Subscriber DK asks, “Bob, do you fear duplication? Triplication of your work? 30+ years and mountains of books, articles etc. How do you keep it fresh without dusting off and repackaging old efforts? Perpetual originality is very impressive.”
What DK really is talking about is the shelf life of content and whether (and how much) you have to continually come out with new stuff.
I think the solution to managing and “curating” your content lies in the 4 R’s of content management: recycle, refurbish, reject, and replace.
1. Recycle: DK is partially incorrect in suggesting that you should not dust off and repackage old efforts. On the contrary, you should.
It takes a lot of time and effort to create good content. If you only use it once, you are wasting it. Why not get maximum usage out of your investment? You should look to repackage your content in multiple media and forums. I know of one writer who made thousands of dollars selling and reselling the same short article on travel to India to 37 different magazines and newspapers!
One of my mentors, the late Howard Shenson, was a consultant, speaker, and information marketer. Howard told me a secret: customers will buy the same information in a variety of formats: speech, seminar, audio CD, special report, article, etc.
In the 1980s, I wrote numerous articles on marketing for a trade publication called Business Marketing. When the articles were published, I shoved them into a file cabinet and there they sat, ignored and unused.
Many years later, when I put up my first website, I learned that websites should have a lot of content. So I dusted off those articles, scanned them, and posted them on the articles page of my website.
Result: an instant library of content for my site with no additional effort on my part. No one has ever said anything about the articles being recycled.
2. Refurbish: this means to make significant updates to your writings so that they are current. For instance, I wrote a book on copywriting, The Copywriter’s Handbook, around 1985. Of course, it had nothing in it about online marketing.
Fortunately the publisher asked me to update it for the 21st century. So I added sections on e-mail marketing, websites, and other online marketing for a revised 3rd edition that now sells on Amazon.
There are 2 categories of updates for content: (1) cosmetic (e.g. the original Copywriter’s Handbook referred to typewriters, which we have changed to PCs, and we had to update the price of a postage stamp for the new edition) and (2) substantial.
Make both when updating content. If a reader finds even one dated reference in your writing, they will assume the entire document is out of date.
When you update, indicate the current year for the copyright date of the new edition. And note that it is a revised edition on the cover.
Today’s Internet-spoiled readers assume anything with a copyright date older than 24 months is out of date. Ridiculous, but that’s what they believe. Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” was published in 1936 and still sells well today.
3. Reject: alas, some things you write become so dated and stale that they cannot be saved and should be discarded.
An example is a book I wrote decades ago on producing brochures called Create the Perfect Sales Piece.
It was written before the advent of desktop publishing, so the production methods are obsolete.
But more important, so few marketers use print brochures today that the subject isn’t important enough to justify a new edition. So the publisher and I have let it quietly die.
4. Replace: I also wrote a book on direct mail, but when e-mail marketing began to replace direct mail as a preferred outbound marketing tactic, I wrote a book on e-mail (one of the first) called Internet Direct Mail. So rather than refurbish my direct mail book I replaced it with an e-mail marketing book.
3 key pieces of advice for managing your content:
1. Have a good filing system for all your content on your hard drive. Use descriptive subdirectories so you can quickly locate the files you are looking for.
2. Look at the content you already have every now and then. You’ll find gems you’d forgotten that deserve to be recycled or refurbished.
3. Create some regular mechanism that requires you to constantly write new content. That way, you’ll always have an ample surplus of content for products and promotions. Be sure to retain all rights to content you have written.
My content-creation mechanism is this e-newsletter and my column in Target Marketing magazine. For you, it might be a blog, articles for the business section of your local newspaper, or updated content for your website.
Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.