A content strategy involves many different components.
Content auditing is one part of a content strategy. Content reuse, which is a way of creating content one time and then reusing that content, is another critical component as it can improve consistency, result in higher-quality content, and reduce authoring and translation costs. Implementing a content reuse strategy can help businesses meet the increasing demands for content creation, customized content and the need for changes.
Content reuse is a huge topic, so in this blog post, I’ll describe at a high level what content reuse is, how a content audit can get you started and things to consider in building a reuse plan.
What is Content Reuse?
Content reuse is the practice of writing content one time following best practice guidelines and reusing that content in more than one place, whether it’s within the same document, across other documents or in other outputs. You use the content chunks as building blocks to create your documents, web pages and more. You also need to establish a reuse plan and tools to manage all the content. When you need to make a change or create a new document, you’ll know where to access the content and what documents will be impacted.
There are a lot of guidelines around how to write for reuse, so I’ll just mention a few here. First, make sure you know and understand your audience in order to write relevant content. Content should be written in the smallest bundle (e.g., sentence, paragraph or section) that makes sense and it should stand alone, meaning someone could read the content out of context and still understand it. Content should also be written without specific product / service names whenever possible – those terms can be added in as variables depending on the authoring tool. For example, you could conditionalize the terms in Adobe FrameMaker or use variables in XML.
Start with a Content Audit
Conducting a content audit is a great way to research your content reuse potential. A content audit is composed of an inventory (the amount of content) and a qualitative analysis (analyzing content for a variety of business measures). A thorough audit would include all areas where you may have overlapping content, such as website copy, marketing collateral, technical documents or training materials. You can also focus on one document type such as brochures.
If you’re not sure where to begin, start by looking within your various content sets, such as brochures. Look for content or sections that are similar such as:
- Company contact information
- Product features
- Product or service descriptions
For example, let’s say you have a topic called “About Our Company” that’s used in all of your brochures but you have a few different variations. You want to rewrite that topic using your guidelines so you can establish one standard version of it to incorporate throughout the brochure set.
As you start to see some patterns, you should get an idea of where to conduct your audit. You’ll also see content that doesn’t make sense to audit, such as content that’s only in one document, unique procedures for your products and others. Focus on the reuse opportunities.
To read more how to conduct audits and see examples, please read my blog posts on content audits in general and my specific posts on auditing for technical, marketing, web and localization of content audits.
Build a Content Reuse Plan
After you conduct an audit, analyze the results and create your content reuse plan. Depending on your results and priorities, you may end up with a small content reuse plan such as standardizing your customer service information, social media references and product descriptions in your brochures. Or you may end up with a large content reuse plan involving rewriting your instruction manuals with standard sections and procedures.
Whatever the case, your plan should include things like the name of the topic, the product(s) or service(s) it’s associated with and the documents / locations where it’s used. You should think about if and how the content should be rewritten, how and when to update the content, resources needed, timelines and an on-going working plan.
Ideally you’d have an automated way to find and link to the content such as a component content management system (CCMS). You could also create a spreadsheet using detailed metadata.
Establishing a content reuse plan can improve consistency and quality by following standard guidelines. Writing content one time can also reduce your authoring costs and translation costs.