Thursday, May 30, 2013

Wring out your existing content to get dozens of blog posts

Most of the time, my work on client's blogs is limited to training and strategies. But recently, my clients at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University--a client with a communications staff of four--were down one person, putting a big 25 percent drop in staffing. The Cancer Matters blog, one of her duties, was hungry for content. So I agreed to handle writing some blog posts on evergreen topics that could be used either immediately or held for later use.

The assignment did more than plug a staffing hole, however. It gave me the chance to put into action something I'm always urging clients when it come to creating blog content: Wring every last bit of goodness out of the content you have already lying around. Most of my clients have more content than they know what to do with. No need to go out and create something newly spectacular.

Why wring all that goodness out of your content? It gives you many more options for your blog, from the ability to plan and schedule posts far in advance to the opportunity to cover topics in depth over time, or, in this case, cover for an absentee.

In one part of this assignment, the client pointed me to a webinar on cancer nutrition, What's Food Got to Do With It? Eating Well Before, During and After Treatment. It featured a Hopkins nutrition expert who worked her way through a dense-packed presentation of consumer health information, followed by answering questions submitted by audience members online, asked by a moderator. The entire webinar was just under an hour, and I got 36 individual blog posts out of it. Yes, you heard me. Here's how:
  1. Set up the standing copy: Every post was going to need a pointer back to the full webinar, so the first thing I wrote was the closing language suggesting readers go to the webinar for even more info. That got pasted into every post.
  2. Read and listen: No good webinar has an exact match between the audio and the slides. I gleaned information from the slides and roughed out the post topics, then listened to the audio a couple of times to catch any extra information and decide whether it warranted its own post or would augment one I'd already identified.
  3. Resist the urge to bundle topics together: Chances are, at some point during this exercise, you'll find yourself thinking (as I did), "Really, these three things should go together." Resist that clarion call. Breaking the topics into small, discrete posts will better help your search engine results, and make the posts more readable.
  4. Leverage the questions: In this webinar, fully half of the program was devoted to answering viewer questions, and that material yielded 27 of the 36 posts. Every post from the Q&A section of the webinar has a headline that captures, as closely as possible, the actual question. That's because your reader's actual question is more likely to mirror what real people are searching for on the web--and mirroring that in turn in your headlines will improve your results in search engines. This article on how to leverage blog comments (another place where you'll find questions from readers or users) to boost page rank and SEO explains further.
  5. Look for opportunities to drive traffic around the site: When the speaker recommends working with the Hopkins department of physical medicine to come up with a post-treatment exercise regimen, it's a natural cue to add a link to that department. In this way, your existing content becomes another tool for driving new audiences to your website's many components.
  6. No item too small: Some bloggers pass over information that would yield posts of 200 words or less, but you're missing a built-in chance to make full use of your existing content if you do. Small, self-contained blog posts can help keep your overall post length varied, and may be practical, useful stuff that readers need to know. Some questions in the webinar got shorter answers--sometimes viewers were wondering about a possibility that just didn't occur, for example--but putting myths like that to rest may be an important role for that post to play, no matter how short.
  7. Think in timelines: This webinar had content focused on nutrition before, during and after cancer treatment, creating natural categories based on what patients or prospective patients would want to know. Look for similar natural timelines in your existing content to suggest individual posts or a series.
Of course, the real key to being able to get 36 posts out of an hour-long webinar lies in having a webinar jammed with content, something they have a lot of at Hopkins.

There are lots of other ways to repurpose content for your blog. You can use the interesting articles you share on Twitter each week and round them up into a curated post as I do in this blog's Friday post, the weekend read or on The Eloquent Woman blog, where the articles I share on that blog's Facebook page wind up on the blog on Mondays as The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit. You can pull apart a press release and make posts out of a compelling quote, an illustrative example, or a series of next steps. It's a great brainstorm project: Take some existing content and look at it with the eyes of a blogger. What more can you get out of it?

The Hopkins cancer center is the rare hospital-based operation that's blogging--hospitals and health institutions have been avoiding blogs, fearing them to be time-intensive, among other things. That's just one of the insights I shared last year in a session on making it easy to blog for the Public Affairs Network of National Cancer Institute-supported cancer centers. The Cancer Matters blog uses another of my tactics for making blogging easy, deploying a team of bloggers who include physicians, nurses, educators and public affairs staff. Wringing out the goodness from existing content makes that approach even stronger. Can I work with your team to come up with similar tactics or a content strategy for your blog? Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz if you want a similar burst of content.

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