If you’ve been generating enrollment marketing content for a while, you’ve probably run out of ideas once or twice – or a lot. The secret is to recycle content. Here’s how to do it.
First off, what do I mean by “recycling?”
Recycling content is taking what you have produced in the past and either republishing it in the same format with updates or repurposing it into a new format.
The why is simple:
Content marketing is hard work. Recycling saves you valuable time and energy as opposed to constantly trying to reinvent the wheel.
Now, how do you do it? If you’re thinking it’s a bad idea to simply copy and paste the same old blog post into a new one and slap a new date on it, you’re right.
But you wouldn’t want to do that anyway, not when you see how simple it can be to recycle content into something that is truly unique and new.
When recycling, start by identifying what you already have.
The obvious first place to look is through materials your marketing team has produced in the past. Whatever you want to say now, you’ve likely said it before.
Consider anything a potential content source:
- Digital assets – web pages, websites you manage, blog posts, emails, ebooks, promotional videos, etc.
- Print assets – newsletters, viewbooks, other marketing collateral.
Here is where you’ll find the most low-hanging fruit.
But often, you can find something even juicier elsewhere.
Academic departments are often great content sources. The content you find there may not have been designed for enrollment marketing (read: dry), but it is likely easily adaptable for your purposes.
Look through your email inbox, physical files, shared folders on the server, or your library’s archives for materials that were produced for public consumption:
- Communications from the administration – letters, emails, press releases.
- Orientation materials – booklets, pamphlets, PowerPoint presentations, recorded webinars.
- Video content – panel discussions, speeches, lectures, interviews, events.
- Student-produced content – essays, presentations, articles, blog posts.
Student-produced content can be especially powerful.
Johns Hopkins University knows this, which is why the Applications page on their website prominently displays Essays that Worked. Each essay comes with an introduction explaining why the essay was effective:
Jerry’s essay helped the admissions committee understand his background and how he persevered and grew through debate. Although we had already learned about Jerry’s enthusiasm for debate in other parts of his application, this essay gave so much more depth into why this activity is meaningful for him. Given what he shared in his essay, we can imagine Jerry being an active participant both in and out of the classroom.
If you have access to content like this, why limit its use to one page of your website? Use it everywhere you can. Excerpts from Jerry’s essay could be used in many ways. (More on that below.)
The point is, many schools struggle with content because it’s defined too narrowly. If you’re having a hard time coming up with a blog post, don’t just look back at old blog posts. You can draw from anything.
You’ll be amazed at how much inspiration you can find sifting through old stuff.
When you dust off that old freshman orientation video, you start to see the connection to something you wanted to say about campus life today.
That sample student essay you found stuffed into an outdated college prep packet is still powerful. Maybe you can use that, too.
But again, if you need ready-made content you can quickly adapt into a short piece like a blog post, look first to your low-hanging fruit: your old blog posts. You’ll often find the subject matter is no less relevant now than it was the last time you published it.
It just needs a little elbow grease to make it like new.
Next, brainstorm what you can turn it into.
Utilizing old content for something new can mean publishing:
- To the same outlet with updates, i.e. using (an) old blog post(s) to inspire a new post.
- To a different existing outlet, i.e. using (an) old blog post(s) for a new email.
- To a new outlet, i.e. using an excerpt of an old blog post to feed a new social media account.
Don’t worry too much about opening up a new outlet — not if you’re currently struggling with content creation. Unless expanding is a strategic priority to reach an untapped audience, focus on feeding the channels you already have.
Examples of ways to recycle content for your school’s existing outlets (where applicable):
1. Recycle anything from historical documents, like old campus news stories, into email newsletters.
Your email list represents your most intimate digital audience. Subscribers are hungry for information about the school. They will be interested in stories from the past, which will really come in handy on a light news week.
2. Use press releases as the centerpiece for LinkedIn articles.
The journalistic tone of press releases coming out of the administration makes them an ideal fit for the professional environment of LinkedIn, which is a great channel to nourish to get more of your content noticed.
3. Combine blog posts to make gated content.
Any digital content you’ve written to answer questions for prospective students – guiding them through college prep, financial aid, etc. – can come together in a high-value ebook or white paper. That content can then be “gated” behind a form that requires an email submission. This is great for list building.
4. Break up gated content to make blog posts.
You can also do the reverse. Take small bites out of old ebooks and white papers to make blog posts. Expose your general audience to a little of that gated content and promote the rest.
5. Curate your own blog posts into a “best of” review.
At the end of the calendar year or academic year, write a blog post and/or email that summarizes the most popular posts (by views, comments, any metric you choose) of the year. All you have to do is write a synopsis and provide a link back to each one.
6. Recycle the heck out of video if it’s relevant to your subject matter.
Get all the mileage you can out of good video. If you used a broadly-relevant clip from a promotional video six months ago in a blog post about college prep, use it again for today’s post about student organizations, then again in six months to talk about campus safety, and so on.
7. If it’s worth saying again, say it again.
Sometimes recycling content really is about writing the same email, blog post, article, or other piece of content over again, because it’s important. There’s nothing wrong with updating an old piece with new information, adding some content, or just writing it better than you did the first time.
8. Recycle old content into a new content promotion.
Many schools share their newest blog content to their email list. But those emails can be far more robust when they include links to older content that is also relevant. You can pull that content in from a variety of outlets, such as news tickers and various social media accounts.
About that last one … Check out Revue.
I’ve started using a service called Revue that makes it easy to do #8.
My subscribers now get not only a link to the new blog post, but also to previous posts, YouTube videos and resources, including helpful articles by other content producers I’ve been reading.
It’s worth considering this or any resource that makes it easier to recycle and curate content. Content production is hard work, after all. You owe it to yourself to conserve your creative energy by making the most out of what you have already produced.
Click here to read this article on the Caylor Solutions website.