By Cindy Childress, Regular Columnist.
You might have hear marketing gurus like Neil Patel talk about “re-purposing content” or “re-using content.”
It’s the concept of taking one piece of content—for my purposes, a piece of writing, but sometimes it’s a video or graphic–and then seeing its potential to be edited and adapted into another kind of content.
It’s not tough to imagine that a well-performing blog topic might also translate into a well-performing podcast topic or book chapter, and that’s where a lot of my clients stall out. They know it’s doable, but they don’t know how to think in order to make the necessary changes so that they can adapt the first piece of content to the other types.
I think of language and words as plastic. I mean that you can take one speech act and transform it into any other speech act. I do this with my newsletters when I turn them into my articles for Greater Impact Writing.
If you’ve seen some of my newsletters, you might’ve noticed some similar themes that also popped in my articles, but they aren’t verbatim. I turned a newsletter into this article by removing all the personal story about my Great-Grandmother and introducing more teaching. The writing is still in first person, but I increased the level of formality and authority. Only about 150 words of the newsletter are here, although the topic is the same–now three times as long as the newsletter.
I repurpose content by looking at what needs to be changed in the voice, tone, level of detail, etc. and make those changes, all the while keeping an eye on how I want it to shape up in the end by considering the features that make an article an article and not a newsletter.
When you think of language as plastic, this makes it easy for you to create more content in different genres, once you have something written in any genre. You might think of genres as types of films, like westerns and horror, but there are genres for everything, like podcasts, YouTube videos, books, and even the newsletter.
When you think about each type of writing as a genre, it becomes easier to imagine rewriting one piece of content and adapting it to the genre profile of another type of content. This is an idea I taught in the university, using Andrea Lunsford’s teaching on genres, wherein we analyzed the features of different genres. Let’s review an example of genre profiling:
Why is a Blog a Blog?
(Besides because it’s published on a website under the Blog category in the navigation, lol).
Anatomy of a Blog: Title, subtitles within blog, external links, call to action
Average Word Count: 450 words. Can be shorter and can be longer, up to 7,000 words
Level of Formality: Informal. Written in first person, assumes familiarity with the reader, casual vocabulary, use of slang okay, some sentence errors acceptable, when not overwhelming.
Level of Authority: Variable. External links to credible sources to support arguments, first-person experience, anecdotes, and opinions.
Types of Prose: Variable. Stories, bullet-pointed lists, exposition/explanation, charts and infographics.
Reader’s Expectations: Quick Wins. Skimmable, relevant, credible, engaging, entertaining, informative, shareable, further action.
Writer’s Expectations: Engagement. Traffic increase to website, increased thought-leader status, incubate and test new ideas, grow email list, sell products or services, etc.
I could write a whole book on the above, but this will get us started.
Take The Blog Profile to Re-Purpose it Into a Book Chapter
When I take an average 450-word blog and melt it down to remake it into a book chapter, I think about how a book chapter is different from a blog. With the blog profile, I know what stays the same and what changes as I adapt it to the book profile. For the purposes of this analysis, let’s say that the chosen book type is self-help.
In today’s world, especially with self-publishing, but also even with the major publishing houses, the level of formality in book writing is quite informal nowadays. When I adapt a blog into a book chapter, therefore, I leave the contractions and slang, but I do reduce the number of sentence errors like run-ons and fragments, which are acceptable in a blog, but in a book acceptable only when used intentionally to make an impact.
While there is no golden standard on the length of a book chapter because that is so sub-genre and book-specific, you will want to decide what you’d like your average length of book chapter to be, which will tell you how much more writing you need to include into the old blog to transform into said book chapter. Let’s say that you want the chapters to be 7-10 pages long, which will be an average of 1,500-2,500 words.
You double or triple the word count in the blog by considering the other conventions of the book chapter.
Usually, a book chapter begins with an introduction, brief preview of what will be discussed, and then the discussion commences. The level of authority expected from a book is greatly increase, so you can take the credibility-building links from the blog and build them into the writing as sources, creating a deeper level of analysis and information. Instead of telling people where to find out more, they find it out in your book to a greater degree, with credit to the source, of course.
Another facet of the blog is the list of bullet-points. I have not yet seen one of these lists that couldn’t be further broken down into more sub-points. For instance, if the blog has a Top 4 Ways to XYZ, those four ways can become chapter subheadings, and within each subheading you can increase the explanation, examples, definitions, and story to further flesh out the information. I usually think: what should I know first to make this work, what else would I need to know, and what comes after this? Who else is an authority that I can cite to bolster the argument/provide proof? (Extra credit: I flesh out infographics in the same way when moving from that image and bringing it into a book manuscript).
I also look at types of prose to expand a blog into a book chapter. For instance, if a blog is mostly or entirely story, I look for teaching moments to pause and add exposition. In the reverse, I look for places to add stories, lists, etc. We can also add additional sections, like a “further reading” or “exercise” at the end of each chapter, stories set off in a separate text box, checklists, quick guides, and all kinds of goodies to teach the topic of the blog at a deeper level of authority.
With the same philosophy of words and plastic, you can also reverse-engineer the blog into smaller pieces instead of bigger ones. Each headline in a blog might become an entire Instagram post, for instance.
What other kinds of content have you repurposed? What other ideas come to your mind when you think about kinds of writing within the genre profiles? I would love to see your own genre profiles and the insights you gain from them. Feel free to comment below, and let’s work on taking one piece of your content and turning it into another.
Cindy Childress, Ph. D. is a ghostwriter and publishing consultant for coaches and consultants with transformational stories who want to create a legacy in content. As a ghostwriter, three of her books hit Amazon best seller lists in the past two years. Find out more at: