Don’t Recycle Your Content – Upcycle It!


Why reinvent the wheel?  My colleague Jen Scheer has some great tips for leveraging existing content beyond just rehashing it.  Read on!

One of the (many) reasons I love my job is that I get to strategize, plan and execute a wide range of marketing programs for a diverse group of clients. But one of my very favorite things to do is to write. I love creating content. And I’ve been a strong advocate of content marketing long, long before that term was coined and it became the “it” marketing thing.

The Problem with Content Marketing

I know that creating content – even bad content – is hard. That’s why the concept of leveraging existing content is so appealing. But there’s a problem with this approach. Often, the “new” content isn’t really new. It’s simply recycled and it feels that way. For example, a common recommendation is to take the key points of an existing blog post and put them on PowerPoint slides with a couple of images and – voilà – you’ve got a SlideShare. Well, yes. You’ve created a new vehicle, but the content itself is essentially the same. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it can help you broaden the reach of the content by putting it in front of new audiences. But it’s not enough. If you just keep recycling the same piece of content over and over (albeit in different formats), your audience is going to get tired of it and, perhaps even, see you as a one-trick pony.

Recycling vs. Upcycling

Those who know me know I dislike goofy terms, but I’m not above using them to make a point, and I’m about to do that now with “upcycling.” The idea behind upcycling is to take something you might throw out but instead transform it into something completely new and wonderful in its own right. The blog-to-SlideShare scenario discussed above is an example of recycling. Really great – and the most effective – content marketing is about upcycling. It’s about using what you have as a jumping-off point to create something that feels new. You know you are doing it right when the same individual consumes multiples pieces that were upcycled from a single source and finds them all interesting and valuable.

Warning: Content Upcycling is not for the Lazy

The whole point of upcycling is transformation. It requires a combination of creativity and effort. Chunking up content and slapping it in a new format doesn’t count. Don’t completely abandon the concept of recycling – it does have some value. But invest in upcycling. Once you start getting into the habit of thinking this way, you’ll find you have a wealth of raw material to work with.

Five Ideas to Get You Started

So far, I’ve been talking about upcycling content in the abstract. But there’s nothing like concrete examples to help illustrate the point. Here are five that I’ve found effective.

  1. Turn a data sheet “inside out.” Everyone has data sheets lying around, but probably no one thinks of them as potential sources for new content. This description of your offering’s capabilities and benefits can be transformed into a checklist of what to consider when evaluating solutions in your space.
  2. Use the Q&A from webinars. Webinars are a great source for new content, but most people think about the main presentation and ignore the Q&A portion. The questions asked by attendees reflect what your audience is interested in learning about. Questions with complex answers can be turned into tip sheets or blog posts. Short answers can be transformed into social posts.
  3. Animate an infographic. After you think you’ve gotten all the value you possibly can from your infographic, consider creating an animated version that zooms in and out of the stats with narration that provides a deeper context of the stats and why they are important.
  4. Use the internal data and knowledge that you take for granted. There’s an enormous amount of valuable insight and information within your organization. Asking the right questions can elicit useful tips and tricks that can be used in social media, email campaigns, tip sheets, etc.
  5. Consolidate your case studies. If you have a library of case studies, you can pull out the key benefits and results and combine them into an infographic or a tip sheet.

But don’t stop there. Like I said, with a little creativity and a little work, the sky’s the limit. Got your own great content upcycling ideas? Please share – I’d love to hear them!

Jen Scheer

This post was originally published on the LEWIS PR 360° blog.