier than you think to increase the impact of your work via social media, email, and syndication to a content-hungry world.” – Stephanie Reid-Simmons, director of content marketing at Zillow
COPE stands for “create once, publish everywhere,” and represents a highly sustainable technique of building strong, foundational assets that can be expressed in different forms and easily adapted for use on multiple content channels — as part of a single, unified process.
Though likely coined by National Public Radio in reference to specific content management tools the broadcast service was building, the phrase has come to represent an important strategic shift in how content can — and, arguably, should — be developed. When planned and managed thoughtfully, COPE content enables marketers to satisfy their audience’s increasingly voracious appetite for quality content — without overstraining their team’s resources to the point of a breakdown (nervous, operational, or otherwise).
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Why companies should COPE
Why is it so critical that content creators find ways to increase production efficiency? Consider this: According to our 2017 B2B Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends research, of the 62% of marketers who feel they became more successful at content marketing over the past year, 85% credit more efficient creation of high-quality content as a key contributor.
What’s even more interesting is that, of those who report that their content marketing programs had stagnated (28%) or even declined (3%) over the last year, almost half cite content creation challenges, and slightly over half cite an insufficient time commitment as reasons for their program’s failure to thrive.
Need more evidence that businesses can no longer afford to ride things out without addressing their content productivity problems head-on? Consider some tough love recently delivered by Joe Pulizzi, which boils down to this: Companies that aren’t able (or willing) to fully commit to delivering high-quality content on a consistent basis might be better off ceasing their content operations altogether.If you’re not “all in” with your #contentmarketing program, you should stop says @joepulizzi. Click To Tweet
COPE helps address gaps in content capabilities by enabling marketers to squeeze greater value from their efforts. To COPE, as Stephanie uses the term, is to envision from the get-go how you might refashion an especially promising content idea over and over to serve multiple purposes on multiple channels. Rather than build every asset from scratch, you plan to repurpose, reconstruct, and reposition your best content ideas in various ways to get the most out of them.Repurpose your best #content ideas in various ways to get the most out of them says @betterlater via @joderama. Click To Tweet
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What it takes to COPE
In her top-rated session at Content Marketing World 2016, Stephanie described the technique in detail and illustrated how brands can leverage it — not only to amp production and increase efficiency but to maximize the impact of every asset produced.
According to Stephanie, three features are essential to making COPE work:
- A rich narrative: If you have a strong, resonant story to tell, you can extend its life by telling it across multiple formats and platforms.
- A powerful concept: When you come up with a unique idea or even just something fun that people will talk about, it’s worth doubling down.
- A plan: You need a thoughtful framework that governs what, when, where, and how you will atomize your best content.
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
Learning how to COPE
As Stephanie mentions, not everything COPEs universally: There will always be ideas that kill it in a specific channel, but get killed in others. However, just because an idea might not translate to every possible publishing platform doesn’t mean you have to abandon it altogether. You just need to prioritize the ones that offer the strongest potential to suit your primary marketing purpose.
Here are a few tips for choosing your COPE ideas wisely:
- Make sure they are substantive: COPE only works if your foundational assets provide a strong enough value on their own to sustain that engagement. Ask yourself if there’s enough substance to the original story before you decide to extend it to other formats and platforms.
- Make sure they appeal to your publishing (amplification) partners: To be accepted on professional media, other brand, and influencer platforms, your efforts must conform to the quality, topic, and stylistic standards their audiences have come to expect.
- Take cues from your data for COPE ideas: Tracking and measuring the performance of all your content may reveal topics and trends that have a high potential to engage your audience — making them more suitable for COPE.
Keep in mind that when companies COPE, a lot of moving parts often are involved. And, depending on the specific characteristics of your target formats or channels, asset production may even require multiple workflows and sets of editorial criteria. For example, turning a blog post into an infographic can require translating complex explanations into simple visual illustrations; turning an e-book into a quiz may involve revising the discussion into a series of questions and answers as well as the use of specific technologies to deliver the content to users.
To maintain high-quality standards no matter how you might need to reconstitute your content, Stephanie shares three key recommendations:
- Maintain an editorial calendar: It should be easily accessible and up to date so your team can be confident that they are making smart editorial decisions, are delivering assets on schedule, and are working toward the same business goals.
- Meet regularly: Communication between editors and internal channel owners is essential to COPE success. Even a five-minute kick-off meeting at the start of the day can go a long way toward ensuring that your teams remain focused and functional.
- Engage amplification partners frequently: COPE success hinges on establishing relationships with influencers and publishers who need the great content you create. You need to find the right outlets, personally engage their interest, and check in with them regularly so they can consider you a reliable, trustworthy content partner in their syndication efforts.
By the way, as you’ve probably noticed if you’ve followed the usage of the term COPE over the years, Stephanie’s take on the term is unusual. As it’s widely used, COPE implies content that has been prepared for reuse exactly as it is in various places without any tweaks or modifications. That’s what “create once” means in the original COPE concept as laid out by NPR and others. The thing that Stephanie talks about “creating once” isn’t a reusable piece of content but a content idea with a lot of potential. When she talks about “publishing everywhere,” she doesn’t mean publishing the same exact thing everywhere. In fact, she means the opposite: refashioning that content idea so that it’s different each time to suit the channel and audience.Refashion that #content idea so it’s different each time to suit the channel & audience says @betterlater. Click To Tweet
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A COPE success story
Years before joining Zillow to lead its content team, Stephanie (a former journalist) worked for Amazon. There, COPE emerged as an organic by-product of her role as a busy one-person content engine: Because she had time to create only so many pieces, whenever she came across an exciting content idea, she mined every ounce of value it offered. For example, following a rare opportunity to interview the cast of The Big Bang Theory, Stephanie leveraged the output into a range of assets, including a blog post, an email, a video, and several days of Twitter posts.
Bringing her COPE approach to her role at Zillow, Stephanie discovered that not only can “optimizing for awesomeness” save her team time and money, but it exponentially increases the impact of their content — sometimes as much as 100-fold.
For example, a hot trend in real estate is the tiny house movement, which advocates living simply and sustainably by maximizing the space of a small yet affordable home (typically under 500 square feet). While exploring this trend for Zillow — a real-estate and rental-property marketplace — Stephanie’s team discovered the fascinating story of a young couple that traded in the creature comforts of big-city living in Seattle for a more personally fulfilling lifestyle in their 98-square foot home on San Juan Island.
Starting with a post for the Zillow Porchlight blog and an email campaign, the Zillow team soon found ways to extend Leah Wymer and Brady Ryan’s story across platforms. Here are a few examples.
- A video on Zillow’s YouTube channel:
- Syndicated articles published on amplification partner sites like Forbes, MSN, and AOL Real Estate:
Image source: AOL Finance
- Fuel for Zillow’s social media presence:
Image source: Twitter
Through its COPE strategy, Zillow was able to exponentially increase views of the original blog post and the YouTube video over the course of several weeks as people were seeing the same basic story on higher-profile media sites.
Not only did syndicating the story strengthen overall interest, but the story remains one of the most popular — well over a year after its initial publication.
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COPE can provide significant strategic advantages that can amplify the power of every asset you create. But it needs to be done in a smart, systematic, and sustainable way, so that your extended reach doesn’t just impact your brand, it also brings greater benefit to the audience you serve.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute