Irma, blog posts and the never-ending search for more ‘stuff’

[Image courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center at Flickr Creative Commons]

Do you ever get the feeling of déjà vu when you’re watching the news?

Don’t we all. 

This week, hurricane Maria is sweeping through the Caribbean, wreaking havoc in its path. The news coverage is very similar to what we saw just two weeks ago with Irma, complete with reporters battling to stay upright as they’re lashed by rain and buffeted by gales.

The whole format is one that’s been used many times, right down to the weatherman/weatherwoman in the studio explaining how hurricanes come about and where the current one is headed.

Then there are the shots of bumper-to-bumper traffic, live interviews on dodgy Skype connections and first-hand byte-sized accounts on Twitter. And maybe even some library pictures to remind us of the last hurricane – or Katrina, if that can be woven into the mix.

It is new and it is news, but it feels as if we’ve seen it all before, and we know how it’s going to play out. But that doesn’t stop us watching it. Somehow, the novelty value keeps us glued to our screens and clicking in our apps to find out the latest.

It all seems familiar, but it’s repackaged in a slightly different way – which is enough to keep us engaged. 

Out with the old, in with the new

By coincidence, I’ve been doing some repackaging of my own recently.

I’ve been working on a client project that’s taking existing content and giving it a new lease of life. Or in the jargon, repurposing

The source content is mostly blog posts, and mostly, they’ve done a good job: attracting  traffic, encouraging blog-feed signups, and promoting other sections of the website. But they’ve got a limited shelf life – either because the information is out of date, or they simply disappear below the fold and are lost in the digital hinterland. 

But that doesn’t mean they’re no longer useful – far from it.

As I’ve been discovering, much like the remains of last night’s meal and other assorted scraps in your fridge, they can be reworked and combined to make a very tasty offering.

And there are some great reasons to repackage existing material: 

  • New content is hard to find and time-consuming to produce.
  • People may not have seen it the first time around – or if they did, they may not have read it to the end, or been receptive to the messages. 
  • You can break it down so it’s targeted at niche audiences, who see a specific spin that’s relevant to their situation or needs.
  • It helps improve your SEO efforts. 
  • You establish yourself as an authority on a particular subject. Remember that ‘just showing up’ (as Woody Allen famously said) is a big part of success. 
  • You can use one piece of content to promote another, so you keep people engaged for longer.

A sense of (re)purpose

So what should you repurpose? Anything you like. 

Blog posts are a great place to start. Dig around in your back catalogue and see what you can reuse. Take your most shared or read posts and use them as a springboard for a new piece of content.

If posts are out of date, that’s actually good news, as it gives you the perfect excuse to write another one that incorporates all the latest developments. 

So one blog post leads to another. But it can also lead to other formats: e-books, slideshares, infographics and even videos.

And don’t get too hung up on the idea that you’re repeating yourself. Remember that repackaging content means you get several bites of the cherry with the same audience – or even with different audiences.

The marketing funnel is really useful when you’re deciding how to reuse and target content.  From high-level thought pieces (TOFU) to mid-level solution pieces (MOFU) to bottom-level product pitches (BOFU) you have lots of ways to slice and dice existing material and make it appealing again.

Because just like tropical hurricanes, novelty is what keeps people interested.

But don’t take my word for it: just wait until Nate, Ophelia, Philippe and Rina hit, and you’ll see how we never tire of the same story. 

With a slightly different spin each time.