The 5-for-1 Rule: Giving Content its Traveling Legs

When I pack for a trip, I have rule about what goes in my suitcase: every piece of clothing has to mix and match with every other piece and have at least two uses. It’s the most efficient way to pack, and gives me the most options from my travel wardrobe.

I approach content in the same way, but make greater demands on it than just two uses.  As a freelance copywriter, I always make the suggestion to clients to think about the many ways they can repurpose content. It’s too valuable to cast it away as a one-off.

Written once – and that’s it?

Ten years ago while working for a “deep tech” firm as a marketing communications manager, I spent a lot of time with my product team creating rich content – white papers, case studies, customer presentations, research papers, webinars and more. Each piece represented a lot of time, work and hard-won approvals.

Yet each piece was being published just once, and only in its original form. No mix and match, no multiple uses, and absolutely no efficiency. It was an opportunity, too.

That’s when I developed the Five-for-One rule: white papers, case studies, presentations, webinars, research papers and other high-end content were repurposed five times—at the minimum. We did it easily with some creative thinking and an editorial plan. And that was a decade ago, before blogs, electronic publishing, online video and social media were commonplace or even invented.

So how does the Five-for-One Rule work? 

Here are two examples, both with more than five repurposing possibilities:

White paper

  • 3 blogs (trend, problem, solution sections) – each with call to action
    to white paper landing page
  • Contributed articles to print or electronic publication
  • 2-minute podcast – with call to action to white paper landing page
  • C-Level presentation
  • Executive article on website with link to product page
  • Webinar
  • Industry brief

Case Study

  • Adoption press release
  • Blog
  • Webinar with case study customer
  • Trade show presentation (booth or breakout session)
  • With other case studies, a customer story handout or download
  • Web page testimonial

Of course, your clients can use a series of email, Facebook, Twitter, pay-per-click ads, texts and website call-to-actions to drive visitors to these content pieces, all of which will contain links to companion pieces. And instead of just having one offer for a single stage of their sales funnel, they have several pieces of content to touch customers at multiple points along the sales funnel.

As a copywriter, once you have the original piece written, it’s not that much more work to create the repurposed pieces. Offer these options to your clients, and you not only become a valued consultant, you’re sure to see higher revenue for your own business—maybe enough to take a long trip with a well-packed suitcase.

Nan Devlin is principal of Northwest Content, copywriting for advanced technologies. She can be reached via email

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What do you mean by “impactful?”

Recently I’ve come across frequent use of the word “impactful” in technology copywriting. It’s most often used to describe one of the benefits of a software solution, as in how it will help a company gain a business advantage. The word seemed only partially authentic, slightly smelling of jargon, like so many words in technical marketing. So I looked it up.

As suspected, impactful is a non-word. In fact, it is held in contempt, with numerous websites devoted to its demise. According to the Urban Dictionary, impactful is:

“A non-existent word coined by corporate advertising, marketing and business drones to make their work sound far more useful, exciting and beneficial to humanity than it really is. This term is most frequently used in “team building” seminars and conferences in which said drones discuss the most effective ways to convince consumer zombies to purchase crap they clearly do not need or even want. Example: “The board was convinced that my new ad campaign for arsenic and semen flavored lollipops for tots will be incredibly impactful and will generate heaps of sales.”

Wow. A little harsh, but point taken. Perhaps better word choices – real ones, in fact – would be: effective, impressive, has impact.  My choice? Influential.

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