Content creators generally see their job as creating new content. But if they only focus on creating new content, they miss out on the benefits of content reuse.
Why might you be interested in reusing content, and how’s it done?
Reusing content makes your content modular. You can connect existing content to other content. That may seem a bit abstract, so let’s consider an analogy: planning your wardrobe.
Non-reusable content is like a perfectly matched clothing outfit: all the pieces look nice together, but they only seem to work as a set. There’s only one way to use the items.
Modular content, in contrast, resembles flexible wardrobe items that can be paired with many other items to deliver a range of different looks.
Think about when you are packing for a trip. You want to pack flexible clothing items you can wear more than once on different occasions. For example, a shirt you can dress up or dress down and pair with items in different color schemes.
That’s one of the motivations for content reuse. It lets your team do more with your content. You identify information and messages you need to say more than once because they will be useful to your business or customers at different times, in diverse circumstances, or on multiple occasions. Once you’ve identified content that could be reused, you gain many benefits.
Let’s look in more detail at why you’ll want to reuse content, and then we can touch on how you can make it happen.
Benefit 1: Remove the hassles from common content tasks
Too much of a content professional’s time is spent on routine tasks such as creating a new version of a content item from an existing version or updating it. Even if only a few new words are needed, the time and effort required can be laborious.
Content reuse brings much greater efficiency. Staff no longer need to copy and paste text or media between different copies. They can update items more easily too.
Benefit 2: Stamp out the proliferation of glitches in copied content
Copied content is complicated to manage, especially when various people have control over the copies. When individuals work on separate, independently published copies of content discussing the same material, it can be hard to rein in problems once they are discovered. For example, you might spot a typo, a grammar error, a missing link, an out-of-date term, or an inaccurate statement. You might try to fix the glitch where you find it but are unsure where else in your published content it might also appear. As a result, you are never certain that the problem won’t reappear somewhere.
Content reuse eliminates the problem of mutating inaccuracies. There’s only one version: a “single source of truth.” You can fix any problem once, and it is fixed everywhere.
Benefit 3: Improve coordination of messages in your organization
Nothing is more frustrating than when you find out that you are replicating the work of colleagues elsewhere in your organization. What’s worse, you learn that you and colleagues somewhere else are doing things slightly differently, meaning that customers are getting a confused picture of what your organization is trying to communicate.
When you have a single version of content items that are used throughout your organization, you can eliminate this duplication of effort and achieve better collaboration with your colleagues.
If your CMS supports content reuse, you can share content across the enterprise. But be sure that your CMS allows you can share reusable content easily between different parts of your organization. If it doesn’t, you may still find yourself duplicating efforts without realizing it.
Benefit 4: Make your content work harder by expanding how it can be used
Most content is created for a single, specific purpose and is only used once. That’s unfortunate because the effort to create that content can only have a limited impact. It’s possible, however, that content can support many goals and initiatives, not just one.
Reusable content makes content multi-purpose. That means the same content can support different goals and be used in different content types. The reused content serves as building blocks for multiple outputs.
Benefit 5: Deliver your most valuable information and messages anywhere
The next step to extending the value of your content is to enlarge where it can be accessed. When content is truly reusable, it can be delivered to many different channels, not just to a specific web page on a website.
Reusable content reimagines the journey that content can make. It allows the content to be available in whatever channel your customers are accessing.
Traditionally, content creators start by imagining a final product, often in a specific format, such as an email newsletter, a mobile app, or a PDF ebook. They start developing the content for a specific product and keep revising it until they are happy with how it looks. Their result may be lovely, but it won’t be very versatile. The content is locked into a specific format.
Reusable content is designed for flexibility and omnichannel delivery. It embodies the principles of COPE: Create once, publish everywhere. The same content piece can be part of a diverse range of content outputs. It can be reused in many channels, such as an email, a mobile app, a chatbot, as well as a webpage. The content becomes more valuable with each different context in which it can be used.
Making content reusable: you need a modular content platform
Content reuse doesn’t happen by happenstance. It requires some planning. But if you set up your CMS to support content reuse, it is easy to do.
Not all CMSs can support content reuse, however. To create and utilize reusable content, you need a modular content platform.
At the heart of a modular content platform is a content model, which identifies the details you want to include about the topics and tasks your content discusses. The model defines the modular parts, which can then be reused as needed. It helps your team identify what information and messages you need to create and allows you to reuse them.
In short, the content model provides a high-level plan for your content, and it directs how your CMS manages and delivers the content you create.
Defining your content model -- and setting up your CMS to take advantage of it -- will make the work developing and maintaining content much easier. To learn more about the benefits of modular content, check out our free ebook, the Content Modeling Playbook.