Everything Old Is New Again: How to Turn Your Content Inventory Into an Idea Cache

3 minute read

Upland Admin

Auditing your existing content isn’t just good practice. It’s an excellent way to generate fresh ideas. Especially for enterprise businesses with large websites, long-forgotten content can be “re-imagined” in various new forms and formats.

Admittedly, the audit/inventory process gets a bum rap for a reason: It can be mind-numbing and is by no means swift. But when implemented creatively, building an inventory can keep your editorial calendar stocked with goal-oriented content.

Much has been written about strategic methods for launching an audit and documenting an inventory (I personally recommend Kristina Halvorson’s Content Strategy for the Web).

The four-step plan I’ve put together here is in no way intended as an audit/inventory strategy unto itself. Consider it a means of enhancing your strategy with a layer of editorial prospecting, appraising ideas for new content along the way.

Step 1: Know your business and content goals. Is your editorial calendar for the coming year in place? Is it tied to business goals and objectives? Do you know what content types and formats your workflows and resources will support?

If you can’t answer these questions confidently, don’t move on to the next step until you can.

Step 2: Prioritize your inventory. A thorough content inventory will include metadata (categories and tags) and/or descriptions of the content on all of your website’s pages.

How does that data align with your editorial calendar and business goals?

Filter relevant categories, tags, and descriptions accordingly. (For example, if you know you’ll be producing content around the launch of a new trail-running shoe, you might sort your inventory by metadata and descriptions that include “runners,” “marathons,” “running shoes,” etc.)

Copy the inventory with those results into a separate spreadsheet.

Step 3: Mine, contextualize, and discover. What was the context surrounding the creation of the content included in your new spreadsheet? Who was involved?

Gather a small team of those staffers and contributors alongside any new employees tasked with carrying out current campaign goals (from editors and writers to sales staff). Ask the vets to tap their organizational knowledge and recall the stories behind creating the content, giving the newbies context on your company’s history and product development.

Which content is sparking the most excitement or memories? What questions are arising that can inform new content?

Record the meeting session or take copious notes on the anecdotes and inquiries that generate the most response.

Step 4: Plan, collaborate, and create. Using the intelligence gathered from your review session, pair vets and newbies together to update the old content for packaging. (Going back to the trail-running shoe example, ask the staff veteran who recalls fond memories from your company’s sponsorship of marathons in the past year to curate a slideshow of first-place-finisher photos from your Flickr stream.)

Whenever possible, make new forms of media from this previously published content, such as turning blog posts and articles into white papers, or revisiting relevant interview sources for a podcast or video series.

As long as your resources and workflows realistically support these new endeavors, the possibilities are endless.

My favorite content re-use examples are from the New Yorker’s Reader Series, topical anthologies in iPad-app form. What are yours?

Let us know in the comments, and we’ll track down the content creators to share their processes with Marketeer readers for future posts.

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